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Avenged Sevenfold On Life, Death, and NFTs

Vocalist M. Shadows breaks down the band’s new record and why he believes blockchain is a blessing for the music industry.

by Johnny Papan

Photo by Brian Catelle

Californian metal act Avenged Sevenfold have built a career on experimentation, implementation and adaptation with their sound, image as well as cultural shifts and technological opportunities. Since forming in 1999, we’ve seen the group evolve from screamy metalcore to complex progressive epic-metal to straightforward hard-rock. Now, the band experiments far beyond anything they’ve done before with their latest release Life is But a Dream.

“The musical direction really was driven by absolute freedom,” vocalist M. Shadows (real name Matthew Sonders) says while Zooming in from his Orange County home. “We wanted every song to have moments that were just kind of shocking or a left turn or kind of took you somewhere else. We didn’t want any song to feel like you knew where it was going to end up.”

It’s easy to get lost in this record. The seamless flow from track to track guides your imagination and every listen has something new to discover. The avant-garde nature of the album keeps it unpredictable as the band mixes the metal sounds they’re known for with electronica, jazz, cabaret and spacey ambience. 

“It’s a journey sort of record, it’s existential,” Shadows says. “Death is always looming on this record. It’s a reminder to the listener that we’re not here for very long and tomorrow’s not promised. And there’s always people going through things that you don’t understand. Empathy is key and love is key. This whole thing will be over before you know it. The subject matter can be very uncomfortable but also very freeing. [The album] is a reminder to feel, love, laugh, enjoy. Hopefully this record will be there for some people that need it.”

 

Their sound is not the only thing the band have been experimenting with in the last few years. In 2021, they became one of the first metal bands to utilize NFT technologies with their Web 3-based fan club, Deathbats Club.

NFTs have become one of the most polarizing phenomena of the modern internet. While many view them as overpriced JPEG cash-grab scams, some believe NFTs could be the future of the creator economy. A way for artists to not only monetize, but create community around their art. While some influencers, celebrities and corporate brands have put their name behind flopped NFT projects, artists like  Avenged Sevenfold are pioneering the technology to bring real-world benefits to their fans. 

Ownership of a “Deathbat” NFT gives you special perks like early access to tickets, exclusive merch and entry to the highly engaged Deathbats Club channel on the official Avenged Sevenfold Discord. A Deathbat could be purchased with Ethereum crypto-currency on the popular NFT marketplace, Opensea.

“The whole Deathbats Club thing has been insane to me,” Shadows laughs. “It’s so hyper-driven, it’s like a fan-club on steroids. A community on steroids. I honestly feel like you could remove the band at some point and all those people are still gonna be in there. I mean, a lot of these people have met friends for life there. I feel like we’ve really turned what a fan-club is on its head.”

Utilizing NFTs gives the band the ability to verify Deathbat ownership through the blockchain. When an NFT is purchased, it is linked to a specific crypto-wallet and the owner of that wallet can be privy to special perks if they own certain Deathbats. For example, rare Deathbats can earn you free tickets to shows, special meet and greet opportunities or even a chance to play golf with Shadows. 

In an attempt to continue using the technology to reward their fans, Avenged Sevenfold are spearheading the NFT adaptation onto mainstream platforms. The band is already the first to debut NFT-gated ticket sales through Ticketmaster, offering Deathbat holders exclusive ticket access. Now, Shadows has his eyes on an NFT-link with Spotify.

“I thought our fan club should be on the blockchain because we can connect the merchandise, we can connect the ticketing, we can connect the Spotify listens, which we’re gonna roll out soon,” he explains. “Think of Spotify wrapped, instead of just having a list fans can share, we can reward our top listeners.” 

He continues: “Why aren’t we rewarding those fans for doing what they are already doing? [With NFTs] there is an ecosystem where you can reward fans for not only going to shows, but you can reward fans for listening, and you can reward fans for buying vinyl or shopping in your store. The NFT token is like a bingo card, and we’re just gonna keep adding stuff on it for you. I don’t think you can really do that without the blockchain.”