This Is Bat Country (lost footage from unfinished Avenged Sevenfold documentary; 2009-2015)
Avenged Sevenfold is a hard rock/heavy metal band from Huntington Beach, California, formed in 1999. The group first achieved notoriety after the success of their second studio album, Waking the Fallen, getting the attention of several major labels and, eventually, a recording contract with Warner Bros. Records in late 2003. Under this label they went on to release City of Evil – their best-selling effort with over 2.5 million copies sold worldwide – and earn two No. 1 debuts on the Billboard 200 chart with Nightmare and Hail to the King, released in 2010 and 2013 respectively.
Plans for a DVD release titled This Is Bat Country, which would feature behind-the-scenes footage – in a similar fashion to their 2007 documentary All Excess – as well as performance footage taken from various concerts, were revealed in 2012 and teased in 2015, but never came to fruition due to a number of setbacks involving the band's dissatisfaction and legal issues.
The band's intentions of producing a new DVD – their first since 2008's Live in the LBC & Diamonds in the Rough – were first revealed in April 2012, during an interview with frontman Matthew "M. Shadows" Sanders. In March 2014, after almost two years of silence, Sanders confirmed that the project was still in the works. The then-untitled home video was to feature footage from several concerts around the world, dated as far back as 2009, with an intended release of "before Christmas". In June, the title of the production was revealed to be This Is Bat Country.
Further information about the release came out in October of the same year, when Sanders confirmed that they were working on its artwork as well as audio mixing and footage editing. He also elaborated about the DVD's premise: telling their story from right before the passing of drummer James "The Reverend" Sullivan to their festival headlining success, covering the tragic loss of their bandmate, the accolades they earned in the meantime and providing fans with their own side of the facts, all with accompaining concert footage. At this point the tentative release was pushed to "early next year".
In May 2015, Avenged Sevenfold released the first – and ultimately last – video teaser for This Is Bat Country. Keeping in line with the known premise of the project, the teaser displayed footage from the band's Hail to the King tour along with backstage and audience shots backed by narration by M. Shadows. Guitarist Zachary "Zacky Vengeance" Baker expressed enthusiasm with the DVD's release, claiming to believe that it would be one of the greatest DVDs in rock in a long time. Although the teaser told fans to "stay tuned" to the band's website for details, no further info would be revealed.
Departure from Warner Bros. and Lawsuit
In January 2016, news spread about Avenged Sevenfold's label – Warner Bros. Records – filing a lawsuit against them for breach-of-contract, regarding their decision of leaving their recording contract by the means of California's "seven-year rule".
Avenged Sevenfold, expressing concern about the multiple changes that happened at the company since their signing in 2003, notified them that they would no longer record for them, citing as motivation the weakening of their relationship due to the departure of most of the personnel involved in their signing and continued success, as well as an apparent lack of interest by the new heads, who didn't know or care about who they were.
The label, on the other hand, declared that the band's decision was unfair for a number of reasons: the company receiving the notification letter after the date the departure would take effect, significant funds being already invested in their future releases and, additionally, the group still owing a CD/DVD live release, also purportedly already funded.
When asked about the status of This Is Bat Country in September 2016, M. Shadows was quick to minimize any hopes of its official release. The Avenged Sevenfold frontman claimed that the production – still in a work-in-progress state at the time – was not on par with what the band considered to be good enough to warrant a release, despite being announced primarily due to pressure by fans eagerly asking about a new DVD. In addition to their dissatisfaction, their turbulent departure from Warner Bros. also proved to be an obstacle to the release, as the company owns the rights to the existing footage and is, presumably, less than willing to hand it over to the band for further usage after their lawsuit.
It is possible that Warner Bros. might eventually attempt to cash in the material originally intended for This Is Bat Country, as they have released, in an attempt to undercut the earnings of Avenged Sevenfold's first studio album after their departure, a compilation album titled The Best of 2005–2013, without the band's approval or endorsement, precisely one week before the supposedly leaked release date – December 9th, 2016 – of an album titled Voltaic Oceans. The "leak" turned out to be a smoke screen by Fozzy frontman Chris Jericho to distract the press and fans as the band set up the surprise release of their actual seventh album, The Stage, released on October 28th, 2016.
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