Living the 'Dream': Inside AVENGED SEVENFOLD's first-ever VR concert | Revolver

Living the 'Dream': Inside AVENGED SEVENFOLD's first-ever VR concert

M. Shadows: "You're not just a watcher of the show, but you're actually in there"
avenged sevenfold VR 2024

Avenged Sevenfold are taking fans on another step into the unknown with the release of their first virtual reality concert, Looking Inside, a surreal half hour of immersive music and visuals experienced through the newest VR headsets. As delivered by the AmazeVR Concert App, it brings fans extremely close up with singer M. Shadows and the band, along with a huge, fully realized version of their Deathbat mascot that looks like a creature from Game of Thrones.

At a special preview of the 26-minute VR concert in Los Angeles, the band gathered with press and a small group of fans to plug in and experience Looking Inside on the new Apple Vision Pro and Meta Quest 3 headsets. It delivers an alternately dreamy and startling live show, centered around three songs from the band's newest album, the daring and psychedelic Life Is but a Dream…, plus two fan favorites: "Hail to the King" and "Nightmare."

For viewers immersed in the three-dimensional experience, the first thing anyone will notice is just how intimate the concert is, with Shadows in your face and close enough to count his teeth and shiny bottom grills. 

"It's closer than I've even seen myself in the mirror," Shadows said with a laugh, describing the experience in an interview with Revolver. He brought a headset to a party days earlier to try it out on friends. "Some of the friends were laughing at how close it was, and they're like, 'Matt, I feel like I know you on a different level now.'"

The VR show opens with the new album's "Mattel," and combines ideas introduced on their current live tour with the infinite possibilities of digital effects. So, Shadows at one point is seen in a ski mask and low chair, as he is in concert, but now surrounded by daisies actively growing and spreading around him. There are fireballs and deep caverns, while amid the shimmering, sometimes growling "(D)eath," a skull seemingly inches away is slowly pieced together. And throughout, album cover artist Wes Lang's inky drawings and writing is a guide brought to animated life.

"Onstage we have a projection of daisies, and in here the daisies are actually growing," Shadows said. "You almost feel like you're on mushrooms. Like, they're almost growing out of you."

Avenged Sevenfold's Brooks Wackerman, M. Shadows and Johnny Christ at the 'Looking Inside' preview

A7X have long been a band plugged into the newest tech. VR is the natural next step, Shadows explained.

"As a human being, you want to sometimes take steps into places that people aren't willing to take steps into — especially things that you're pretty confident are going to be commonplace in the future," he said. "At one point it was music videos, then it was DVDs, and then it was YouTube playing all the music videos and you didn't need MTV anymore. And there were video games. This is like a blend of all that. It's almost like a first-person video-game-meets-a-Broadway-musical.

"You're not just a watcher of the show, but you're actually in there."

The performance was shot on a green-screen stage in Los Angeles last year for AmazeVR, a South Korean-based tech company, with Shadows and his bandmates, guitarist Synyster Gates and Zacky Vengeance, bassist Johnny Christ and drummer Brooks Wackerman. Other than their instruments and a few folding chairs, tangible props were few. The epic locations onscreen were added digitally.

Shadows said he expects A7X and other artists to fully embrace VR as another avenue to their followers. "That doesn't mean bands are going to not go on the road," he added. "Sometimes I like smelling the guy next to me and having a beer spilled on me and watching TOOL. But there's something about sitting at home at any night of the week and being able to pull up one of these things and feeling like you're fully immersed in this other world."

The director of the VR concert was Lance Drake, AmazeVR's creative director. The company has previously worked with T-Pain and Megan Thee Stallion, but he said many artists have been hesitant to dive in just yet, while A7X is among the very first.

"They don't see how it applies to them," Drake said. "And for Matt and Avenged Sevenfold, they've been working in Web3, and they've been at the forefront of technology and using it the right way and trying to nourish the experience for their fans and not just do a cash grab. They understood what we were trying to do immediately."

Avenged Sevenfold, filming 'Looking Inside'

In the VR show, Johnny Christ gets his own extreme closeups during his guttural backup screams on "Mattel," as he plucks a pastel teal bass with a Barbie decal. Viewers can also turn their heads to view what any band member is doing at any time, or look up into a sky filled with smoke, fire, a threatening Deathbat or some weightless folding chairs.

"There's always these new tools that are constantly coming up and they're coming faster than they ever have before," Christ said. "Everything's happening so fast that you see it and it's exciting. It's inspiring. How can we implement these fun tools in a cool way that we would all be happy with?"

This is also the first time in years that Avenged have reenacted a song as a band playing on-camera, a traditional music video format they've largely put behind them. Recent videos from A7X have been more interpretive, with animation and other effects. The new VR element made the band format visually relevant and enjoyable again. 

"When you're not having fun, you're not being creative. And I firmly believe that," said Christ, adding that a song like "Mattel" "lends itself very well to something like this, where you can give an immersive experience on it."

The tech opens things up not just for the newest music, but also can reach back into the recent and distant past to reinterpret and explore, Shadows said. "I know what AI can do in terms of taking old dilapidated pixelated footage, and it will be able to fix it all. I'll be able to have Fat Mike from NOFX right in my face doing 'Linoleum' for the first time. Or my parents will be able to watch Elvis Presley or the Beatles in hi-def from when they first came over to America. I think that's incredible."

The band will be sharing glimpses of the VR show on the road for fans who sign up for VIP packages: Goggles will be set up in the VIP lounge before the concert to view "Mattel." For now, the available VR goggles remain pricey, led by the Apple Vision Pro, starting at over $3,000. The Quest 3 starts at about $500. But the A7X VR concert download is just $12.99 (less than an album, or a round of beer and nachos at your local arena).

The tech is now part of the band's arsenal, and they expect to continue exploring the medium, as they have with other cutting-edge forms over the years.

"I'm the last generation of no internet – from no internet to internet," Shadows noted. "Our job now is to make people not afraid of it, to embrace it and make it work for you. It's incredibly fun. It's reinvigorating to have something that's — instead of playing the same shows and do the same thing — to explore it all."