Every band handles tragedy differently. The Who of course went on when drummer Keith Moon died in 1978. Led Zeppelin, however, decided to call it quits following the demise of drummer John Bonham in 1980. Avenged Sevenfold are moving forward, with a new hit song, ‘Nightmare,’ and album due in July of the same name.
But guitarist Zacky Vengeance tells Noisecreep that when drummer Jimmy ‘The Rev’ Sullivan passed away last year, the band was finished. “When we called each other and got the call that Jimmy had died, literally it all ended right there,” Vengeance, whose real name is Zachary Baker, says. “Everything we’ve ever known as human beings, everything we’ve ever known as a band, changes at that moment, and you can’t think clearly. You can’t see anything, you can’t talk, you can’t make any sense of anything. It was just done. You don’t care about music, there’s just nothing.”
So what changed their minds? “I can honestly tell you if it wasn’t for our fans, there would not be Avenged Sevenfold right now,” he says. “The fans would send in hundreds and thousands of letters, and they’d make books begging us to keep going and thanking us for what we have done and honoring Jimmy. They held vigils all over the world.”
Avenged didn’t acknowledge the fan reception at the time, because as Vengeance says, “We weren’t in the state to say, ‘OK, we’re gonna organize events for everyone, all of our fans to get together.’ ‘Cause it’s not a publicity stunt. When that really happens, it’s not about that.” But they were paying attention and saw all of the vigils. And he says that’s what kept the band going. “If it wasn’t for them, we certainly wouldn’t have had the strength to get back there and basically walk through the fire at the hardest time in our life.”
The result is an album they are immensely proud of, and one they feel honors their fallen band mate. “Our friend had written this amazing album with us, and we had to preserve his legacy — let everyone know how genius he really was,” Vengenace says. “He’d done everything in life that he wanted to do, but now we realize we were put on this earth to show everyone how great he was.”
Still, as thrilled as they are with the album — which Vengenace teases, “People aren’t even gonna believe what’s in store for them” — it remains very, very difficult for him to hear the music. “There are times when I’m going back through playing some parts and thinking about the lyrics, and I’ll tear up because there’s nothing else I can do,” he says. “That probably happens at least once a day at this point.”