o, I've been late getting to Florida's A DAY TO REMEMBER. Honestly, I had passed them over as just another metalcore, nu metal band, that doubtlessly was talented, but not really doing much of anything new or exciting. That's my fault. I should know better than to do that. While I did not hear anything that I would say was anything new, there certainly is a large amount of excitement from ADTR. Especially reflected in the youth. My daughter is a fan of the band, as is my niece and her friend that I was lucky enough to have accompany me to the show. When I got a good look at ADTR, I was less than enthusiastic about what was to come. Trendy hair-dos and skinny jeans do not make a rock star in my view, but who the hell am I to judge? Besides all that really matters is the music, not the appearance. Still, skinny jeans?
I was very pleasantly surprised and humbled by the performance they gave. They have a solid, well thought out style that contradicts all the shit you hear about modern music. Granted, they may not be doing anything incredibly revolutionary in the way of rock, but what they do, they do skillfully. They also have fantastic stage presence, and interact well with their crowd, something that will always earn an artist credit with me. Before their song "Have Faith in Me", vocalist, Jeremy McKinnon dedicated it to "the ladies" in the crowd, and encouraged them to sit on the shoulders of their male counterparts. I couldn't bring myself to hoist my niece up on my shoulders for the song, because I am old enough to remember when a singer requesting female audience members to sit on someone's shoulders, led to flashing of said singer.
Now, instead of women flashers, we're in an age of real-life Saul Goodmans running around suing everyone for everything, so it was refreshing to see a band promote a crowd-surfing competition during the performance of new track, "Naivety." They have interesting song titles as well; "I'm Made of Wax Larry, What Are You Made Of?", "The Plot to Bomb the Panhandle", and "All Signs Point to Lauderdale", are a few examples. I'm sure that each one has a reasonable specific meaning, but I don't really care. I like that they sound like Shel Silverstein made them up. All jokes aside, I was very impressed by A DAY TO REMEMBER and I'm looking forward to seeing what they do in the future.
Proving that music, the future, and the future of music does belong to the youth, but maybe, just maybe, that's not such a bad thing after all, AVENGED SEVENFOLD grabbed Albuquerque by its collective dangling genitalia Thursday night while in town in support of their newest release The Stage, the band's first concept album. They greeted the audience that night with the title song from the Artificial Intelligence themed album which led right into "Afterlife" from their 2007 self-titled release. Written by the late James "The Rev" Sullivan. A song that eerily is about a man who dies early in life, and upon entrance to Heaven discovers he has unfinished business on Earth, and must escape the afterlife to go back to make it all right. I am not one that is big on the idea of Heaven or an afterlife, however, the case could have certainly been made for its existence during the A7X set. It being loaded with references and homages to The Rev.
Attempts were made. Drumming superhero, Mike Portnoy, at the time newly departed from DREAM THEATER, stepped in, and recorded the album Nightmare for Avenged Sevenfold, and even played a few shows before parting ways. It should be noted that Portnoy's involvement with A7X yielded some outstanding material, and that The Rev had put in a lot of work towards the writing on the album before he passed. Clearly, it's probable that if Portnoy had stayed with the band, he would have contributed amazing work, but that was not in the cards.
So, who do you get to fill The Rev's, Mike Portnoy's, and Arin Ilejay's shoes? Must be an alien with three feet, right? Let's recap, Avenged Sevenfold is now attempting to find a drummer that encompasses the ability to play the innovative complexity of The Rev's and Mike Portnoy's drumming, as well as the stylistically dissimilar drumming of Arin Ilejay for live performances, while being talented enough to contribute original ideas to new material that has intimidatingly high precedents, and able to switch seamlessly between all of it, repeatedly, within the span of a two-hour long setlist, not to mention gets along with the other band members, at least well enough to work together, and is willing to put themselves through all of that for a great band, yes, but nonetheless, a band that is starting to develop a reputation for having a drummer curse. Oh, and one other thing, Neil Peart is retired.
Got that? Go back and read it again, I'll wait...
Think of somebody? Don't feel bad, I couldn't come up with an answer to this riddle either. Unbelievably though, Avenged Sevenfold came up with an answer in the form of veteran drummer Brooks Wackerman. If the name doesn't sound familiar, his drumming will. 40-year-old Wackerman has be playing professionally since he was a teenager. His first band, BAD4GOOD'S debut album was produced by STEVE VAI, when Brooks was but 15, and he's only been more impressive since. Wackerman has played with bands like KORN, SUICIDAL TENDENCIES, GLENN TIPTON, THE VANDALS, TENACIOUS D, TOM DELONGE, and was the drummer for INFECTIOUS GROOVES, AVRIL LAVIGNE, and for 15 years, recording five studio albums, BAD RELIGION.
Thursday, August third was my chance to satisfy my curiosity. I had complete faith in Brooks ability to perform the songs, but how he performed them, and his fit with A7X, still had remained to be seen. As AVENGED SEVENFOLD relentlessly powered through their sixteen-song set, it became undeniably obvious that Brooks Wakerman was the drummer that A7X had been looking for since The Rev's death. Brooks and the rest of the AVENGED SEVENFOLD; M. Shadows - lead vocals; Zacky Vengeance - rhythm and lead guitar, backing vocals; Synyster Gates - lead guitar, backing vocals; and Johnny Christ - bass guitar, backing vocals played together like Brooks was a founding member of the band. Wackerman did exactly what he should have with regards to the older material; he played it flawlessly, and never tried to add anything, or stray too far from a song's feel. It was respectful to the three revered former drummers, and never attempted to change their original sound. On the four songs on the setlist that Brooks, himself was part of creating; "The Stage", "Paradigm", "God Damn", and "Sunny Disposition", he proved beyond any doubt his abilities. Wakerman, throughout the entire Stage album manages to play the drums so that AVENGED SEVENFOLD retains their sound, yet is also uniquely his own. He never imitates, only honors.
The ultimate test came with the penultimate song from the set; "Bat Country". A bafflingly multifaceted song that would test the mettle of most any drummer. A song that displays The Rev's signature "double-ride thing" and a clear test of Wakerman's ability to honor the original song. He played it expertly, and cleverly made it his own.
There can be little doubt left in the minds of AVENGED SEVENFOLD, and Jimmy "The Rev" Sullivan fans. With Brooks Wakerman, behind the kit, A7X has the potential to continue to deliver, solid, inventive hard rock for years to come.
AVENGED SEVENFOLD will be touring most of the remaining year with METALLICA.
CHRiS LiNViLLE (CONTRiBUTOR)