There’s good news all around from Avenged Sevenfold these days.
For starters the group has just released a new EP, Black Reign, containing the four songs it wrote and recorded for the latest Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 video game. Even better, frontman M. Shadows is on the mend from a viral infection that rendered him unable to sing and forced the cancelation of a summer tour with Prophets of Rage and Three Days Grace.
“After two months of very light/minimal talking and no singing I was cleared to start the recovery process,” Shadows tells Billboard via email. “The vocal cords look good again and now I’m looking forward to putting in the work to get back to where I was before the infection. I was pretty depressed about the tour, but I’m going to use this as a lesson to work even harder in the future.”
A7X hasn’t been idle during this enforced time off, however. Shadows reports the group is “in the very early stages of throwing around ideas” for a follow-up to the quintet’s surprise-released 2016 concept album The Stage. “An album is far out in the distance,” according to Shadows, “but it’s clearly there. I could probably tour after Christmas or so but we are going to work on new songs instead.”
In the meantime fans have Black Reign to enjoy, part of a long and “very close” relationship with Call of Duty maker Treyarch. “We created music for the previous three Black Ops games, but we weren’t asked to do anything for Black Ops 4,” Shadows says. “I wasn’t going to ask because it felt like I’d be crossing a line between friendship and business. But back in January, we did a Twitter takeover and a fan asked if we were going to do anything for Black Ops 4. I said that they hadn’t called us but that we would love to. The next day the phone rang.”
Shadows says Treyarch gave A7X “creative license” for the songs, albeit with some directives. To wit:
— For “Not Ready to Die” they said, ‘Make the song as long as you want and just imagine killing Zombies to it.'”
— “‘Carry On’ needed to be shorter and more uplifting to add levity to a very dark game. They were also making a music video for the end credits so there were resource issues as far as the song’s running time.”
— “I’ve played the multiplayer portion my whole life, so ‘Jade Helm’ was easy — make music to pump you up before the round.”
— “As far as ‘Mad Hatter’ goes, this has been the most fulfilling one. Treyarch took some big risks with their Battle Royale mode ‘Blackout’ and also took some chances with Zombies. We all talked and agreed that just another metal song would be predictable, and quite frankly…boring. So we attempted something a little darker and cerebral. We want the game to feel different and take you to unexpected places. That all begins with the music.”
“Anyone who’s heard our music knows that we won’t let ourselves be handcuffed by expectations.” Shadows continues. “We write what we wanna write and when we’re happy with it, we release it. The standards for records may be a little higher just because we have more time to tinker with things. When writing for Call Of Duty we usually have a month or so to give them a finished product. That can also be fun.”
The Black Reign EP is out now, while Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 is due out Oct. 12 for PS4, XBox One and PC. And Shadows says he and guitarist Zacky Vengeance are ready to go at it. “I’m very into gaming, so I would have to be considered the best gamer in the band,” Shadows says. “I play much more than I should. My kids are obsessed with BlackOut –– yes, I know, bad dad.”