The last time I saw Avenged was shortly after the release of their ‘City of Evil’ album, a watermark point for the band that earmarked them for greatness. The band that played that night, over at the Birmingham Carling Academy (a venue sorely missed) weren’t a patch on the band that appear in January 2017. Gone is the shift between quiet nervousness and exclamations of bravado, dropped in favour of straight-up consummate showmanship. Shadows is at ease stepping out onto a walkway surrounded by a few thousand onlookers, chatting conversationally with the entire audience as if this were an intimate show back home. And the music. As I said of Metallica’s ‘Hardwired…’, one of the things that Metallica do best is to sound utterly imperious, an unfathomable opponent composed of a hundred-thousand marching boots. I’ll be damned if A7X don’t achieve that same authority, the definitive article in what it means to be a Metal band. Flanked by high-tech screens beaming a combination of music videos and visual patterns, the band are Arena Metal 2.0, huge in sound and all-encompassing in their ability to sucker the listener in with a catchy chorus.
As somebody who has (for better or worse) mostly inhabited the independent venue and Punk dives of the UK for the past seven or so years, the show by A7X is a reminder that there is a reason bands exist on different tiers. While smaller shows might boast intimacy and electric, near dangerous energy, shows like the one put on by Avenged Sevenfold exist as a form of mass experience, something on a different scale entirely in everything from songwriting and performance style down to attitude and execution. Quite apart from many of their contemporaries, Avenged aren’t cashing in on former glories, or overly relying on one particular album to pad out their setlists (in fact, ‘City of Evil’ only has one song all set – the excellent ‘Bat Country’). Instead, they content themselves with the knowledge that they now tread the same path as the bands that once influenced them, and for better or worse that’s as much as any band can ever hope for. They might not inspire you to cash in your Punk chips and forgo the local band showcase, but Avenged Sevenfold certainly make a great case for the rare band that manages to go supernova.