Avenged Sevenfold alloys its punk with heavy metal

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ORIGINALLY POSTED ON STRAIGHT.COM, JULY 7, 2005

By Steve Newton

“He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man.” Huntington Beach hard-rockers Avenged Sevenfold used that quote from Hunter S. Thompson to introduce their upcoming video-single, “Bat Country”. Seems the rowdy noisemakers are huge fans of the late gonzo scribe, to the point that they rate Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas as one of the best films ever made.

“That’s an amazingly brilliant movie,” posits lead-guitarist Synyster Gates, on the line from Kansas City. “And it really strikes close to home because, when you put all of us in a car and drive out to Vegas, that’s pretty much us. We’re all best friends, so it’s nuts.”

When Gates checks in from KC, he’s taking a day off from the rigours of the Warped Tour, with a gig in Dallas set for the following day. It’s Avenged Sevenfold’s fourth time on the travelling punk festival, and although the group has advanced to main-stage status, that doesn’t mean it’s having a Vegas-style hoot. “It’s kind of a funny situation,” relates Gates. “Like, the Warped Tour is not the Warped Tour anymore; it turned into a different thing. It’s a little weird.”

Gates prefers not to go into specifics about the downsides of the tour, but after listening to his quintet’s new CD, City of Evil, you can see how they might feel somewhat isolated from the other participating bands. Avenged Sevenfold’s heavily melodic hard rock, loaded with frenzied lead-guitar wipeouts, owes as much to Iron Maiden as to the punk acts that most of the Warped bands cut their teeth on.

“There were definitely a lotta punk influences growing up in Southern California,” says Gates. “It was punk and metal when we were real young, and then as we reached about 19 or 20 we started picking up our old Guns N’Roses records and gettin’ back into the rock. So that’s sort of how our music has progressed.”

Indeed, a tune like “Trashed and Scattered” boasts serious Velvet Revolver moments. And judging by the way Gates tears up the frets on tracks like “Burn It Down” and “The Wicked End”, you’d think he’s spent hours meticulously studying the secrets of heavy metal’s fleet-fingered guitar gods.

Think again.

“I’m not a big Randy Rhoads fan,” he points out. “Rivers Cuomo of Weezer is my favourite guitar player.”

Gates may take a unique stance when naming guitar heroes, but hey, who’s gonna argue with a guy named Synyster? Turns out his menacing moniker evolved from a booze-fuelled night of driving around with Avenged drummer the Rev when Gates was a teen. “We popped the curb and started driving through a park as drunk as fuck,” he recalls, “and I just said: ‘I’m Synyster Gates, and I’m the man!’ I don’t know why I said it, but I did, and now it’s my name.”

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