Avenged Sevenfold's first single from their seventh studio album of the same name, "The Stage" clocks in at 8:30. The lyrics are a condemnation of the lack of critical thinking and predisposed biases among the majority of humanity. Vocalist M. Shadows relates how it seems to be human nature to take on board everything we are spoon fed by our leaders without analyzing what we've been told to believe.
Released on October 28, 2016, this was the first Avenged Sevenfold song to be heard with drummer Brooks Wackerman, who replaced former stickman Arin Ilejay.
Avenged Sevenfold debuted the song on October 15, 2016 during their bill-topping slot at Tolucam, Mexico's, Knotfest.
The video focuses on a marionette stage, depicting humans throughout history killing each other. The camera cuts on occasions to a barbaric crowd, cheering on the bloodshed. Vocalist M. Shadows suggested to the Orange County Register that the human race appears incapable of learning from its bloody history.
"The video alludes to somebody watching over us, watching us kill each other over senseless things and not understanding each other. As soon as it gets to a certain point there's a push of a button and the simulation starts over, like we can't figure it out and that's more of a humanistic view, like why can't we just treat each other better?
We're all here and we just do the same things to each other over and over, whether it's dropping bombs on each other or beating each other with sticks. That's what it's really about. It's not meant to be a political endorsement of any candidate or whatever else people want to talk about in YouTube comments."
M. Shadows explained the song's lyrical content to The Sun:
"It needed to be a statement and a song with scenery. It's like a human being born and seeing that this is all bulls--t. That this is crazy.
You know, as an atheist, of course we create a God who looks just like us. Of course we do this. And of course we do that and not understand each other so we blow each other up and think we're the bigger guys because we have the bigger bombs.
It's such a childish way of looking at things but it's like our highest level of intelligence – and that's what we're doing to each other.
We don't need to do all these terrible things to each other. So the record really sets you up as somebody that's full of a, 'This is bulls--t, what the f--k!?' feeling."
The music clip was principally a collaboration between Avenged guitarist Zacky Vengeance and video director Chris Hopewell, who is known primarily for his work with Radiohead. Vengeance told Metal Hammer that his initial concept was to "capture the dark side of humanity and history repeating itself."
The clip was inspired by "The Lonely Goatherd" from the 1965 film version of The Sound Of Music, wherein Maria and the children sing the song as part of a marionette show they perform for their father.