Posts Tagged ‘critical acclaim’

Farewell to The Rev

December 29, 2009

Today, The Rev died.

James "The Rev" Sullivan

For those who don’t know, James “The Rev” Sullivan was the drummer for the metal band Avenged Sevenfold. Yes, people die all the time. Sure, I’ve never met the man. The impact of his passing is nowhere near what a family member or friend would give.

But still.. it sucks.

I have to imagine that how I feel right now, is how young rock and roll fans felt when they found out Keith Moon, John Bonham, Cliff Burton, or Randy Rhoads died. It’s a meloncholy, blah feeling. A talented artist I enjoy has passed away far before the time he should’ve, due to reasons unknown. The future of a band I enjoy immensely is up in the air.

Avenged Sevenfold has a special place in my life.

In the fall of 2008 I spent most of my time working at a factory in town called Menasha. I would wake up at 5 AM every morning, work until 2:30, come home, and split time between bumping around the internet and playing X-Box Live. I mainly played the game Halo 3 with a variety of friends.

It was on Halo that a good friend of mine introduced me to a girl we had went to school with, yet I never talked to. (We knew each other as kids, come to find out, but that’s a story for another day.) Her name was Ashley. We hit it off right away, it seemed. We would talk for hours on end, a couple nights a week, playing games with one another while talking about a variety of topics. There were times we’d play Halo, even though we didn’t want to, just to talk to one another.

One day Ashley left a bulletin on MySpace asking anyone interested if they would be interested in going to a concert with her in November. Of course, I said, I’d be more than interested. Being a rock music enthusiast and live show addict, I couldn’t turn her down! The bands playing were Saving Abel, Shinedown, Buckcherry, and Avenged Sevenfold.

I had heard a song or two by each band, and didn’t dislike anything by them. I had seen Saving Abel open for one of my favorite young rock groups, Airbourne, so knew what they had to offer. It seemed like it would be a fun show, and if nothing else, I could find a few new favorites. It was a huge bonus that I could get to spend some time with an attractive young lady that seemed interested in me.

The night of the show came around, Ashley and I had a connection, we enjoyed the concert and had a blast. The entire night was very memorable, and I could write for hours about the experience. However, today I will only focus on the impact of Avenged Sevenfold on me that night and beyond.

After Buckcherry’s set ended with a disgustingly interesting 13-minute progressive rendition of their hit single “Crazy Bitch,” I sat there with Ashley talking about the show we had witnessed so far. Shinedown certainly left a massive impression. I enjoyed their singer’s passion for rock and roll, the depth of their lyrics, and the tightness of their compositions. Plus, their bassist played his four-string with a pair of drumsticks, how sick is that? They were an instant favorite and I ended up buying their shirt and album that night. Buckcherry’s set couldn’t end fast enough for me, as I felt their ballads were tame and their rock songs were repetitive, derivative, emotionally bankrupt, and sleazy for the sake of sleaze. I didn’t enjoy them at all.

Queensryche blasted over the PA while they set up the stage for Avenged Sevenfold, randomly enough. I wasn’t expecting to hear a chunk of the Operation Mindcrime album that night, but it pleased me and got me pumped up for A7X (of whom I had only heard “Bat Country and parts of the “Waking the Fallen” album before). Ashley couldn’t stop talking about how huge the mosh pits were going to be, how hard she was going to bang her head, and how brutal riffs were about to pound me into the ground. Sure enough, I counted FORTY-FIVE Marshall amps stacked on top of eachother on the back of the stage. Damn. This was going to be intense.

Sure enough, it was. The lights dimmed down. The only light on stage was a green spotlight on a keyboard front and center. A built man with sleeve tattoos, sunglasses, and shaved head began playing a haunting organ melody. I had no clue what was about to happen, and I could feel myself tense up. Ashley grinned at me wide as the crowd cheered, the band members running onstage. Synyster Gates began playing a beautiful intro.

All of a sudden, the built man playing the keyboards (M. Shadows) ripped out a long, fierce scream. Typically not into screaming, I braced myself and winced. What was I in for?

One of the best damn shows I’d ever seen, that’s what I was in for.

It was all uphill from there.

