AVENGED SEVENFOLD has "surprise-released" "The Stage", becoming the first-ever rock band to drop an unannounced album in both digital and physical form. "The Stage" is the band's seventh studio album and first for Capitol Records.
The Southern California-based quintet (vocalist M. Shadows, guitarists Synyster Gates and Zacky Vengeance, bassist Johnny Christ and drummer Brooks Wackerman) revealed the news at midnight eastern, surprising the millions of fans who were watching their live-streamed performance from the rooftop of the Capitol Records Tower in Hollywood, California.
The groundbreaking event saw the band give a 3D/360-degree live-streamed virtual reality performance, enabling fans around the globe to view the show on Universal Music Group's newly released VRTGO VR platform, powered by VRLIVE's advanced technology, and experience AVENGED SEVENFOLD's electrifying set as if they were there for this first-of-its-kind immersive event.
Fans attended the event in-person, flooding the streets and sidewalks around the tower to experience a concert amplified by augmented reality (AR) technology, which intensifies real-world environmental elements with computer-generated sensory input such as graphics, video and sound to enhance the live experience. VRLIVE streamed the event to 50 Samsung Gear VR headsets on the ground level of the event for fans to virtually transport themselves to the stage. Afterward, the band celebrated with fans, taking photos and sharing stories about the secretive release.
"The Stage" is the follow-up to AVENGED SEVENFOLD's 2013 release, "Hail To The King", which entered The Billboard 200 at No. 1. Co-produced by the band and Joe Barresi (QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE, TOOL), "The Stage" is a work of immense scope and ambition, featuring 11 panoramic tracks tied together by an Artificial Intelligence theme. Inspired by the writings of Carl Sagan and Elon Musk, the album is the band's first thematic release. While the term "AI" conjures up images of robots and fantasy films, the band steers clear of a science fiction storyline. Instead, the album sees them taking a futurist's look at the accelerated rate at which technology's intelligence is expanding and what that means — good and bad — for the future.
The album's epic 15-minute-plus closing track, "Exist", features a guest appearance by award-winning astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson giving a spoken-word performance he penned specifically for the album.
Asked why AVENGED SEVENFOLD decided to release an album with no advance notice, singer M. Shadows told Rolling Stone: "Well, man, a lot of it has to do with boredom. [Laughs] Everyone else is dropping the breadcrumbs, having four or five singles before their record comes out. It completely takes away the mystique of the record; by the time it actually comes out, you've already done 50 interviews about what the record's about and is going to sound like. It's 2016; people's attention spans are so short at this point, who has time for three months of lead-up? You've got five guys over here who are very bored of that; so for us, it was about keeping the hype very short and sweet, and then executing on all levels. Here's the record – we spent a long time on it, and it's available for you now. And now we can all learn about the record together, after you hear it, instead of hearing all these things about it as we're dribbling crumbs at you. We just said, 'No BS this time — we're just going to do everything that we want to do, from the live show to the merchandising, to how we present this thing and how we release it.'"
Regarding how Neil deGrasse Tyson's involvement came about, M. Shadows said: "The song came from the idea of wanting to replicate the Big Bang in a heavy-metal sort of way, like, 'OK, this is what it would have sounded like when this happened!' It's like a huge classical piece. We love Gustav Holst's 'The Planets', but no one's really hit the Big Bang, so we did it! I wanted it to be all instrumental, and then Brian [guitarist Synyster Gates] was like, 'Well, I think there should be some vocals on it.' So we ended up with a compromise where it's like, 'OK, when the vocals come in, that's Earth — that's the first time that life starts after the cooling-down period of the Big Bang.' Originally, we wanted to use a recording of Carl Sagan reading an excerpt from 'The Pale Blue Dot', but [his estate] isn't really letting people use that. So we reached out to Neil."
The track listing for 71-minute effort is as follows:
01. The Stage (8:32)
02. Paradigm (4:19)
03. Sunny Disposition (6:41)
04. God Damn (3:42)
05. Creating God (5:35)
06. Angels (5:41)
07. Simulation (5:31)
08. Higher (6:29)
09. Roman Sky (5:00)
10. Fermi Paradox (6:31)
11. Exist (15:39)
Working with new label Capitol Records, the band's plans for a stealth release were months in the making, and kicked off a few weeks ago with a guerilla campaign that saw projections of their deathbat symbol mysteriously appearing on landmarks around the world. Fans and media reported sightings and shared images from Paris, Sydney, London, Tokyo and Berlin, to name but a few. Anticipation and conspiracy theories reached fever pitch when rumors regarding supposed album titles and a December release date began to spread.
Two weeks ago, the band released a companion video for lead single/title track "The Stage". Directed by Chris Hopewell (RADIOHEAD, THE KILLERS), the clip has already amassed well over six million YouTube views. The album also marks the band's first release with acclaimed drummer Brooks Wackerman, known for his work with BAD RELIGION and whose discography also includes albums from TENACIOUS D and SUICIDAL TENDENCIES.
This weekend, fans can pick up exclusive band merch at AVENGED SEVENFOLD pop-up shops in New York City and Los Angeles. The New York store (located at 68 Greene St., NY, NY 10012) will be open Friday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday/Sunday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. The Los Angeles shop (located at 6615 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90028) will be open Friday-Sunday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Both locations will be carrying limited-edition items created specifically for these events.