The live material also helped alleviate a quandary for Shadows and company. From its surprise release on Oct. 28, 2016, to a series of bonus covers released online throughout the year, A7X treated The Stage as an "evolving record" experiment. There was no intent, at least initially, to pull everything together into one package. However, Shadows says, the band learned that "the rock fan just really wants a product at some point. People still wanted a physical copy of it. They wanted CD or they wanted vinyl. We got a lot of pushback online, so we said, 'Why don't we just put out the product. We got the stuff there, so we'll put this out in one big package.'" Nevertheless, he felt conflicted about "charging people for stuff we've already put out for six or seven months," so the live tracks -- as well as "Dose," an outtake originally conceived as a companion piece to The Stage's "Roman Sky" -- helped to justify the deluxe edition.
As A7X prepares for a busy 2018 that includes North American headlining dates and more shows in Europe, Shadows says the group is pleased overall with how its experiment with The Stage panned out. "It's definitely a lot more positive now than it was six months ago or so," Shadows acknowledges. "I feel like the fans are really engaged and they don't know what we're gonna do next, and I think that's fun for them and it's also fun for us." The album did debut at No. 4 on the Billboard 200 and topped the Top Rock Albums, Top Rock Albums and Top Alternative Albums charts.
And it scored A7X its first-ever Grammy Award nomination, for best rock song.
"Man, we're just really excited and honored," Shadows says. "We're really excited to be even talked about in the same breath as Foo Fighters or Metallica. It's the big boys club, so it's nice to even be noticed. And it makes us feel really good about the whole rollout of this record and what this record is about. We know it didn't go over everyone's head and there's people who appreciate it, and that's cool to us." A7X will be attending the Jan. 28 ceremony during a day off on its tour, and Shadows is pleased the nomination is in the rock field rather than the more ghettoized metal category.
"I've said the Grammys messed up metal because it's not on TV," Shadows notes. "What I'm saying is when you're in a metal category it's not televised and it doesn't move the needle forward for metal artists, and I wish they had more respect for the genre. So we're actually really excited to be in the rock category."
A7X is currently working on set lists for the 2018 shows as well as a production that will be flexible for both indoor arenas and outdoor amphitheaters. The group is planning "a really big summer tour," according to Shadows, and will return to markets it played with Metallica this year. And he predicts the band will begin working on a new recording project before year's end.
"We're really excited where our head space is. Just musically we feel like we want to express ourselves with an album and maybe not go drag (The Stage) out too much longer," Shadows explains. "There's no new songs. We'll probably talk for a couple months before we even start writing. There's just so many cool new influences and all these new things we've been talking about, sparking us to think about different things outside of the box. I'm sure we'll throw those ideas around. I already know it's going to be different and cool, and that's just exciting for me."