Pieced together over the years since the pandemic hit, Life Is But A Dream… plays like an album that was allowed to grow at a natural pace, like a stunning vista that could only have been finessed by the tempered hand of time. The sprawl of years is condensed to minutes transforming the patient, at times frustratingly so, creative process of Avenged Sevenfold into a rush of thrilling hard rock.
It contains seasons of an ever-changing climate as the five dudes who made it, M. Shadows, Synyster Gates, Zacky Vengeance, Johnny Christ and Brooks Wackerman brought to the sessions everything they were going through, which, as we can all attest to over the past five years, has been a lot.
One thing that they didn’t bring with them into the studio was ego, which may sound counterintuitive for a world famous rock band, but as bassist Johnny Christ tells BLUNT, you don’t need ego to have confidence or purpose –indeed, it’s much easier to have them without.
You’d think the ego is required in this space, so it’s interesting to hear that your removal of the ego from what you do is when you found your clearest purpose.
This is something that we discovered over the last five years. Each of us went off and found our own ways of stripping the ego. You really start to realise that this thing that has kept you in the rat race is yourself. You don’t have to do it. You know what I mean? You realise like, “Oh, that’s my ego. He’s the guy driving the car right now. Let’s let somebody else drive for a little while and see how that feels.”
It was just interesting because once we all came back from our different experiences, we just felt so good again. We took the ego away, but we still know what our purpose is here. We’re lucky enough to be in a band where we love each other and we love the music that we create, and we love our fans. So what the fuck can I be mad about?
It’s a kind of a suit of armor that weighs you down a little too much. You’re building up the ego because deep down, you’re actually self-conscious about everything. So if you get out of that, you go find that little guy that started in the suit of armour and you can pull him out and say, “You’re enough. Don’t worry about the suit.” It’s a relief. When you realize that you’re enough, because you are just like everybody else, and everybody else is just like you.
Was ego becoming an issue for the band?
Not in terms of the band but look, we got off the road abruptly in 2019. We’ve been working tirelessly behind the scenes. But we haven’t had the adulation that we receive from our fans when we go out there and do these kinds of things. And for me personally, that was a blow to my ego, that I didn’t even realise. I was like, “I’m a stay-at-home dad right now. I don’t know who I am.”
“I’m not Johnny Christ right now. I don’t know what this is.” And for me personally, that was a tough pill to swallow. And through some therapy and through some stuff and getting perspective and dropping the ego, that’s really when I started to feel like myself again. And I feel…part of it was taking six months of sobriety for myself. I hadn’t done that since I was probably 15, 16 years old. So there’s a lot of things that I worked on over the last five years.
I’m very open about it because I do know that a lot of people struggle with that too. You don’t have to be in a famous band or a famous artist or any walk of life, you can feel that same way. And I just like people to know that they’re not alone, number one. And there’s ways to get around it and be happy again. And I hope that they find the right avenues for that.
If there’s one moment on the album I’d like explained to me, it’s the title track of Life Is But A Dream…, and it’s also the closer. It is the most nerve-wracking, spine-tingling piano song of all time. What was the intention with this?
I think the whole record’s kind of unnerving though, right?
It’s unnerving in that ‘there is no afterlife’. Everything comes to an end, right? Mathematically, everything comes to an end. Even time itself comes to an end. So if you think of that absurd perspective, it’s very unsettling, right? Like, “Oh shit, this is all I get. Really? Oh, man. I was always thinking maybe there’s a chance there’s something else out there after, or something like that. Probably not. The probability, if you run the numbers, probably this is it.” So you know, it’s very unsettling. But then you start to accept it, and that’s when you find your purpose; what’s really important to you and what you’re going to do with the time that you’re given here. That’s kind of been the overarching philosophy of this record.
So we set out musically like that too. We found ways to make the music not settle. When you listen to the melodies, they’re almost unfinished sentences in there sometimes, aren’t they? Where it makes it feel like you’re like, “Oh, I didn’t get that…”
There’s very little resolve...
And that was very intentional.
…because resolve is of the ego!
I couldn’t have said it any better myself right there. You’re more concise than me, I like it.