Concept Album: The Stage

In 2016, Avenged Sevenfold released “The Stage”, a concept album about rapid technological progress, artificial intelligence and arguably metaphysics. The Stage is the band’s first album with Capitol Records after over a decade with Warner Bros., and it is called their “most ambitious” album by Rolling Stone.

In an interview, frontman M. Shadows mentions nanotechnology as the inspiration for the song Paradigm. The title of the song Fermi Paradox is referencing a theory in physics which states that there is a contradiction between the lack of evidence and the high probability that extraterrestrial civilizations exist. But when you directly experience the music — that is, you jam out and let it take control of you for the time being — you realize that there are some serious metaphysical understandings being communicated.

A7X has historically been labeled hard rock or metal, but their new album challenges traditional genre categorizations. In the aforementioned interview, M. Shadows says “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.”

Die-hard and faithful fan Lee Murray explains that their album Nightmare was considered metal, while Hail to the King took a step back and embodied hard rock. But with The Stage, they wanted to go in a whole new, progressive direction. Through 11 songs lasting over 73 minutes, The Stage explores obscure time signatures and features vocal harmonies that switch between major and minor thirds within the same song, making for unique and unforgettable verses — especially in the song Creating God. In an interview found on YouTube, band members revealed that they wanted to put more dissonance into the new album to the extent that listeners would be asking whether or not it was intentional.

It is also the first album to feature drummer Brooks Wackerman as part of the band, and he brings intricacy and complexity to new levels. Lee argues that Synyster Gates plays like never before: “He clearly has been practicing economy picking and sweeping. To explain for non-musicians, this is a different style of using the pick which produces different sounds and effects. For the sake of explaining the technique, it would be fair to say that Synyster Gates can cram 20 or more notes into just a short bit of music which would normally fit 8 or so notes. It may be less rhythmically accurate but it gives him his own unique sound.”

The lyrics in this album are suggestive of deep philosophical themes to be found in both Eastern and Western schools of thought. The songs touch on life and death, what it means to be human, what we consider the “self”, the consequences of our actions, our perspective, what is and isn’t knowable, consciousness and intention, the future and determinism, subjective versus objective reality, God, and the mind. Even quantum physics is implicated in the song The Stage. Many of these themes aren’t unique to The Stage, but can be found in the lyrics and sound of past albums.

One notable song on the album that is lyrically saturated with philosophical undertones is the song Simulation. The song represents the search for meaning where one finds themselves questioning and trying to understand their place in the world (“total understanding don’t seem to mean a thing, when you can’t see behind the silver screen, a figurine“). The lyrics “You only exist because we allow it” suggests interdependence and how we all rely on one another to survive. “The curtain rises but who dares to pull the strings“; time is happening, but we are simultaneously making decisions that will alter time itself. At the end of the song, there are faint voices shouting in the background: “You had one thing to do! You fucked it up, you piece of shit!” My best guess is that these are supposed to be someone’s thoughts, and someone is finding themselves thinking these thoughts. This hints at themes of self-awareness and what we are “made” of: “I’ve questioned all the voices in my head, are they mine or have I been misled?” And — if one finds that they have been misled: “You’ve been beaten down time and time again… But still, you find yourself at the center of it all”. Who is this “self” that remains?

It is important to consider how much effort and intention went into The Stage. The album is something listeners can respect even if they aren’t fans of heavy metal, just based on how much thought went into it. At this point it is more than just making music for Avenged Sevenfold; they are passionate about humanity and want to communicate those passions through their music. They did this successfully by intending for the whole album to be an experience in itself that inspires and educates their fans. Big questions can be asked when confronted with a piece of art.

All of this music, all of these themes and events are taking place on the same “stage”. Something is being created from nothing. Check out the video in the link above to see what is happening. Click the album cover below to enlighten yourself with good music!

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