Tapping its partnership with gaming franchise 'Call of Duty,' Avenged Sevenfold is poised for big things with the old-school metal wallop of "Hail to the King"
Shadows, who doesn't personally tweet, likened the contests to what Kobe Bryant does with his online following by inviting fans to shoot hoops with him before a game. "If we could do some fun, mysterious stuff, we felt that helped us give fans a cool experience," he says. "It gets old watching bands do the same thing. We're confident with the music and didn't feel like overhyping it. We're not a band that likes to divulge too much on social media."
He has reason to be confident. Produced once again by Nightmare collaborator Mike Elizondo (Eminem, 50 Cent, P!nk), "Hail to the King" is powerful old-school metal in the vein of the group's heroes like Slayer, Black Sabbath and Metallica. Songs like the title track (and lead single) as well as "Doing Time" and "Heretic" are stuffed with riffs both catchy and chugging, powered by machine-gun drums and topped by stadium-sized singalong chorus hooks.
The album also marks the band's first full set with new drummer Arin Ilejay, who stepped in earlier this year to permanently fill the shoes of James "The Rev" Sullivan, who died in 2009 halfway through the making of Nightmare from an apparent overdose. (Former Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy helped complete the drum tracks for Nightmare.)
At 25, Ilejay is some seven years younger than most of the band's founding members. Instead of the classic metal that Avenged Sevenfold came of age with, he was raised on newer groups like Bullet for My Valentine and even early Avenged records. Shadows credits Ilejay's work with shaping the record's "twist" on the tried and true formula. "We're all big believers in metal with a foot in the blues. We have a lot of Elton John influences in our music, a little bit of the Beatles, which is sometimes surprising to people. We're not trying to reinvent the wheel, we just want to put a different flavor on the music."
Shadows also cites the repairing with Elizondo as a crucial factor. "We met him four months before Rev passed away. He was a guy we weren't super-psyched about. We weren't happy with the rock producers we met with, and didn't want to make a radio record. But he was telling us about how he grew up playing metal and bass. For us to be working with a guy who knew about Iron Maiden and Metallica and gets us, we feel like he's become the sixth band member. Our relationship with Mike has been amazing."