Nightmare After Christmas featuring Avenged Sevenfold, Stone Sour, Hollywood Undead and New Medicine
6:30 p.m. Jan. 28 at Rupp Arena. $25-$39.75. (859) 233-3535, 1-800-745-3000.
Remember The Nightmare Before Christmas? That was the imaginative 1993 film from Tim Burton that managed to bridge the Halloween and Yuletide worlds through stop-motion animation.
Sure, the film's story line placed Santa Claus in the grip of a sandbag boogeyman. But any sense of creepiness unfolded in purely playful terms.
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Not so with the metal-inspired rock assemblage known as Nightmare After Christmas that storms into Rupp Arena on Friday night. The California rock brigade Avenged Sevenfold, which headlines the four-band bill, promotes a level of fantasy that would do Burton proud. But there is nothing cartoonish about the dark dreams the band summons on its recent album, Nightmare.
Songs like God Hates Us and the album's title track are loaded with the sort of bleak imagery that has fed metal-related music for decades. Both songs begin with lullabylike melodies, but then the guitars go blazing as vocals warn of souls soon to be lost.
"It's best if we just know our place," sings Avenged Sevenfold frontman M. Shadows — who goes by the far less threatening moniker of Matt during interviews — during God Hates Us, summoning a seething vocal grind that reflects a hard-core metal moan and a lyrical streak that, dare we say, would border on pop if the music weren't so purposely oppressive.
But Nightmare was designed more as a lament than a typical metalhead doomsday serenade. The album is Avenged Sevenfold's first recording since the death of its drummer, Jimmy "The Rev" Sullivan, in December 2009 from what was ruled an accidental overdose of alcohol and drugs. Sullivan was 28.
Nightmare was written but not recorded before Sullivan's death. Shadows then adjusted the lyrical scope of the album, which initially had been intended as a concept work about a youth's inability to reconnect with a world from which he had long felt estranged. The newer lyrics turned the music further inward as it explored the band's coming to grips with the loss of one of its founding members.
"You can sit there and write about it all day," Shadows told the Los Angeles Times last summer. "But if you haven't been through heartbreak, ... there's just a difference. When I was writing lyrics, I didn't really care what I was saying. I just cared about what I was feeling. And I think we made the album at such a vulnerable time that it shows."
With drummer Mike Portnoy of the long-running prog-metal ensemble Dream Theater recruited to take over for Sullivan, Nightmare went on to become Avenged Sevenfold's first No. 1 album. But just before Christmas, another nightmare hit. Portnoy parted ways with Dream Theater and was subsequently dismissed from Avenged Sevenfold. Shortly before the Nightmare After Christmas tour began, Arin Ilejay of the Los Angeles Christian rock band Confide was announced as Avenged Sevenfold's new drummer.
"When Mike agreed to tour with us, it was only through the end of 2010," reads a band statement posted on its Web site. "We always knew we'd need to find another solution for 2011 and beyond. And it's time for us to take that next step."
A reminder: Kentucky songsmith Daniel Martin Moore will showcase the spirituals from his new album, In the Cool of the Day, at 2 p.m. Saturday with a free show at CD Central, 377 South Limestone. Call (859) 233-3472.