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James The Reverend Sullivan (Drummer Profile) – Avenged Sevenfold’s Original Drummer

The Rev was one of the most loved drummers in the metal music world at a stage. He made such big contributions to Avenged Sevenfold in their prime, and he sadly died very young

We’re going to break down the life of James ‘The Rev’ Sullivan. We’ll look at the groups that he played with other than A7X, and we’ll explain a few of his unique playing style quirks

He was an incredible drummer, and he continues to be an influence on drummers who listen to old albums from his band.

Notable For

  • Drummer and founding member of Avenged Sevenfold
  • Simply being known as The Rev 
  • Having a signature drumming concept that he called “the double ride” thing
  • Often appearing in top drummers of all time lists 
  • Dying at the age of 28


The Rev was born in Huntington Beach, California. He started playing the drums as a young child, eventually getting his own full set just before he became a teenager. 

He played in a few bands throughout his time at school, and he became very good friends with Matt Sanders in that time, who later became known as M. Shadows

When The Rev was 19, he formed a band called Avenged Sevenfold with Matt Sanders, Matt Wendt, and Zach Baker. The Rev’s role with the band is what made him so well-known in the music industry, as Avenged Sevenfold became huge throughout the early 2000s

He died from a drug overdose in December 2009, and the band almost disbanded after the event. His legacy lives on, though, as the band still performs all the songs that The Rev wrote, with other drummers taking the stage.

Notable Artists That The Rev Has Played With

Avenged Sevenfold

The Rev played a much larger role in Avenged Sevenfold than many people realize. While he was mainly the drummer, he also played piano, sang, and heavily contributed to the songwriting process

A few popular A7X songs that he wrote are Afterlife, Almost Easy, Welcome to the Family, and Buried Alive

He provided solid backing vocals for many of the band’s songs, with his scream in Afterlife being his most popular contribution

He was with the band from 1999 until when he died in 2009, and the first drummer to temporarily take his seat was Mike Portnoy. Ironically, Mike Portnoy was one of his biggest influences when he was learning to play the drums.

Suburban Legends

Suburban Legends is a ska band that has been performing since 1998, and The Rev was a drummer in the band before the formation of Avenged Sevenfold in 1999.

He played with the group for just under two years, and you can hear a few old recordings where he isn’t playing the solid metal parts that he played with A7X.

This time in his playing career showed a different side of his playing abilities, but you can also hear how he brought a few ska influences into Avenged Sevenfold’s drum parts.

Pinkly Smooth

Pinkly Smooth was a side project where The Rev took over as the lead vocalist. He got Derek Eglit to play drums while he got to express his skills as a singer. They performed avant-garde metal music, and they only released a single album called Unfortunate Snort. 

The music was quite weird, so it’s understandable that this is one of the parts of The Rev’s career that not too many people look back on and love. However, it further proves how musically talented he was.

Drumming Style

The Rev was a straightforward metal drummer for most of his playing career. However, all the drum parts that he wrote were very musical, and they all seemed to fit with every A7X song perfectly. 

He’s one of the few drummers in the metal music scene to have a signature playing idea. He called it “the double ride thing,” and it involved him playing quick single strokes on the bells of two ride cymbals. While he did that, he matched the strokes with his double bass drum pedal. You can hear it being played near the beginning of Almost Easy

Since new drummers have joined the band, the drum parts have become slightly more technical, and that gives you an idea of how naturally musical The Rev was able to make them sound.


The Rev was most often seen playing on DW drum sets. He typically surrounded them with a large array of Sabian cymbals, and he used Promark sticks and Evans drumheads

As with most metal drummers, his drum kit setups were very large, including two separate bass drums and several toms.

Notable Performances

Almost Easy Live

As we said earlier, Almost Easy is one of the best songs to hear The Rev playing his signature double ride lick. You can hear it a lot clearer in the studio version of the song, but it’s great to see the band performing live here. 

This was also filmed in the last year that The Rev was alive, making it a special clip. 

Avenged Sevenfold - Almost Easy [Live]

Bat Country Live

Bat Country is one of Avenged Sevenfold’s most popular songs. It’s also arguably one of the best songs to listen to for hearing The Rev’s incredible drum part writing abilities. The drums are intense, and it’s a great song to play along with as well. 

Another great aspect of this clip is to see how wild Avenged Sevenfold’s live shows are. You just get a rocking experience with all the band members giving it their all.

Avenged Sevenfold - Bat Country - Summer Sonic 2007

Beast and The Harlot Live

There aren’t too many drum cam videos of The Rev playing live available. Since it was so long ago, there are even fewer high-quality ones. While the quality here is quite poor, it’s epic to see a close-up clip of The Rev playing so effortlessly.

Avenged Sevenfold - Beast And The Harlot (The REV Drum Cam)

Final Thoughts on James The Reverend Sullivan

It’s crazy to think that Avenged Sevenfold have now been performing for longer without The Rev than they were with him in the band, but his legacy will live on forever in all the songs that he wrote. 

It’s incredibly sad when musicians die young, and it’s even sadder when they’re the ones who have been founding members of world-famous bands. 

There weren’t too many drummers that compared to The Rev in the early 2000s, and he’s still a favorite player of many.