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Avenged Sevenfold’s M. Shadows: My 10 Favorite Metal Albums

Singer on classics including Pantera’s ‘Far Beyond Driven’ and At the Gates’ ‘Slaughter of the Soul’

When Rolling Stone began work on our list of the 100 Greatest Metal Albums of All Time, we reached out to a few big names, like Ozzy Osbourne, Lars Ulrich and Corey Taylor, to find out what their favorite metal albums were. Now that we’ve published the list, we’ve decided to check in with other luminaries in the genre to get their picks.

For nearly two decades, Avenged Sevenfold have played with the limits of heavy metal, injecting the genre with catchy, off-kilter melodies and stretching the form into lengthy concept albums, like 2016’s The Stage. After their auspicious sophomore LP, 2003’s Waking the Fallen, became a surprise Top 10 hit, they refined their sound on the follow-up, 2005’s City of Evil, garnering MTV play for the single “Bat Country,” a platinum record and a slot on Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Metal Albums of All Time list. Subsequent LPs have debuted at Number One, and Avenged Sevenfold have made a name for themselves on the road, where they are currently opening for Metallica.

Considering all of this, we hit up the band’s frontman, M. Shadows, to see what metal albums resonated most with him. “When I made this list, I was trying to think of records that really impacted me stylistically, like, ‘Wow, you can do that with heavy metal,'” he tells Rolling Stone. “So I tried to think of those landmark moments in my life when I heard a different sound that sparked something.”

Here’s what he picked, in alphabetical order.

Queensryche, ‘Operation: Mindcrime’ (1988)

This is one that my dad got me into later. I was talking to my dad about the stuff he grew up listening to, and Operation: Mindcrime is a record that he had always talked about around the house. He always talked about it as the “greatest concept album of all time.” One day, I started listening to it and it just hit me. I was like, “These songs are all hits. They’re all huge songs.”

It’s got this amazing interweaving story, and it was the first time that I was introduced to Geoff Tate, and I thought, “This guy’s an amazing vocalist. His voice is so smooth, and it’s got so many cool textures to it.” I became obsessed with that record. 

I’d put Operation: Mindcrime and [Dream Theater’s] Scenes From a Memory on my list of top metal concept albums. A few rock records have joined it, such as Pink Floyd albums, but for metal, those two records stand up, to me. You could show that to anybody, and anybody that doesn’t like metal will like that record – it’s that good. It’s just awesome.

System of a Down, ‘Toxicity’ (2001)

I’d been going up to San Francisco a lot to get tattooed, and I’d heard the first System of a Down record at the tattoo shop, but it never really stuck with me. But one day I get a call from Brian Haner, who turns out to be [Avenged Sevenfold guitarist] Synyster Gates, and he says, “Dude. I just recorded this song on K-Rock by System of a Down called ‘Chop Suey,'” and he says, “It’s unbelievable.” And when he brought it to my house, it just blew my mind how it can be so melodic and schizophrenic and also intense at the same time. I remember thinking, “Well, there can’t be any songs on this record that are as good as this.” Then we ended up getting the record and you’d hear “Prison Song” and you’d hear all these songs on there and the whole record just blew me away because I’d never heard anything so schizophrenic. Years later, I figured they were huge Mr. Bungle listeners. Mr. Bungle influenced them a lot and they just added a heaviness. They made it a lot more appealing to mass audience. And then they had this Middle Eastern vibe that I had never heard before. So it was a huge turning point for us, just hearing them do that kind of thing with metal and rock infused together was insanity.

M. Shadows, a.k.a. Matthew Charles Sanders, frontman of heavy metal band Avenged Sevenfold plays a game with a robot to guess his identity. Watch here.

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