This is the title track and lead single of Avenged Sevenfold's sixth studio album. It marked the first record with new drummer Arin Ilejay. The stickman joined the band as a touring drummer in 2011 following the passing of Jimmy "The Rev" Sullivan, before becoming an official member in 2013.
The band's previous album, The Nightmare, had a certain emotional heaviness as it found them dealing with the loss of The Rev. However, Hail to The King found Avenged Sevenfold returning to writing metal lyrics. Vocalist M. Shadows told Kerrang! magazine: "It's just cool storytelling. We got back to what we wanted the band to be in the first place, which is more fun. I don't think metal should take itself too seriously."
Avenged Sevenfold played the song live for the first time on July 17, 2013 during their gig at the Rock USA festival in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
Guitarist Synyster Gates told MusicRadar.com about his contribution to the song. "I've been playing a lot of gypsy jazz guitar – Django Reinhardt and a few others – so for the intro, I kind of take that technique and apply it to metal. It added a pretty cool new dimension that I haven't really heard in rock music before," he said. "The whole solo is based on minor blues changes. I like it when it transfers to that regal feel, which aligns with the lyrics. A lot of people get confused and think that it's neo-classical, but it's really gypsy jazz."
Vocalist M. Shadows told Kerrang! magazine that the song writing for Hail to The King involved an organised, dedicated approach. He explained: "We tend to come in and talk about the vibe we want for the song, more than coming up with riffs. Then we build around that vibe, writing riffs that work with that. We try not to waste too much time on things that don't work. As soon as something takes us out of the vibe we're creating, we throw it out."
The black and white music video was helmed by Syndrome, an award-winning design and live-action directing studio. In between close-up shots of the band rocking out we watch the story of a medieval prince preparing to take the keys to the throne. The clip was the first to feature drummer Arin Ilejay, who replaced the late The Rev.
The song tells the tale of a tyrannical king who strikes down any who oppose him. M. Shadows explained to Kerrang! magazine: "'Hail To The King' is a question about how society sees itself. From day one, people have elected kings and leaders, people have followed presidents, and they cry over who the new pope is. Sometimes you've got to step back and say, 'What are we doing here? Why do we need all of these people to tell us how to run our lives?' That goes for God above and Satan below. Who's the king? We have many kings. It was one of those things when we said the statement, sang it in a song and it was like, 'wow, that really strikes a nerve and means something.' We knew that some people would look at it as us saying, 'We're the kings,' but we were willing to undergo that amount of criticism, when really it was something a bit deeper about society."
The Hail To The King album artwork was created by southern Californian artist Cam Rackam. The cover shows a terrifying shot of a skeleton king and is titled 'Deadly Rule.' "I wanted the cover to be serious, tough, and conquer-esque," Rackam told Noisecreep. "[The album] stirs like an anthem for the modern warrior. So when it came to the painting, I was inspired by the final shot in Conan the Barbarian — referenced from the Frazetta painting — where he is sitting at the throne in contemplation of the chaos in his kingdom. I loved that idea of the warrior king."
Rackam continued, "I wanted to keep in sync with the album's themes and lyrics, so I added some heavy satanic elements: pentagrams, inverted crosses and more. I'm thrilled with the final result; the band really let me take the reins on this one."
The was one of the official theme songs for WrestleMania 32 and is also a popular choice at sporting events. Speaking on Rock 106.9's The Stansbury Show, M Shadows said:
"It's like a dream come true - you go out to a sporting event or a hockey game, and they're playing it the same way they'd play 'Crazy Train' or those other pump-up songs. That's been very cool, because we are rock guys, but we're also sports guys. We love our local teams; we love going to events; and when that starts getting played places, it gives you a little smirk inside and makes you very happy."