Avenged Sevenfold – ‘The Stage’

A collection of songs analyzing our own existence

More stories from Parker Reed


The promotion for a new studio album has become formulaic over the years. Release a single accompanied by a music video, then a month or so later release another single and a music video and finally release the record after collecting three months of pre-orders.

Heavy metal band Avenged Sevenfold had followed that exact formula for their first six studio albums, but they opted to forego that process for their latest studio record.

“The Stage” was released on the night of Oct. 28, 2016 to the surprise of even the band’s most loyal followers. The album had originally been slated to drop on the first Friday of December, but the band opted for a surprise release for one reason: To get back at their old record label.

Warner Bros. had been the home of Avenged Sevenfold since their major label debut, “City of Evil” in 2005, but some staff changes at Warner Bros. prompted the band to exit the label before the end of their agreed-upon contract.

Because Warner Bros. was owed one more studio album, the label decided to throw together a greatest hits record featuring songs only recorded during the Warner Bros. era of Avenged Sevenfold. This cash-grabbing move by the label was scrutinized when the label felt compelled to release it one week before Avenged Sevenfold had planned to release “The Stage,” in an attempt to significantly hurt the band’s first week sales.

When the band caught wind of this, they decided it would be best to release the record right away in order to gain some momentum. However, first week’s album sales of 76,000 were far below the record’s predecessor, “Hail to the King” which debuted with 154,000.

This steep decline in first-week numbers should not be indicative of the album’s content, however, as it is the most technical, layered and deep collection of melodies that the band has ever managed to assemble.

Opening up the album is the title-track, “The Stage,” and it is the complete opposite of what most traditional records would opt to open up with. It is over eight minutes long, features long acoustic passages and is complete with a music video that doesn’t feature any depictions of the band members themselves.

The music video depicts various human tragedies throughout history and reflects the song’s lyrics that discuss how vile humanity has become over time. From here is where the band begins to delve into the main themes of the album.

Artificial intelligence, the self-destruction of society and the creation of the universe are topics that a heavy metal band would not usually discuss. Nevertheless, Avenged Sevenfold felt these areas were unexplored territory and decided to devote an entire concept album to them, a bold choice made by a bold band.

The second track, “Paradigm” and the third track, “Sunny Disposition” depict acts of nuclear warfare against a backdrop of down-tuned driving riffs that have many listeners checking their phones to make sure they are not listening to Megadeth. These songs contribute to the theme that many of the horrors in modern society were created by humans themselves. The next selection of tracks takes a left turn towards humans themselves and how they view religion.

“God Damn,” “Creating God,” and “Angels” are all songs that tackle the daunting question of religion with varying degrees of aggression. Whether it be hard, driving guitar and vocal lines (God Damn) or soft acoustic melodies and soaring guitar solos (Angels), the question of  God’s existence  is left within the mind of any listener after these songs conclude.

The next four songs on the album continue to flesh out the concepts introduced early in the record and further serve as the precursor to the longest song in Avenged Sevenfold history, which caps off the album.

“Exist” lasts 15 minute and 41 seconds. It is the longest song Avenged Sevenfold has recorded and no second is spent halfheartedly.

The song opens up with a seven-minute long instrumental passage that showcases lead guitarist Synyster Gate’s superior soloing ability and new drummer Brooks Wackerman’s technical drumming prowess.

When the middle section begins, lead singer M. Shadows begins conveying messages about the big bang and how the universe was created. The entire song is actually made to simulate the big bang. It begins with a lot of ferocity, calms down for a short period of time and concludes with an epic and expansive message about the creation of the universe as we know it.

Just to add to the scientific theme of the album’s closing song, famous scientist, Neil Degrasse Tyson reads a three minute long monologue over a heavy guitar driven-passage that almost feels like it belongs more so in a history channel documentary than in a metal song.

After the conclusion of the progressive song, I didn’t initially know what to think. The album is so different when compared to the rest of the band’s discography. I knew I enjoyed it, but I didn’t know why.

Was it because of the impressive song structures? Or the compelling melodies and song meanings? Or was it simply the performances themselves?

Those questions, like many raised on “The Stage,” remain in my head and likely will for most listeners. If you are looking for a sonic experience unlike most you will find in heavy metal, I highly recommend you take a dive into the deep pool of contemplation that is “The Stage.”