Avenged Sevenfold have continually been ahead of the curve, consistently looking for ways to challenge their fans and keep things fresh for audiences. That ambition and foresight has made them one of rock and metal's top acts, with some pointing to them as the torchbearers for the next generation of hard rock and metal.

During our recent chat with vocalist M. Shadows, we spoke to him about Slayer's retirement and what he's learned from frequent tourmates Metallica about the longevity of their career.

Slayer has announced that their upcoming tour will be their last one. Were you a fan of Slayer growing up?

I grew up listening to Slayer, rolling around in my Catholic school with my Slayer shirt on. I remember one shirt had this nuclear bomb with a skeleton and had a Nazi Germany helmet on and that didn't really go over well at the Catholic school. The Rev got me into Slayer via Divine Intervention and Reign in Blood -- all those records, Seasons in the Abyss. They were a part of my childhood growing up. I'm a huge fan of their drumming, all the way through. I've always loved [former Slayer drummer Dave] Lombardo.

They've had a huge impact on the metal world. I think they are going out on top, which is a lot more than most bands can say, which is cool. If they stay away, it's pretty epic.

Ozzy is going out on a final major tour as well. There seems to be more of the older guard in metal getting to that age of retiring. Some people have looked to your band as the "next generation" act to carry that mantle forward. How do you feel about possibly carrying that forward for metal fans?

Well listen, if they're looking for us to repeat history and be a band that fits in exactly with what they think that should be, they're going to be disappointed. We're gonna make our own path and chose our own way. We will continue to embrace technology and new ways of getting music. Our future is going to look different than any of our bands that we looked up to.

What I do think, is that if we create compelling music and continue to write experimental and different types of records, as well as having that Avenged Sevenfold sound, and going out there and playing for people every year and having fun doing it, there's no reason why we can't continue to play and do it for a long time. The reality is, it's up to the fans. If the fans like it, you become the big band. If the fans lose interest, and they don't want to see you live anymore and have no interest in what you're doing, then it all falls apart... and that's OK too. It's not gonna look the same as it used to, that's one thing I know for sure. We're going to have to carve our own path and it's going to be different, exciting and I can't wait to see what that is.

When you talk to the Metallica guys, do you compare notes at all? Do you see if there's anything you can take from their secret to longevity?

I talk to Lars all the time. One thing I know about Lars is ... I have a lot of ideas and I kind of throw things at him and - it's funny - he has a lot of ideas. They always do things that are cool. And we're kind of in the same realm. For us, putting together this tour was a no-brainer. But you're going to see fans kick and scream because it's so different. Same way with Orion Festival because it had so many conflicting bands because Metallica was curating it as something different. It was challenging to the fans.

When I told them we were going to do the surprise release, they loved the idea because it was different. When they put up their new Tumblr where you can buy - 250 passes where you can go to every show - brilliant. They're always thinking of new things, like having Jim Breuer opening the tour. I've always wanted to do a tour where it was not another rock band. When I went and saw Kanye [West], the way that they curated that show just made me feel different. If I was going to see three opening acts, I'm going to have thirty minutes in between bands. Then I'm gonna come in and see the headlining set. I just loved how he curated that and I feel like Metallica is doing that with their arena run. Taking care of the superfan in terms of, 'Hey here's $600 and you can go to every Metallica show on this whole run.' I think they're always thinking forward and I think we do the same thing, even though our ideas might not be the same, it's the same idea that we want to challenge the fan base but we also want to keep pushing forward into this next generation because doing the same thing over and over just gets boring old and stale. Not only for the fans but the band as well.

After last year's support of Metallica, I know you've had some headline dates now to start the year. With summer coming and things moving outdoors, have you already started thinking about stage production?

All of our production is locked and we know exactly what we're gonna do. On the Metallica run, we had tons of pyro. No video, nothing ... we weren't able to do that, obviously being a support act. Then in the arenas, we made it more of an intimate type of show with video content. So on the summer run were going to combine those. We're gonna do the pyro, do the video content, plus we have some inflatables that we've never brought out yet. I think it's gonna be the full accumulation of all the stuff we've done. We're gonna try to make some sort of cohesive party onstage.

With The Stage album, we had the evolving album with all the extra songs and that took the focus for a while. Will there be another song from the original version of The Stage coming out, maybe to coincide with the tour? How much further do you see digging into the album that you have out now?

The package we have now is a final thing, so it's pretty much done but I think we're gonna pull out some newer songs, or songs that we haven't played yet on the tour. I don’t know what they're going to be, we're still tossing them around. It's a fine line on the second tour in terms of song choice because we did the Metallica tour. We obviously didn't dive deep into anything. It's pretty much surface level Avenged, what you see on the top songs on iTunes. Then we did this other tour where it was more the B, C markets where they're not as big of towns. So we have to balance knowing that some people drove from major cities to see that tour and now they're going to be seeing the show for a second time and then we have to balance that one. Those people in these markets only saw ten songs from us on the Metallica tour. So we want to keep it true to the stage show. It's funny to balance but I think there could be some room to get a little deeper on some of these songs from The Stage.

The tour is the main focus right now but is there anything else on the horizon for you guys that we should be looking for?

We've got some stuff up our sleeves, but the deals aren't done yet; if I talked about it, it could go away. There's some cool stuff coming up and we're always trying to think ahead and what's going to be next.

Avenged Sevenfold will hit the road this summer with Prophets of Rage, Three Days Grace and Ho99o9. For ticketing and VIP info, check here. Our thanks to M. Shadows for the chat and to see the first part of the interview, click here.

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