Avenged Sevenfold topped the album charts this week with Nightmare, a success that comes after months of emotional toll: In late December of last year, the metal band’s drummer, Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan, was found dead of an overdose on prescription medication and alcohol. He was 28. After his passing, the band made the tough decision to carry on with their fifth album, which was all but written. They enlisted Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy — one of Sullivan’s heroes — to sit in behind the kit, and recorded what became a eulogy for their lost member and longtime friend. We asked bassist Johnny Christ to talk us through Nightmare‘s creation and Sullivan’s legacy.
Entertainment Weekly: It has probably been a very exciting week with the album going to No. 1, but probably the most bittersweet version of exciting.
Johnny Christ: You nailed it right there. Absolutely.
Is it possible to describe your emotional state?
It’s been hard. It’s been back and forth. I’m very excited, and very blessed, and very thankful, and at the same time, I wish that my brother was still here to share this moment with me. But in all honesty, he left us a gift, and that was us being able to do this. We went through a lot of hard times just to create this record, so it’s pretty awesome, and it’s a good feeling. I’m just trying to enjoy it as much as I can.
I’ve read a bunch of news reports and interviews with you guys about what happened, but I’m wondering if you can put into your own words the story of this album.
This album was very much a record that we wrote 100 percent with Jimmy. He was there for every single song, and had his hand in every single piece of music that was written for this record. We wrote for like nine months. We wanted to make a heavier, more concentrated album. It was going to be a concept album originally, and the music was 100 percent written. About a week or two before we were going to hit the studio, Jimmy passed, and everything changed. The lyrics became a tribute to Jimmy and how we were feeling at the time, and as that happened, it became a much darker record than we’ve ever written before. It’s very emotionally charged, I think. We went into the studio like any other time, just ready to write and get excited about a new record, and Jimmy was super excited. He was really proud of the work that he had done. So after he passed, we knew that we had to continue this record and get it out there, because he would have wanted us to do that. We went into the studio, and it was so therapeutic. It was a blessing that we didn’t know that was going to happen. When you’re concentrating on just the music, you’re not thinking about anything else. READ FULL STORY