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There are other far darker secrets to the sound of Hail To The King, too.
While the band got scholarly and dug their way back through past classic albums, another more shocking common thread emerged – you might want to brace yourself for this one – the biggest-sounding records turn the guitars down.
“I don’t want to give away all of our studio tricks, but that’s what makes the guitar riffs sound massive: bringing them down in the mix,” explains Zacky. “It makes it heavier because you’re incorporating a pounding drum beat and the bass to sit behind it. If you listen to Metallica’s Black Album, it’s so riff-orientated, you think the guitars are just sitting so loud, but really the drums are probably the loudest instrument on the entire recording.”
We’re glad Zacky mentions The Black Album. The Metallica classic is clearly a big influence on the first part of the record. In fact, we fully expect the same crowd that accused Avenged of not being metal to come full circle and now accuse them of sounding too Metallica.
“We’re certainly influenced by it,” says Zacky. “I’ll never say, ‘On this album we’re slowing down and playing one-two beats because we were listening to some obscure band.’ We love Metallica, we love The Black Album.”
Avenged have always been open about the bands they admire, not least Metallica, but what’s the difference between an album with classic influences and a cynical attempt to copy a classic and force a commercial breakthrough?
“Long f**king hours!” says Synyster. “When you begin, that’s what that s**t sounds like and some really good songs had to be ditched because it was an Alice Cooper song, or an AC/DC song. You don’t realise it, but then you play it for your friends and family they’re like, ‘Oh, that’s AC/DC’ and you’re like, ‘F**k.’”
“I hear a ton of bands trying to sound like Metallica and I’m the first one to call ‘bulls**t’ on it,” adds Zacky. “But what I truly feel in my heart is that we’re trying to renovate metal. To give it more of an old-school approach.”