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Avenged Sevenfold is on a heavy metal mission

@graffonmusic, www.facebook.com/garygraffonmusic

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After seven albums, the last two of which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, Avenged Sevenfold is on a heavy metal mission.

"When it comes to numbers, I like the statement it makes is for all of rock and metal," says guitarist Zacky Vengeance. "For any band that's picking up a guitar and playing in front of five people, it's making a statement. It's saying that kid who's picking up a guitar still has a chance to someday take over. He still has a chance.

"So every time we put an album out, we're keeping an opportunity to keep the same dream alive that started when the Beatles wrote 'Helter Skelter,' y'know?."

Vengeance (nee Zachary Baker) and his mates in A7X have certainly done that during the past 13 years. Formed in during 1989 in Huntington Beach, Calif., the quintet has scored three gold and one platinum album, with 2010's "Nightmare" and this year's "Hail to the King" logging those top chart spots. The group has been a radio juggernaut as well, notching hits such as "Bat Country," "Almost Easy," "Nightmare" and more, while "Hail to the King's" title track hit No. 1 on the Heritage Rock chart this year.

A7X was also named Best New Artist at the 2006 MTV Video Music Awards and has played OZZFest, the Vans Warped Tour, the Taste Of Chaos Tour and the Uproar Festival, and it`s won eight Revolver Golden God Awards during its history.

All of that set a high bar when the group hit the studio to start work on "Hail to the King," which is also its first without drummer James "The Rev" Sullivan, who died in late December of 2009 after writing for the "Nightmare" album had already begun. "We had three solid years to figure out what the hell we were gonna do, but we still dreaded the moment and the day we'd be in the studio without him," says Vengeance, 31.

"But we had enough faith in each other to realize we were able to do this. We just had to put a little bit more weight on each of our individual shoulders, but we truly feel confident in each other's abilities. We had never depended on one member of Avenged. We're always a unit."

The group did have a unified creative goal that's readily apparent on "Hail to the King" -- to create songs that were more straightforward and immediately impactful that its predecessors. "We took a conscious approach to try to write in a more direct fashion," Vengeance acknowledges. "Just by nature we're always filled with so many ideas and want to cram as many ideas into a song as we can, and I think that gave us a lot of our signature sound. But, looking back, that could be a little bit meandering, y'know?

"At this point in our career we've shared so many stages across the world and seen bands like Iron Maiden and Metallica on a nightly basis and see how every person in their crowds knows every word and sings along in unison, and that's where we wanted to get to. We wanted to write the kind of songs that can really cross any language barriers, any borders and resonate with fans around the world."

That was, he adds, a considerable adjustment.

"For us to dial back a little bit and have a little more straightforward, singalong appeal was a challenge," Vengeance explains. "In order to do that we had to throw away a lot of stuff. We kind of wrote this album with the rule that if a guitar riff can't stand alone without adding a dual harmony riff or any other stuff, then it wasn't a good enough riff. So this time instead of adding layers, it was really about peeling back layers."

Mission accomplished, A7X now plans to take "Hail to the King" to those worldwide audiences. The group wraps up its North American tour in late October, then heads to Europe in early November. The Australian Soundwave Festival is on tap for late February and early March, and Vengeance expects much of the rest of 2014 to be spent on the road as well.

"(The show) is definitely a sight to be seen," Vengeance promises. ""We just want to do whatever we need to do as a band to help metal live on, and if that that's spending more money and putting on a bigger show so that when a kid comes to see his first concert there's no other style of music that can top it, that's what we do. This genre, metal, has a reputation for the best live shows, so that's what we want to live up to and help to keep building.

"I want my great-grandchildren to be showing up to concerts wearing Metallica T-shirts, with two middle fingers in the air the way we did when we were kids. That's why we're out here."

Avenged Sevenfold, deftones and Ghost B.C. perform at 7 p.m. Sunday at Joe Louis Arena, 600 Civic Center Drive, Detroit. Tickets are $49.50 and $29.50. Call 313-471-6606 or visit www.olympiaentertainment.com.

Web Site: www.olympiaentertainment.com

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