On December 28, 2009, drummer James "The Rev" Sullivan was found dead at his home at the age of 28. Autopsy results were inconclusive.In a statement by the band, they expressed their grief over the passing of The Rev and asked that his family's privacy to be respected:
It is with great sadness and heavy hearts that we tell you of the passing today of Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan. Jimmy was not only one of the world's best drummers, but more importantly he was our best friend and brother. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Jimmy's family and we hope that you will respect their privacy during this difficult time.
Shown on Avenged Sevenfold's official website was a message from Sullivan's family which expressed their gratitude to his fans for their support:
"We would like to thank all of Jimmy's fans for the heartfelt comments that have been posted – it is comforting to know that his genius and antics were appreciated and that he was loved so much. Our hearts are broken – he was much too young to fall. Óg agus saor go deo (forever young and free)"
In addition to comments made about the death of Sullivan, the band's manager Larry Jacobson expressed how Sullivan was a kind figure to all. Jacobson stated within the interview that;
He was expressive. He'd tell you how he felt about you -- you didn't wonder because he'd put his arm around you," he said. "He knew how to tell his friends he loved them."
In addition to Jacobson, over 50 musical artists have commented upon the death of Sullivan.
On January 5, 2010 a private funeral was held for The Rev. In attendance were friends of the band, such as the Lostprophets and Brian Haner Sr.. On January 6, 2010, the body of James Sullivan was laid to rest in an undisclosed location.
The January 13, 2010 edition of Kerrang! featured an article about the death of The Rev, in which fans and stars paid tribute to him. Simultaneously, Zacky Vengeance expressed his own feelings about the passing, stating that "Jimmy will always be with me in everything I do. Except sitting at home being sad, so today Im going to try to start living again. foREVer."
In a recent interview with M. Shadows about the death of the Rev, Shadows confirmed a July release for Avenged Sevenfold's fifth album. "I have so much to say but can’t find the words so I will wait until time can allow me to find a way to express myself. As for the rest of us, it has become clear what we need to do. We had just finished writing a record with Jimmy. I can’t promise what the future holds because right now it’s too painful to think about, but we know we need to record and put out this record in honor of Jimmy, for Jimmy. He would call me every night to talk about songs and tell me 'this shit is gonna change the world.' I agreed with him, unfortunately I didn’t know it would be on these terms. Please be patient with us for we cannot imagine how hard this is gonna be to get through, we just know we have to do it for his legacy. After that, who knows?"
In a recent interview conducted by the Huntington Beach Independent newspaper, Jimmy Sullivan's parents, Babara and Joseph revealed the following information about Avenged Sevenfold's new album: “Most important to him, Jimmy had just finished writing songs for Avenged Sevenfold’s new album — he even called one his ‘masterpiece.’ When he wrote songs, he would record tracks of his singing, playing the piano and drumming — then, when he played them for me, he would sing the orchestra or guitar parts that would be added later. I am thankful that I got to tell him how much I liked and admired his music. Later, Barbara commented that, "Jimmy wrote some really good songs. I was so proud of him, and I know that even though it will be very hard for them, the band will do a great job getting them recorded soon. Needless to say, these ‘all Jimmy’ recordings are almost impossible for me to listen to yet, but what a blessing to have them.” They plan to dedicate their new album to The Rev.
On February 17, 2010, Avenged Sevenfold stated that they had entered the studio, along with Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy, to drum for the record, in place of the Rev. "I want our fans to know that with Jimmy in our hearts, our journey to record has officially began. Jimmy helped leave this world an amazing gift and now it's our job to make sure to deliver that gift to our fans. We asked Jimmy's all time favorite drummer Mike Portnoy to record on behalf of him. Mike said it would be an honor and without question that’s what Jim would have wanted. It's comforting to us that someone like Mike, who is undoubtedly revered as one of the best drummers in the world, held such respect and adoration for the Rev's abilities. Even though it will never be the same without our brother by our side, his essence lives in our hearts and through the music he helped create. He was a legend before any of the success or any of that bullshit and we are fucking excited to lay this down for our fans, and especially for Jimmy."
Fifth Studio Album (2009 — present)
In January 2009, M. Shadows confirmed that the band is writing the follow-up to their self-titled fourth album within the upcoming months. They also announced that they will be playing at Rock on the Range, from May 16–17, 2009. In April 16, they performed a version of Guns N' Roses' "It's So Easy" onstage with Slash, at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles. M. Shadows was featured on Slash's debut solo album Slash in the song "Nothing to Say".
M. Shadows and the rest of the band has expressed interest in making a follow-up to their self-titled record. They announced that they plan to start writing in June 2009 and recording in October 2009. M. Shadows also said in an interview with Loveline that the next record would be a more classic metal, more rock-oriented record, since the self-titled record was very experimental. He also said it would feature more progressive, longer songs and would be the "biggest Avenged Sevenfold record ever." Additionally, he said they were possibly thinking about a concept record.
On July 15, 2009, their website and MySpace profile were updated with a statement from M. Shadows implying that work on the next album has started, but they are still "throwing around ideas". The update was on the same day that Waking the Fallen went Gold.
In an interview, M. Shadows has revealed that after the band will complete their tour with a final performance at the Sonisphere Festival on August 2, they will get in the studio to write and record a new studio album, a follow-up to their self-titled album.
Avenged Sevenfold in 2007.
On November 5, 2009, Zacky Vengeance posted a message on the official website stating that they had returned from their tour and immediately started focusing on forming a production team in order to start recording the album. "We will continue finalizing our songs until we feel every note does both you as well as us justice. 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..."
On December 24, 2009 it was announced that Avenged Sevenfold had come in second place on Ultimate Guitar's Top Ten Bands of the Decade, losing the top spot to Metallica.
The December 31, 2009 edition of Kerrang! magazine included an interview with M. Shadows, in which Shadows stated the following about the album; "It’s a dark record. The music is emotional. Our goal is to make every single part memorable, we want to evoke reactions live and at home. It’ll have big rock ballads, the big fun stuff, the piano, the choir, the orchestra and all the visual things you expect but with a different, moodier vibe. Lyrically, I’ve been inspired by everything from the ways kids are brought up nowadays, to schooling, the economy, religion, war and the behaviour of our government. It all plays into how kids are so emotionally detached from the real world right now."
On the 17th of April a short message from Zacky Vengeance was posted on the official Avenged Sevenfold Twitter: "Tracking is complete. There are no words that will ever describe the feeling of listening to this album while driving home alone at 4 am."