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It's make or break time for Avenged Sevenfold. As they unleash their sixth album, Hail To The King, they sit on a pivot point between arena-filling heavyweights and the fabled ‘next level’ of hard rock and metal – a sparsely populated echelon of festival headliners and stadium-fillers home to the likes of Metallica, Iron Maiden and Guns N’ Roses.
There’s talk of Avenged ‘carrying the torch’ for modern metal, but to join those ranks, they need to produce an album that could one day be regarded as a classic and fill the sizeable songwriting shoes of deceased drummer Jimmy ‘The Rev’ Sullivan. There’s only one certainty: whichever way things tip, it’s going to be one hell of a ride.
Talking to lead guitarist Synyster Gates and rhythm man Zacky Vengeance over two days – first at Warner Bros’ Kensington HQ, then in a marbled hotel suite overlooking Hyde Park – it occurs to TG just how big the Californian metallers have become. Completed by bassist Johnny Christ, vocalist M Shadows and new drummer Arin Ilejay, the band have gone from being the ugly ducklings of the Huntington Beach hardcore scene to arena-dominating metal swans. Every step of the way they’ve delighted in spanning genres, taking gambles and, as Synyster Gates succinctly puts it, being a band that does “whatever the f**k they want”.
“Ever since we put out Sounding The Seventh Trumpet, we’ve gotten it all!” explains Zacky. “People said, ‘They’re not hardcore!’ Or when Matt started singing on Waking The Fallen they said, ‘That’s not metal.’ Then, when Jimmy died, somehow we’re headlining festivals around the world and we’re the band that could ‘carry the torch’. So for this album it seemed natural to throw everyone another curveball.”