James Owen Sullivan (February 9, 1981 – December 28, 2009), professionally known by his stage name The Rev (shortened version of The Reverend Tholomew Plague), was an American musician, best known as the drummer, songwriter, backing vocalist and founding member of the American heavy metal band Avenged Sevenfold. The Rev was widely regarded and critically acclaimed for his work on Avenged Sevenfold albums, and contributed entire songs composed by himself, such as "Afterlife," "A Little Piece of Heaven," and "Almost Easy." He was also the lead vocalist/pianist in Pinkly Smooth, a side project where he was known by the name Rathead, with fellow Avenged Sevenfold member, guitarist Synyster Gates (Brian Elwin Haner Jr.), and he was the drummer for Suburban Legends from 1998 to 1999.
Sullivan was born in Huntington Beach, California, on February 9, 1981, of Irish descent. He received his first pair of drumsticks at the age of five and his own drum set at the age of twelve. In high school, he started playing in bands. Before leaving to join Avenged Sevenfold as one of the band's founding members, Sullivan was the drummer for the third wave ska band Suburban Legends. At the age of twenty he recorded his first album with Avenged Sevenfold titled Sounding the Seventh Trumpet. His early influences included Frank Zappa and King Crimson. The Rev said in a Modern Drummer Magazine interview that "I was raised on that stuff as much as rock and metal."
Later in life he was influenced by drummers Vinnie Paul, Mike Portnoy (who would later be his fill-in with Avenged Sevenfold), Dave Lombardo, Lars Ulrich and Terry Bozzio. "It's funny," says the drummer, "of all my influences, Tommy Lee is a visual influence. I never thought I'd have one of those." Sullivan had a signature ability called "the double-ride thing" or "The Double Octopus," as the Rev called it, "just for lack of a better definition." "The double-ride thing" is a technique that can be heard on tracks such as "Almost Easy," "Critical Acclaim," "Crossroads," and "Dancing Dead" in which Sullivan doubles up at a fast tempo between the double bass and ride cymbals. While playing, Sullivan often twirled his stick and tossed it between hands to show off for the crowd.
The Rev was a drummer, composer, songwriter, vocalist and pianist for Avenged Sevenfold. His vocals are featured in several Avenged Sevenfold songs, including "Strength of the World," "Afterlife," "A Little Piece of Heaven," "Almost Easy," "Scream," "Critical Acclaim," "Lost," "Brompton Cocktail," "Crossroads," "Flash of the Blade (Iron Maiden cover)," and "Fiction." His music composing and songwriting are done in several songs for Avenged Sevenfold like "A Little Piece of Heaven," "Afterlife," "Almost Easy," "Unbound (The Wild Ride)," "Buried Alive," "Fiction," "Brompton Cocktail," and more. Avenged Sevenfold released a demo version of "Nightmare," featuring The Rev on an electronic drumset and some vocals.
At the second annual Revolver Golden God Awards, The Rev won the award for Best Drummer. His family members, and Avenged Sevenfold, received the posthumous honor on his behalf.
In an Ultimate Guitar online readers' poll of the "Top Ten Greatest Drummers of All Time," The Rev appeared at #8, placing higher than Bill Ward of Black Sabbath, and lower than Keith Moon of The Who. In 2017, he once again appeared in Ultimate Guitar's list of Top 25 Greatest Singing Drummers, at #5.
Pinkly Smooth was an American heavy metal/avant-garde metal band. The band was formed in the summer of 2001 in Huntington Beach, California, as a side project for Avenged Sevenfold's drummer/composer/songwriter Jimmy "The Rev" Sullivan, and originally featured The Rev (under the name "Rathead") on vocals, along with fellow Avenged Sevenfold member Synyster Gates on guitar and former Ballistico band members Buck Silverspur (under the name "El Diablo") on bass and Derek Eglit (under the name "Super Loop") on drums. They released only one album–Unfortunate Snort—which featured former Avenged Sevenfold bassist Justin Meacham (under his stage name "Justin Sane") as a keyboard player.
Rathead (The Rev) – vocals, piano, drums (2001–2002)
Synyster Gates – guitar (2001–2002)
El Diablo (Buck Silverspur) – bass (2001–2002)
Super Loop (Derek Eglit) – drums (2001–2002)
Justin Sane (Justin Meacham) – keyboards (2001)
On December 28, 2009, The Rev was found unresponsive in his Huntington Beach home, and was later pronounced dead upon arrival to the hospital. Police ruled out foul play and noted that his death appeared to be from natural causes. An autopsy performed on December 30, 2009, was inconclusive, but toxicology results revealed to the public in June that he died from an overdose of oxycodone (Percocet), oxymorphone (a metabolite of oxycodone), diazepam (Valium), nordiazepam (a metabolite of diazepam), and alcohol. The coroner noted cardiomegaly as a "significant condition" that may have played a role in Sullivan's death.
On January 6, 2010, a private funeral was held for Sullivan, who was then buried in The Good Shepherd Cemetery, in Huntington Beach, California. Shortly after his death, Avenged Sevenfold dedicated their fifth studio album Nightmare (released that same year) to him, as well as several songs, including "So Far Away," which had been written by bandmate (and childhood friend) Synyster Gates; and "Fiction," which The Rev had written three days before his death. M. Shadows and Synyster Gates stated in an interview to Hard Drive Radio:
[...]The eeriest thing about it is there is a song on the album called "Fiction" (a nickname The Rev gave himself) which started out with the title "Death." And it was the last song The Rev wrote for the album, and when he handed it in, he said, 'That's it, that's the last song for this record.' And then, three days later, he died.
His triple bass drum kit from the 2008 Taste of Chaos tour was donated for display at a Hard Rock Cafe in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
With Suburban Legends
Origin Edition (1999)
With Pinkly Smooth
Unfortunate Snort (2001)
With Brian Haner
Cougar Bait (2008)
With Avenged Sevenfold
Sounding the Seventh Trumpet (2001)
Waking the Fallen (2003)
City of Evil (2005)
Avenged Sevenfold (2007)
Live in the LBC and Diamonds in the Rough (2008)
Nightmare (2010) (posthumous; some vocals, lyrics, and composing featured; vocals and drums on demo tracks; main part on record was on the song "Fiction")
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