Thursday, August 17, 2017

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The Sound

Avenged Sevenfold brings astrophysics to a Metallica show

6/1/2017

Avenged Sevenfold_photo credit Jeff ForneyAvenged Sevenfold is a big band, but when a band like Metallica comes knocking, it’s easy to see why they would take an opening gig slot. The California metal band will perform with Volbeat June 9 when the “Hardwired… to Self Destruct” tour stops at the Iowa Speedway in Newton.

“The thing we’re all focusing on is remembering what it was like being 13 in our parents’ garage,” guitarist Zacky Vengeance said during a phone interview on the first day of the tour. “Now the dream has come to life, and none of us are taking it for granted. For us, it’s really about going out there and remembering why we wanted to do this in the first place, putting on the best show and playing our hearts out.”

It’s been an interesting year for Avenged Sevenfold. In October, the band released its seventh album, “The Stage.” It was a surprise release, a la Radiohead’s “In Rainbows” or Beyonce’s “Lemonade.” But unlike those bands, A7X released the physical album on the same date as the digital version.

“The Stage” is also a departure from past Avenged Sevenfold releases. It’s a concept album about artificial intelligence, full of lengthy, almost prog rock songs, including the 14-minute closer, “Exist,” which features a spoken word piece by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. For anyone who wrote A7X off or maybe never considered them worth bothering with at all, “The Stage” is worth a listen.

“We just wanted to do something a little different,” Vengeance said of the surprise physical release. “It’s only natural to be nervous doing something that’s never been done. We anticipated selling zero albums and sacrificing a Billboard spot in order to do something cool for fans. It’s not about where it starts out; it’s about where it ends up.”

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For the record, “The Stage” ended up topping Billboard’s Rock, Alternative and Hard Rock charts.

Vengeance isn’t sure if Avenged Sevenfold will follow “The Stage” with another album that moves the band further away from its more radio-friendly roots.

“It’s impossible to tell. We always just write whatever we’re feeling at the time. ‘City of Evil’ had a lot of prog rock elements, and it went platinum, and a few songs found their way to be hits. ‘A Little Piece of Heaven’ is pretty out there, and it’s a fan favorite. But everything just feels more adventurous with this album. For now, we’re about mixing it up and having a plethora of styles rather than making the same album over and over again. If we pigeonhole ourselves, it’s really no fun doing this.”

And as for working with deGrasse Tyson, Vengeance points to Metallica’s recent collaboration with Lady Gaga and their own work with the astrophysicist as ways metal bands can keep innovations exciting for themselves and fans. (But please, no more projects like Metallica and Lou Reed’s “Lulu.”)

“It’s about stepping outside the box and certain people’s comfort zones,” Vengeance said. “For us with Neil, it seemed pretty outlandish to have an astrophysicist do a monolog on a metal album, but that’s what keeps things exciting. There really are no rules in music.” ♦

 

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