In October, the hard-partying, grill-sporting dudes in Avenged Sevenfold will release the self-titled follow-up to 2005's City of Evil, the band's breakout LP that's sold close to 810,000 copies in the U.S. alone. The album is the California metalcore act's first attempt at self-producing, but according to frontman M. Shadows, that wasn't always the plan.
"We were going to do it with Rob Cavallo," said Shadows, referring to the producer behind Green Day's 2004 LP American Idiot and My Chemical Romance's 2006 effort The Black Parade. "It was such a great match — he loved the songs we'd been working on. But he was too busy working on Kid Rock's next record, and he wasn't going to be able to work on ours until later on in the year."
Avenged didn't know what to do. Here they were, sitting on a ton of new songs and facing pressure from their label to release the material as soon as humanly possible. "We respect Rob, but we couldn't wait," the singer said. "We had to do it ourselves. We had to get back out there on the road, and we needed to record this album."
Initially, the band's label, Warner Bros., wasn't thrilled with the idea of Avenged handling the production duties for their fourth album on their own. But all it took was a small sampling of the demo recordings they'd been working on for the label to give Avenged the go-ahead. Four months later, Avenged Sevenfold are just weeks away from finishing the LP. The band will head to New York later this month to mix the disc with studio engineer Andy Wallace (Linkin Park, System of a Down).
Shadows said the band had no problem producing the album themselves. "We met with a lot of different producers and felt that we would be going more in their direction, rather than doing what we wanted to do," Shadows said. "We wanted to make our record. We've spent a lot of time in the studio, and we've learned how to do everything. It was the only way we would be able to get our ideas across, 100 percent, to our fans."
From the sound of it, Avenged Sevenfold might be the band's heaviest set to date.
"It was a very conscious decision on our part to make the most down-to-the-bone Avenged Sevenfold album we could," the frontman said. "There's no glitz or glamour — just a heavy-hitting record that encompasses all of Avenged Sevenfold. It's a record that new fans and old fans will love. It's easily our best-sounding record. We spent so much time on textures and different vibes, and we'd try everything in the studio. Whatever worked worked, and whatever didn't, we'd throw out. We've had four months in the studio where we've just been experimenting and making this sh-- hit heavy."
While the album's song titles might change between now and the disc's fall release, Shadows did discuss the track "Scream," which he described as a "romantic murder story" about a man hunting down a woman he's attracted to and a woman who seems to enjoy the pursuit.
"It's, like, 140 beats per minute and has this slow swagger to it," he said. "It's got super-catchy melodies and all of this stuff going on where, if you play it in a car, you're just going to f---ing drive down the street and be in heavy-metal bliss.
"We wanted to make a record we'd be really proud of, and the biggest difference with this record is that it's all groove-oriented — no more machine-gun drums going 120 miles per minute," he continued. "It's very 'one-two, one-two,' where you're just banging your head the entire time. It's not as sporadic. We're making a good record for our fans, and they're the only ones who count."
The LP will also feature the cuts "Almost Easy," a song that was originally crafted for the "Transformers" movie soundtrack but wasn't finished in time for the final pressing; "Dear God," which features singer Shanna Crooks and, Shadows said, has "more of a country flavor to it and reminds me of [the Eagles'] 'Hotel California' "; and "Gun Slinger." Shadows said that from a lyrical standpoint, he tried to steer clear of metaphor and concentrate on the world around him.
"Almost all of the songs are very personal," he said. "There's nothing in there about biblical times. It's all about trying to understand yourself and become a better person through your life experiences. It's about not taking human relationships for granted and just wanting to be a better person. I also think it's the best vocal performance I've ever done."
While Avenged's City of Evil was a "TRL" favorite thanks to singles like "Bat Country" and "Seize the Day" (see "Avenged Sevenfold Salute Dimebag, Shun Metalcore On Evil"), many metal fans cringed at the suggestion that the LP was, in fact, a metal album. Shadows has long maintained that his band is metal through and through. But none of the criticisms or potshots influenced the band during the Avenged Sevenfold sessions.
"The last thing we wanted to do was let anyone get in our heads," he said. "We didn't try to make a heavier record to prove people wrong. In the end, I don't think those people matter. There are certain people who will talk sh-- about you no matter what you do. We made this record for the 18- to 25-year-old kid who just wants to blast some heavy sh-- out his window — something you can groove to and rock out to that means something."
To hold fans over until the album's release, Avenged will issue "All Excess," their first DVD, on July 17. Shadows said the outing traces Avenged's roots, with video footage captured during the band's first official meeting.
"It shows fans how we wrote every record and where we recorded them, and there's footage from some early shows, when we still sucked," he said. "It has everything in it, and you learn everything about us with this DVD."