Plenty of people hate plenty of things about Avenged Sevenfold.
The goofy monikers like “Synyster Gates” and “Johnny Christ.” Johnny Christ’s mohawk. M. Shadows’ fingernails-on-a-chalkboard voice. Too emo. Too much eyeliner. Too much looking like Hot Topic catalog model rejects. GN’R wannabes. Or maybe Metallica. But “Load” Metallica, not “Master of Puppets” Metallica. Actually, not really even metal at all. Overly commercial. Except for surprise-releasing “The Stage” without advance promotion — that was dumb because it cost ’em record sales. Oh, also, “The Stage” is too proggy. But “Hail to the King” was too straightforward.
Here’s the thing — the Huntington Beach rockers have heard it all … and they don’t really care.
Yes, there are enough Avenged Sevenfold haters out there to fill USANA Amphitheatre.
But there are enough fans to fill it, too. Hence, Friday’s headlining show at the West Valley venue.
“From Day 1, we’ve always gotten backlash for certain outlandish ideas that we’ve had and presented,” guitarist Zacky Vengeance (“Zacky Vengeance?! Really?”) told The Tribune. “That’s also kind of been the driving force that’s pushed us forward. A lot of people have ideas and opinions on what Avenged Sevenfold should be or what we should do, and I think our No. 1 rule is to always make sure we never listen to any of that and to always do what we believe.”
That attitude has enabled A7X to be happy with where they are and where they are headed.
They’ve spent much of this summer as handpicked occupants of the second slot on Metallica’s massive WorldWired Tour bill.
And whether you call it confidence or cockiness, ambition or delusion, their performances there have generated the self-belief that one day, it will be their name atop stadium marquees.
“I would like to think that we’re about halfway to where we want to be, and I know that for a fact by where we set our goals when we started out, and where I see our name in the lineup — we’re right under Metallica, but right over the opening band,” Vengeance said. “I think if we keep going out there and having as much fun as we can, and trying to win fans over every night, then it’s gonna be really great for us.”
Of course, the past couple of years have seen some less-than-great moments for Avenged Sevenfold.
“I think a lot of labels in this day and age, they’re struggling to hold onto the few pennies they can scrounge out of the music industry, and they’re doing it at the expense of the artist and they’re doing it at the expense of the band’s integrity, and they’re truly whoring out their really creative, successful artists. And we just said, ‘Enough is enough. We’re not gonna do that.”’
— Zacky Vengeance
After putting out four records with its last label — two of which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 200 — the band terminated its deal in early 2016, citing insufficient backing as a result of constant corporate reshuffling. The label filed suit, claiming breach of contract.
Avenged Sevenfold eventually wound up issuing their latest album, “The Stage,” with a new record company, but the entire saga proved distasteful.
“Nobody ever wants to be put in that situation, but we had to do what’s best for our fans and for our integrity as a band,” Vengeance said. “Not everything comes to ‘How many albums can you sell in a short period of time?’ It’s, ‘How do you create something that will last and stick with somebody for a lifetime? Something that’s beautiful, something that’s artistic?’ …
“I think a lot of labels in this day and age, they’re struggling to hold onto the few pennies they can scrounge out of the music industry, and they’re doing it at the expense of the artist and they’re doing it at the expense of the band’s integrity, and they’re truly whoring out their really creative, successful artists. And we just said, ‘Enough is enough. We’re not gonna do that,’ ” he added. “We’re just five guys who were willing to put up a fight … to protect what we believe in and hopefully protect other artists down the road. ’Cause it’ll be a sad day when music is determined by guys in suits.”
As for “The Stage” taking a more prog-rock direction, Vengeance said the band members decided they’d rather take a chance and fail than succeed by standing still.
He noted that 2010’s “Nightmare” marked the first time “we really found our own sound.” That album’s success opened up opportunities to play to much bigger audiences, and so 2013’s “Hail to the King” was crafted as “an album that took inspiration from all of the classic bands that have taken it to that arena and stadium level,” with songs that would “translate really well over a big audience.”
With “The Stage,” A7X sought to evolve again, and went in knowing full well that it wouldn’t appeal to everyone.
“It was kind of our punk-rock, heavy-metal, progressive ‘Dark Side of the Moon,’ if you will. And there’s been people who’ve praised it as the greatest album that they’ve heard, and there’s been fans and people that, just truly, it’s over their heads and they don’t get it. And that’s what making music’s all about. I can’t honestly say with a straight face that every Avenged Sevenfold album is my favorite. But I see the beauty in all of it,” he said. “You always have to try new things, and that’s the one thing that we’ve learned from all the greats — every album isn’t gonna be every fan’s favorite, but as long as you keep switching it up and making new fans, it’s really about being persistent.”
Meanwhile, the band’s overall musical approach has been consistent, even if its style changes from album to album.
A7X is well-known for a signature two-guitar attack. Vengeance believes it is successful because the polar-opposite techniques employed by him and Gates are complementary. The latter is an avowed gearhead and a precise, highly technical player with a jazz background who is well-versed in music theory. Vengeance, meanwhile, is more of a shambolic, Johnny Thunders type.
“I’ve never taken a lesson in my life. I’m completely punk rock in playing the guitar. I couldn’t tell you the name of a chord, other than they’re letters. If someone told me I had to tune my guitar down to a C-sharp, and my guitar tech didn’t hand it to me already tuned, I would not be able to tune it,” he said. “I just learned to play by feel, by listening, by playing stuff that sounded cool.”
Now, he’s eager for the fans of Salt Lake City to hear some cool stuff Friday night.
When not opening for James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich & Co., A7X have been sprinkling in headlining concerts of their own. Those enable them to expand upon the straightforward presentation required of a support act and to put a little extra oomph into both their setlists and the production.
“Our fans are in for a special treat. When we’re with Metallica, you have to strip down. We rely on playing well, having fun, having energy and connecting with the fans. For our own show, it’s way more of an experience,” Vengeance said. “I don’t think anyone’s gonna leave disappointed.”
With A Day to Remember, Ho99o9
When •Friday; doors at 5 p.m., show at 6:30
Where • USANA Amphitheatre, 5150 Upper Ridge Road, West Valley City
Tickets •$25-$74.50; Smith’s Tix