James Owen Sullivan, nicknamed “The Rev,” was found dead on Monday (Dec. 28) just as his band, Avenged Sevenfold, was breaking out on the California heavy metal scene. The case looks suspiciously like a drug overdose. He was 28.
If drugs were a factor in Sullivan’s death, he would be following in the footsteps of actress Brittany Murphy, who died suddenly two weeks ago.
Officials said Sullivan appears to have died of natural causes, meaning his body showed no outward signs of trauma.
Huntington Beach police Lt. John Domingo told the Orange County Register an investigation is underway by the Orange County Coroner’s Office.
The band made a formal announcement of his death on its web site.
“It is with great sadness and heavy hearts that we tell you of the passing today of Jimmy ‘The Rev’ Sullivan. Jimmy was not only one of the world’s best drummers, but more importantly he was our best friend and brother.”
Avenged Sevenfold, which Sullivan co-founded in 1999, played around the Los Angeles area, building a steady following. It won national recognition when it won Best New Artist at the MTV Video Music Awards in 2006.
Its last album hit No. 4 on the U.S. pop album chart in 2007 with its most recent album, a self-titled release sold more than 500,000 copies.
Inspired by such bands as Iron Maiden, Metallica and Guns N’ Roses, the quintet built its musical reputation through heavy touring.
It played Ozzy Osbourne’s annual Ozzfest tour in 2006, and co-headlined a national trek with Buckcherry in 2008 and 2009.
It recently announced plans to record a third studio album for Warner Music Group Corp.
The band cultivated an image of debauchery in its early years with references to mass murder and necrophilia. Metal magazine Revolver described Sullivan’s penchant for cocaine and other drugs in a 2006 interview.
He was the drummer and back-up vocalist for the band, and lead vocalist in a side project, the avant-garde metal band Pinkly Smooth with fellow Avenged Sevenfold guitarist Synyster Gates, aka Brian Haner Jr.
Sullivan, who lived in Huntington Beach, was married to Leana MacFadden aka Leana Silver.