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AVENGED SEVENFOLD // “We Didn’t Want To Sacrifice Our Vision” – The A7X Dream With Johnny Christ

Absence may either make the heart grow fonder or more forgetful, pending who you ask. But for American metal lords Avenged Sevenfold, absence has proven to be the unforgettable catalyst for one of the most ambitious and engaging albums of their career to date, with Avenged Sevenfold’s eighth full length album Life Is But A Dream… is available now via Warner Records.

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Like a cosmic space ballet mixed with metal ferocity, electronica and beyond, Life Is But A Dream… is a genuine work of art; carefully crafted to stand as a whole and an astonishing insight into what the California-hailing heavies have been up to since releasing their previous album The Stage, which itself dove into prog, scarily relevant A.I concepts and found itself in multiple “best of the year” lists for 2016.

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Kicking off with a somewhat melancholic lullaby vibe before diving head-first into some galloping, theatrical goodness, Life Is But A Dream… swiftly evolves into an incredible cosmic journey. But the album itself was many years in the making, with turbulence simultaneously in and around the band. And, as A7X bassist Johnny Christ recently revealed to HysteriaMag.com, it was both personal and global delays that ultimately impacted the stunning end result. 

“It took us five years to create this record,” shares Christ. “We got off the road in 2018, took just a beat to figure out what we wanted to do, what we wanted to accomplish, just like any other album cycle. Then we had some delays and stuff, and we wrote the record a little longer than usual. I would say it was a little over a year, whereas sometimes some of our previous records may have taken us more like nine or ten months. But in general, the writing process was around the same – it was other delays that came in.”

“Unfortunately, both personally and globally, everyone knows what happened with COVID, and that definitely put some delays for us. There were workarounds to get it done faster, if you will, but we didn’t wanna sacrifice our vision at all for something that we knew would be a blip in history. Not to make light of it for people out there, but it truly is a blip in the grand scope of things, and we didn’t want our music to suffer through it.”

Wading through the pandemic and also working on Life Is But A Dream… for the longest period of time in their careers, the elusive end result also proved to be something the group could never have predicted.

“All of that made it an even more amazing record than what we had thought we were gonna do at the beginning. At least, in our opinion,” reveals Christ. “It was really therapeutic at the right time, and it brought us even closer together, which I didn’t think was possible to be honest. But now – we could all just be one person at this point!”

This could very well be our last full record, or at least for a while, because the scope of the industry has changed. And we’re not sure what we wanna do.
[ Johnny Christ of Avenged Sevenfold ]

Kicking off with a somewhat melancholic tinge, long-time A7X fans may initially be caught off guard with what lies in store on Life Is But A Dream…. But, as Christ succinctly puts it: “That’s what art is for. You get your opinion and what you vibe from it. I think that’s the beauty of it all.”

Declared in their early press material as being an album that is designed to be listened to as a whole, Life Is But A Dream is certainly enhanced by an uninterrupted visit from start to finish. But, as Christ elaborates, the state of the music industry and certain uncertainty about the future played its own role in how painstakingly the band crafted what can truly only be described as an actual “journey” with album #8.

“This could very well be our last full record, or at least for a while,” muses Christ, “because the scope of the industry has changed. And we’re not sure what we wanna do. Maybe we want to be able to occasionally tour off a few songs here and there. And that’s already out there. But with this one, it’s a very intentional piece of art to be listened to all the way through. We did trim some fat along the way, I wouldn’t say that there were songs that just completely got scrapped. But early on, some things did get scrapped.”

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“You might show up with a riff or something to the writing process,” Christ continues, “and not everyone’s vibing on it. That’s not making the cut. And that’s been the case on every record that we’ve ever done. We have thick skin amongst each other. So, if we’re not all in together on songs – then it just doesn’t make it.”

Produced by returning Avenged Sevenfold producer Joe Barresi, who had worked on the band’s previous album The Stage as well as an unholy array of iconic heavy acts over the years, Life Is But A Dream…  wastes no time in flexing everything from funk to pop, lush orchestral sweeps and plenty of riffage. And, for Christ and the band, it was a genuine no-brainer to return to the creative fold with Barressi for Life Is But A Dream…

“Joe Barresi is a living legend,” declares Christ. “He’s the best at what he does. And you know someone is that good when bands like Slipknot and Tool keep coming back to you.”

“With Joe, we have all the love in the world. He’s the mad scientist who helps us get all the tones. If we say we wanna do something, he’s never like: no, we can’t do that. He’s like: let me see how I can make that happen.”

“And from a technical standpoint, he’s got a studio where we did a lot of this record in Pasadena, with just years of equipment. We were pulling out stuff from the 70s and 80s and using it on this record because we wanted it to feel like that real raw stuff. For this record, it was really important to have that human element, for lack of a better term, sonically. And there’s no better person for that than Joe.”

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Returning to stages more and more, for a heap of shows (with the phrase “heap” tickling Joe’s fancy to no end), Avenged Sevenfold’s live music dance card continues to fill up in 2023, including a headline North America tour later this year with Falling In Reverse and multiple festivals locked and loaded; all large occasions to continue to celebrate the band’s brand new album as well as their long-term musical careers. But before the upcoming performances create new standouts in the A7X memory banks, Christ himself has a few key Avenged Sevenfold touring moments that stick out after all this time. 

“We played a song called Game Over, which no one had heard, aside from a handful who had been through the immersive experience at Area 15,” laughs Chris. “We decided for one of the first times in our career that we were gonna play a song that no one’s heard live.”

“We all came out in different garb, everyone had a different look, M. Shadows had a ski mask on, some of us had hoodies, all just different looks. We’d been away for five years, and what I remember about it was just seeing the crowd’s reaction. Most of ‘em had never heard the song, and they were just kind of mesmerised. And for the first reaction on a stage in five years – it was a little surreal. I was almost like: ohh, is this a good idea?! But then we could see they were digging it, and we felt this immense energy back on us soon enough with people enjoying it, the nostalgia of a couple of songs too that they actually knew.”

“It’s incredible to be able to do this for a living. And I couldn’t be happier to be doing it with my best friends in the world on top of it.

With so much to look forward to as Avenged Sevenfold edge closer and closer to the long-awaited release of Life Is But A Dream…, an album that tackles notions of meaning, purpose, the human existence and beyond, only one question remains for Christ ahead of its release: what is Johnny Christ’s own idea of a dream life and what makes him happy in this extremely bizarre world around us?

“That is such a good question,” says Christ. “And it brings such a big smile to my face, that’s everything that I’ve been thinking about lately: what does bring me joy? What does bring me hope? What does bring me purpose? And it’s very easy. It’s what we’ve been talking about, it’s about being in this band. This is my purpose, this is my joy, this is everything.”

“It is also secondary to my son and my wife, who bring me so much joy every day. Being a father, you know, you never think you’re gonna be a dad. And one day it happens and you’re like: “what the fuck am I doing? What am I supposed to do with this?!”. And you just kind of figure it out along the way and do the best you can.”

“That’s my true purpose now. When I say the band is my purpose too, t’s not the business side of it. It’s the family that we are. And of course it’s being on the stage and creating music and doing that. But more than that, it’s being able to do it with people that I love and who mean so much to me.”

“I couldn’t be more grateful at this very point in my life for all the blessings that I have in my family and friends. And that’s what it means to me.”

Life Is But A Dream… is out now via Warner Records.

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