Avenged diversifies manyfold

THE last time Avenged Sevenfold hired a children’s choir, as guests on its gold-selling album “City of Evil,” the members ended up giving the kids the ax. “It just wasn’t working out,” said guitarist Synyster Gates. “We had to tell their parents, and the kids were all crying.”

The sound of befuddled and resentful youngsters may be something that the Orange County metal heads should get used to. The quintet’s forthcoming (and likely self-titled) album largely ditches the fret-board fireworks and wanton stripper worship for a studied, genre-promiscuous eclecticism.

A nearly 10-minute-long Danny Elfman-esque orchestral romp is the record’s tonal centerpiece (with arrangements from Oingo Boingo’s Steve Bartek and Marc Mann) and a countrified love ballad, “Gunslinger,” suggests that the band has more Bon Jovi in it than it let on.

The most striking development, as seen on the searing opener “Scream,” is a vendetta against bicoastalites who view flyover America as a cultural wasteland. Vocalist M. Shadows rails against protesters who “never contributed a freaking thing,” although the F-adjective he uses is different. Could these heirs to Sunset Strip decadence have a secret conservative streak?


“Some people on the coasts look down on Middle America and think that they’re all dumb,” Shadows said. “We respect these people. We wanted to make a stab at writing for Middle America and try not to just be a ‘cool L.A. band.’ ”

Still, they haven’t tossed out their well-worn flasks quite yet.

“If you write a country song and it’s the best song you’ve ever written but throw it out because you’re a metal band, you’d be an idiot,” Gates said. Shadows agreed. “I sang on the Cowboy Troy record. Whenever Big & Rich come to L.A., we go and get hammered together.”

-- August Brown


OK, pirates, here be legal booty

LEAVE it to a plucky Canadian indie label to figure out the fan-friendly way to beat music piracy. Arts & Crafts Records, the Toronto-based label that put Feist on the radar, had a hunch that “In Our Bedroom After the War,” the third album from the orchestral pop collective Stars, would be hot on OiNK soon after promo copies went out.

But the label called the file-sharers’ bluff and made the album available for digital download last week, way ahead of the Sept. 25 release. Internet-savvy fans have long insisted that the bulk of file-trading comes from an eagerness to hear an album, so this gives them a chance to do the right thing and pay.


Since suing the families of preteen BitTorrent users seems to have worked out so well in stopping file trading, perhaps other labels will catch on that the way to make fans pay is to make music available in the format they want, when they want it.

-- A.B.


Kalai keeps playing through the pain


MAYBE you saw singer-songwriter Kalai on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” last week and wondered about his hand. He gets a lot of that. “I don’t mind the questions,” said the 27-year-old Hawaii native raised in Alaska. A failed surgery on a hemangioma covering his left hand gave him a paw that is forever stiff and prone to pain. To strum his guitar, he wears a burn-victim glove in a bulky bandage.

So why at 14 did he pick up an instrument that put him in agony? “I was internally rebellious, rebelling against my limitations.” The struggle goes well: Kalai’s sound (he calls it “urban vintage”) on his latest album, “Crow’s Feet,” is an electro-blues channeling of James Taylor or a rainy-day Ben Harper. It’s his most unified work. “No one wants to pay $15 to hear a guy try to find himself on an album. I want my music to help other people find themselves.”

-- Geoff Boucher