Special report by Greg Prato
It's been far too long since we last heard from the AVENGED SEVENFOLD lads - three full years since 2010's Nightmare dropped. But the wait will end on August 27th, when the band's sixth studio effort overall, Hail To The King, is unleashed. Produced once more by Mike Elizondo (the same chap who twiddled the knobs for Nightmare), Hail To The King is the first Avenged Sevenfold album to not include any input whatsoever from drummer the Rev (who died in 2009). But as evidenced by such selections as the leadoff single/title track, the band knows exactly what it takes to please the headbanging faithful.
Counting down the days until the arrival of Avenged Sevenfold's latest release, bassist Johnny Christ recently gave BraveWords correspondent Greg Prato the scoop on Hail To The King, the upcoming tour (including a headlining appearance at Montreal's Heavy MTL Festival on August 10th), and what it has been like to carry on without the Rev in their ranks.
BraveWords: Let's start by talking about Hail To The King.
Johnny Christ: "It's another evolution of Avenged Sevenfold, really. We went in and wrote the record we wanted to. It's a little bit more of a throwback to some our heroes in music - it's more groove metal-oriented, a little bit more mature. It took us like a year before we actually started writing before our last cycle. And when we all came in together, we had a clear vision of what we wanted to do, and all four of us were looking at each other, going, 'OK. This is what we need to do.' It was a long process, but a fun one."
BraveWords: What are some of your favorite songs on the album?
Johnny Christ: "Our new single is out, 'Hail To The King' - the title track from the album. It's been really fun to play it live. We played it the other night and it went over really well. We've very excited about that song. There are some other tracks that I am really excited about, the last few tracks on the album are kind of adventurous - 'Planets' and 'Acid Rain.' Those songs kind of correlate with each other. And another different kind of track on the record is 'Requiem,' which we're very proud of and should be fun for the fans to listen to."
BraveWords: This is the first Avenged Sevenfold album that didn't have any input from the Rev.
Johnny Christ: "Yes, absolutely. This record was our first attempt at writing without the Rev. The last record, we were fortunate that before his passing, he had finished writing the entire record with us - or else we probably wouldn't have been able to put it out. That was the last record that we had any pieces of his music. It was more difficult - it took a little longer. Not having that guy around is very hard on us all. His writing style was so unique and so awesome to us, that it's unfortunate that we don't have that anymore. But we got in there, and like I said, we had a clear vision of what we wanted to accomplish with this record, and we're really proud of it. It took a little longer; since we didn’t have the four or five songs that Jimmy [the Rev's real name was James Sullivan] would present us - fully done. Overall, we're very proud of it, and as difficult as it was, we're happy to get back on the road and see all our fans and say hi. "
BraveWords: Any similarities between this album and the previous ones?
Johnny Christ: "It's definitely us. It sounds like Avenged Sevenfold, but it's just the next progression. We never want to make the same record we've done before. And we've been blessed with fans who follow us through that course of evolution. It's just been an ongoing process. It's probably the heaviest record that we've put out - in it's own right. We're just excited to get it out there and see what the fans think. It's been a great response for the single so far, which I feel is a good way to see what the rest of the record is going to sound like. There will be some surprises in there for fans, but overall, I'm just excited."
BraveWords: Are you looking forward to the band's set at the Heavy MTL Festival?
Johnny Christ: "It's a fun festival - we're looking forward to heading out there and seeing all the Montreal fans. We're just excited right now. We're starting to get the ball rolling and getting our legs back underneath us and getting out there and killing it for the fans."
BraveWords: What can fans expect from the band's upcoming world tour?
Johnny Christ: "You can expect some new songs and some fire and pyro that we typically do. And just bringing us five guys out on stage and having a good time and interacting with the fans. We're looking forward to it and it should be a blast."
BraveWords: Future plans?
Johnny Christ: "Touring. We're getting the ball rolling and we're getting out there. It's just touring for us. We're going to get out there and see as many places as we can and try and bring our show."