The musicians (including the amazing Rev himself) launched into a series of delightful churning riffs. Apparently this was their song “Critical Acclaim.” I watched, slack-jawed, as M. Shadows and The Rev exchanged incredible vocals. The Rev sang as he pounded away, viciously keeping time with double-bass insanity. M. Shadows practically rapped, in pseudo-Rage fury while Synyster, Zacky Vengeance, Johnny Christ, and company blasted my eardrums with their sweet heavy metal. This was delightful. This was what I had been missing out on by not being a metal fan for most of my life. This was music I could get into.

The whole concert was amazing. I loved the yearning chorus of “Afterlife.” I dug the country/blues tinges of “Gunslinger” and “Dear God.” I nearly fell over at the majesty of dueling solos during “Bat Country.” The lusty “Scream” stirred the animal within me. My fist pumped during “Unholy Confessions” and I made a poor attempt at headbanging to “Almost Easy.” Ashley far out-classed me in that department, with her long dark locks whipping around her head as she cackled, rocking it out to her favorites.

All in all, it was a great show. Whenever I spoke of the concert, I’d always make note of how impressive The Rev was. The only other drummer I could think of that compared to his versatility was Deen Castronovo. The Rev not only banged and thundered, he could be tasteful when he needed to. There was a new drummer I could add to my list of favorites, alongside Peart, Portnoy, Gavin Harrison, Chad Smith, and Steve Smith.

Ashley and I ended up bonding over Avenged Sevenfold several times after that concert. We would watch their videos on MTV’s website. I discovered Ashley’s amazing, soaring singing voice whenever she would cover “Afterlife” playing Rock Band 2. When I needed a laugh, she would provide with her “Duckie Dance,” flipping unseen foes off while snarling out the “Shh, be quiet, might p*ss somebody off…” parts of “Critical Acclaim.” She cackled at me one night, when I was exhausted and not in my right mind from a long day of driving, as I stated that “Scream” was a “modern heavy metal version of ‘Stone in Love’ on steroids.” When I spent a gift card from Christmas in a Target in another town, I purchased the self-titled Avenged Sevenfold album.

Avenged Sevenfold's self-titled

During long, cold days and treacherous nights I would grow exhausted and frustrated with my life. I’d vent by playing the game NHL 09 with a group of my friends. “Afterlife” was on the soundtrack, and would cycle as an ‘entrance song’ for our hockey team as we took the virtual ice. I have vivid memories of Woodbridge, Kuhner, Russell, Benson, Riding, and Chidester ripping onto the ice together as A7X blasted furiously, heralding the arrival of The Heartlanders. We also played “Afterlife” and “Critical Acclaim” while playing basketball at Russell’s private gym.

I needed to keep myself pumped up as I slogged my way to my humdrum factory job. What better way to do that than crank A7X while going to work? One of my favorite album sides to listen to on my trips to the Menasha plant was the first side of the self-titled record.

There’s video evidence of me playing Rock Band drums to “Afterlife,” my own awkward untalented tribute to The Rev. The video even includes me singing some incorrect lyrics badly. I remember the night clearly though, I had immersed myself in the song, became one with it and truly had “a moment” with it.

Early in our relationship, Ashley and I would take long drives for the hell of it, listening to music and talking about our hopes, dreams, and feelings. We would go back and forth between her favorites and mine. Somehow we could always agree with no fighting on listening to Avenged Sevenfold. My soundtrack of 2009, and for my relationship with Ashley is packed with the band’s work.

I vividly remember the day after Michael Jackson died. Ashley and I had a long conversation while parked on the side of high street about the effects of major celebrity deaths, or the deaths of any musician or athlete. Ironically we discussed how Ashley’s stepfather would need to be held if a Tennessee Titan were to die early. Steve McNair was shot and killed the next week. I thought about how I would feel if I lost a treasured Cincinnati Bengal…recently Chris Henry fell off a truck and perished. I recall all too well Ashley and I laughing about us being middle-aged and married, going through a midlife crisis and following the bands we loved in our youth, and travelling with Avenged Sevenfold on their 2035 Retirement Tour….

Revisiting the conversation we had after Michael Jackson died, I know Ashley said she would need extra cuddling if we ever lost a member of Pearl Jam, Shinedown, or Avenged Sevenfold before their time.

As always, I look forward to extra cuddles with Ashley tonight.

I just wish it wasn’t for this reason.

R.I.P. James “The Rev” Sullivan.

The Rev, a drummer extraordinaire and man lost too young.

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