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In the Pipeline: Sevenfold still pushing artistic boundaries

August 27, 2013|By Chris Epting
  • Fans of Avenged Sevenfold line up outside Johnny's Saloon last week in the hope of scoring free concert tickets.
Fans of Avenged Sevenfold line up outside Johnny's… (Chris Epting )

The line of mainly black-clad fans snaked around the complex last Thursday where Johnny's Saloon is located on Beach Boulevard near Slater Avenue.

This was after it was announced that the popular bar would be distributing free tickets to a special concert at the Hollywood Palladium this week featuring Huntington Beach's own Avenged Sevenfold.

The show was to be both a thank you to fans and a celebration of the release of the band's new album, "Hail to the King." Wandering through the mob outside Johnny's was a good opportunity for me to remember just what this band means to the faithful, and not just to those who live here.

I spoke to a lot of people who said they drove from all over Southern California to be here, and the mood was festive and celebratory — just like it is whenever these guys release a new album.

And what a new album it is.

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I think "Hail to the King," the band's sixth since forming in 1999, will stand out as a bit of a game changer. The band has been on a steady growth course since early releases, including "Sounding the Seventh Trumpet" and "City of Evil." With each new record, it pushes newer limits and is careful to never appear stagnant. The writing gets stronger, the playing gets better and the sense of elevation has been clear with each title over the years.

Tragically, the drummer, Jimmy "The Rev" Sullivan, died several years ago. Since then, A7X (as the band is commonly known) has had a lot more to prove than many other bands. Sullivan was a key creative force, irreplaceable, and the band knew it. So the band members never tried to replace him. Instead, they just did what they had to do to survive and thrive in the moment.

Legendary drummer Mike Portnoy filled in on the last album, the No. 1 Billboard smash "Nightmare." Now A7X has settled on a new permanent drummer, Arin Ilejay. As much as The Rev is missed by band members and fans, I'm not sure their music will ever be too defined by the drum sounds anymore. Rather, A7X shines on the strength of the writing and guitar playing, and at the center of it all, the passionately ferocious vocals of Matt "M. Shadows" Sanders.

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