Hell-bent on show 

Zacky Vengeance, guitarist for Avenged Sevenfold, understands “the rock.” “When you see a band, you want to see characters,” he says. These California-based, heavy-metal demons are hell-bent on getting America’s collective heads banged. Characters, these boys are. Picture those voted least likely to succeed in high school.

They’re by the book: black-clad, tattooed rockers with a yen for the sex-drugs-rock lifestyle. There are groupies and substance abuse — that’s the first hour of the first day of Rock Star 101. And they have their tales of road debauchery. There are stories of getting shitfaced with Danzig, or the time bassist Johnny Christ doused a tour production crew with a bucket of warm piss, or when the drummer (simply called The Reverend) landed behind bars in London after a full-on pub brawl. And so on, etc.

“That stuff just seems normal to us,” Vengeance says in a lazy, matter-of-fact tone.

Adhering to the rock ’n’ roll handbook, Avenged — which is rounded out by guitarist Synyster Gates and lead vocalist M. Shadows — has a live show complete with long sets, over-the-top lighting, drum risers and scene changes.

Avenged is determined to put the spectacle back into rock. “We’re trying to do something nobody else is doing right now,” the guy called Vengeance says, without irony. “You see too many bands nowadays that sound like shit live.” He adds unapologetically that the band digs the Crüe and Guns N’ Roses.

The band’s latest — and third — album, City of Evil, which has sold more than 175,000 copies since its June release, finds these drama kings expanding on their metalcore roots. They went for a sound that Vengeance calls a mix of “Pantera and Queen.”

On the current tour, the set is City of Evil heavy, and the band is trying to stay as sonically true to the album as possible. It’s not an easy prospect. “When we were recording, sometimes I wondered if what we were doing would even be possible to play live,” Vengeance says. Thanks to backing tracks (you read correctly, backing tracks), he says the band gets close. “It’s not perfect, and eventually we want the orchestra on stage, but it sounds more like the album than most bands’ shows.”

An eclectic, Dungeons and Dragons-inspired record, City is in many ways a metal classic in the Iron Maiden sense. On the cover is a painting of a sword-wielding skeleton atop a flying steed. The 11 songs clock in at nearly 75 minutes. And among the metallic squeals and death-march drums, there’s also a spaghetti Western overture and a 14-piece orchestra that would’ve fit nicely on Use Your Illusion (I or II). The group shied away from the screamo vocals of yore, and added intricate harmonies.

“We tried to make an epic for the ages,” Vengeance says, again without irony.

Will the record go down in history as an epic? Will the band leave a rock ’n’ roll legacy? As long as the kids throw devil horns and headaches follow, who cares? If Avenged Sevenfold comic books, Crüe-style pyrotechnics and their own line of condoms follow too, then more power to ’em.

 

Sunday, Nov. 6, at the Majestic Theatre, 4140 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-833-9700. With Bullets and Octane, Death by Stereo. All ages.

Luke Allen Hackney is a Detroit-based freelance writer. Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com

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