Chances are, if you came to Avenged Sevenfold on the Waking The Fallen album, it would be thanks to Unholy Confessions. And with good reason; as well as being the biggest single from their breakthrough record, it’s an absolute, iron-clad anthem, still the only track from that era to remain a live staple and, for many Avenged fans of a certain age, the definitive A7X anthem.
While there were certainly still elements of the metalcore tag that Avenged had thus far earned themselves – some screamed vocals here, a chuggy breakdown there – make no mistake about it: this is a heavy fucking metal song. Twin guitar leads, harmonised choruses… hell, even the lyrics were metal, managing to make a story seemingly about a shitty relationship sound like something out of a power metal track: ‘When sin’s deep in my blood, you’ll be the one to fall.’
“I wouldn’t say Unholy Confessions is a well-written song by any means,” offers frontman M Shadows today. “But at the time it worked, and it became what it is… nostalgia!”
There are many things that make Unholy Confessions stand apart in the canon of Avenged Sevenfold, but the actual creation of the track was something that particularly sticks out as the frontman reminisces on the song’s conception. Indeed, Shadows goes as far to suggest that the making of Unholy Confessions was, by Avenged Sevenfold standards, something of “a weird one”.
“Zack had a riff that he had been playing over and over and over in the garage,” reveals the frontman. “We would jam on it a little bit but we didn’t really know what to do with it. Then we left for tour – it was some sort of [suicide awareness initiative] Take Action tour or something. We were staying at our booking agent’s house in Chicago and we said, ‘Let’s write a song.’ So we all wrote in separate rooms.”
It was a method that had been untested by the band to that point and, looking back, was not a formula they ever ultimately looked to replicate – “We’ve never done that since!” laughs Shadows now.
“I came up with the chorus for Unholy Confessions and we kind of put it on the backburner,” he says of the eventual fruits of that unusually fractured jamming session. “When we got back home to Orange County, we had that riff and we had the chorus; we just needed some stupid, meaty breakdown! Ha ha ha! And that part of the song came together. We put the dumb-dumb breakdown with the riff, and then we [already] had this chorus… it’s funny how those things happen; it’s like a moment in time.”
A simple song it may have become, but the fact is that Unholy Confessions struck a chord with a young metal crowd that had so far been weaned on nu metal and shiny, Gothenburg-influenced metalcore. Even at that early stage, Avenged felt just a little different from those around them, and the hype train began to roll.
Fascinatingly, while Unholy Confessions remains the most (in?)famous of the Waking The Fallen cuts, Shadows insists it was never really meant to be a single at all… and technically, kinda still isn’t.
“Honestly! It wasn’t really a single!” he states. “I think Chapter Four and Eternal Rest were the first two songs we put out, it wasn’t Unholy Confessions. But we were in a bidding war for the next record, which would be City Of Evil, and whoever we signed with wanted to do a music video for a song on Waking The Fallen. So, when we signed with Warner Brothers, they said, ‘Let’s make a music video that we’ll put out, and that’ll kind of boost Waking The Fallen before you guys drop City Of Evil.’ That’s how it happened. It was [released] well after that album had come out!”
The plan worked. The video, stapling live footage to shots taken backstage at gigs and segments featuring some of their biggest fans, raised Avenged’s profile considerably in the ranks of the MySpace generation. Soon they had become the hottest young band in the metalcore scene. Not bad for a track with “dumb-dumb” breakdowns and heavy metal lyrics pulled from angsty teen woes.
“I don’t think it was a real-life inspiration,” says Shadows of those aforementioned lyrics, “other than things I was dealing with. When you’re a kid, you are just pulling from your own angsty little heart, and that’s kind of what that was.”
The band may be somewhat lovingly dismissive of the song now, but the stats don’t lie: Unholy Confessions is by far and away Avenged Sevenfold’s most-played song ever, serving as the band’s standard set-closer right up until their most recent world tour in 2018.
“It’s kind of like our Hit The Lights,” suggests Shadows of how the song has managed to close out almost every Avenged Sevenfold setlist over the years. “It’s one of the first things people heard, it’s a throwback at the end. We’ve tried ending with other things but it goes over well and I think it’s one of those things where, at the very end of the night, to throw things back to 2003 or whenever that came out, is pretty cool. There’s no science behind it, it’s just what we do! Ha ha ha!”
Whether it’s by nature or by design, Unholy Confessions has remained one of its era’s most beloved tracks. And, chances are, it always will.