Avenged Sevenfold, often shortened to simply A7X, announced last week on their website that the band were parting ways with drummer Arin Ilejay due to creative differences. Ilejay had been part of the band for four years, acting as a permanent replacement for Jimmy ‘The Rev’ Sullivan, after his death in 2009. Ilejay was also the replacement for then-Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy, who Avenged Sevenfold had enlisted the help of as a session and touring musician during the recording process of 2010’s record, Nightmare.
During Ilejay’s four years with Californian metal band, they only released one record: 2013’s Hail to the King. This record marked a distinct change in musical direction for the band, as they dropped the longer, complex arrangements, in favour of a classical metal inspired sound. Whilst the record achieved its goal of bringing Avenged Sevenfold to the masses (it secured them a headlining role at Download 2014), the band had lost their identity; producing vapid and uninspired music.
From live performances of past Avenged Sevenfold material it was clear to see Arin Ilejay’s talent. He almost effortlessly reproduced The Rev’s flair, proving he had both the skill set and the confidence to tackle a very distinctive drum diction. However, the band asked Ilejay to tame down his normal style for the Hail to the King record, opting for simpler beats, with an emphasis on groove, rather than technical ability. By no means am I suggesting he should have been given free reign on their musical project, but to actively subdue an accomplished musician to such an extent is very disappointing, especially because all it achieved was the album’s pretentious and bland sound.
The reason I am blogging about this split is that I read a lot into the announcement. They cite ‘creative differences’ as the cause, which in my mind suggests that Ilejay was once again having his creativity stifled by a band who are more interested in pursuing a mainstream metal career. I predict that their seventh album will once again feature a stripped back sound, imitating the pioneering thrash metal acts of the eighties, in which the drums play a simplified role, forgoing the technical aspect that probably drew Ilejay towards the band in the first place, such as that championed on City Of Evil, parts of their self-titled effort and Nightmare.
The question remains though of who will replace Ilejay. I have seen a few potential replacement lists appearing on the internet, but I feel they will choose another relatively unheard of name, like Arin Ilejay was. They aren’t going to, for example, choose Mike Portnoy or Nick Menza, because they wont adapt themselves into what Avenged Sevenfold are looking for. The band seem unwilling to share creative control, so whoever fills in will have to be a blank canvas that can Avenged Sevenfold can mold into their vision. Equally a ‘big name’ won’t want a role like this on a permanent basis, with little to no creative input, as the famous names are more than just drummers, they are musicians!
Here’s hoping the new appointment, whoever that may end up being, can inspire Avenged Sevenfold to produce music with a little more identity in the future, as the band are too talented to be making Metallica tribute records.
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