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Death of Avenged Sevenfold's James 'The Rev' Sullivan under investigation

December 29, 2009 |  7:09 pm

Avenged Sevenfold

Huntington Beach metal band Avenged Sevenfold took off with its 2005 hit "Bat Country," and it was the rare band in today's depressed climate that was still on the rise four albums into its career. Tragedy for the still-young rockers struck Monday, when drummer James "The Rev" Sullivan was found dead, according to Orange County authorities.

Our news blog L.A. Now reports on Sullivan's passing. The 28-year-old also performed as a backup vocalist for the group of trained multi-instrumental musicians with classical influences, which formed in 1999. “The cause of death is still under investigation,” deputy coroner Mitchell Sigal told L.A Now. “An autopsy has been scheduled.”

Sullivan was discovered "unresponsive" in his Huntington Beach home at 11 a.m., authorities told The Times' Louis Sahagun. 

Randy Lewis has written an obituary that is scheduled to be published in Wednesday's edition of The Times. Lewis described the band's "apocalyptic songs full of biblical imagery" that "resurrected for a new generation the sonic template of '80s hard rock laid down by acts such as Guns N' Roses and Metallica."

Here's another excerpt from Lewis' obit: 

The band made multiple appearances on the Vans Warped Tour juggernaut of indie rock and found unlikely -- for a metal band -- success with such alternative and modern-rock outlets as MTV's "Total Request Live" show and local radio powerhouse KROQ-FM (106.7) with the breakthrough hit "Bat Country." The group has now sold nearly 2.5 million albums since its first release.

Sullivan was in sync with his fellow band members by insisting that they weren't interested in being pigeon-holed in any single musical genre, one reason the group shared a tour last year with Buckcherry, a band that has hewed closer to the rock mainstream.

"There's a lot of straight-up rock mixed with a lot of metal fans, so it's an interesting mix," Sullivan told a reporter in Michigan last year. 

The band also had developed, and then tried to distance itself from, a reputation for a wild lifestyle.

Avenged Sevenfold last released an album in 2007. The self-titled Warner Bros. effort, the act's second for the major, debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard 200, and sold 94,000 copies in its first week, according to Nielsen SoundScan. That represented a major boost for the act. It's 2005 effort, "City of Evil," entered the chart at No. 30, with less than 35,000 first week sales.

Yet "City of Evil" spawned the act's biggest hit, "Bat Country," which is posted above. The song was the only cut from Avenged Sevenfold -- or A7X to die-hards -- to cross over from the rock charts to Billboard's mainstream Hot 100 tally, where it peaked at No. 60. 

Avenged Sevenfold had changed its sound over the years. The act's second effort, "Waking the Fallen," was released on L.A.-based indie Hopeless Records, and single "Unholy Confessions" featured numerous shifts in directions, and, at times, a more growled vocal styling from singer Matt Sanders (M. Shadows). 

With the jump to Warner Bros. came a more refined classic metal sound. "Musically, it made sense for them to go that direction," Louis Posen, founder of L.A.-based Hopeless Records, told The Times in 2005. "The world needs another Guns N' Roses right now, and I mean that in a good way. They're not scared to push it, not scared to be the hard-asses of rock 'n' roll."

Avenged Sevenfold was at work on its fifth album, according to recent posts on the band's official website. 

"We will continue finalizing our songs until we feel every note does both You as well as Us justice," guitarist Zachary Baker wrote. "We are also in the final stages of solidifying our production team, studios and engineers so that the second the axe falls and the album is written we will spend day and night in the studio until it is complete. This album will definitely take you on a very dark journey."

-- Todd Martens

Read the full Los Angeles Times Obit: 

James 'The Rev' Sullivan dies at 28; drummer for heavy metal band Avenged Sevenfold

Read more on James Owen Sullivan on L.A. Now:

Autopsy scheduled in death of Huntington Beach drummer James Owen Sullivan

Huntington Beach rock drummer James Owen Sullivan reported dead