The Rev

James "Jimmy" Owen Sullivan (February 9, 1981 – December 28, 2009),[1] also known by his stage name The Rev (shortened version of The Reverend Tholomew Plague), was an American musician. He is best known as the drummer, songwriter, backing vocalist, and founding member of American heavy metal band Avenged Sevenfold. The Rev was widely regarded and critically acclaimed for his work on the band's albums, and contributed entire songs composed by himself, such as "Afterlife", "A Little Piece of Heaven", and "Almost Easy".

Jimmy "The Rev" Sullivan
Jimmy Sullivan (cropped).png
Background information
Birth nameJames Owen Sullivan
Also known as
  • The Rev
  • Jimmy
  • Rathead
  • Fiction
  • The Reverend Tholomew Plague
  • The Knife Master
Born(1981-02-09)February 9, 1981
Tustin, California, U.S.
DiedDecember 28, 2009(2009-12-28) (aged 28)
Huntington Beach, California, U.S.
  • Musician
  • songwriter
  • composer
  • Drums
  • vocals
  • piano
  • keyboards
Years active1998–2009
Associated acts

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 Synyster Gates, and was the drummer for Suburban Legends from 1998 to 1999.


Sullivan was born in Tustin, California, on February 9, 1981, of Irish descent.[2] He received his first pair of drumsticks at the age of five and his own drum set at the age of twelve.[3] 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 20, he recorded his first album with Avenged Sevenfold titled Sounding the Seventh Trumpet. His early influences included Frank Zappa and King Crimson. The Rev stated in an interview with Modern Drummer that he "was raised on that stuff as much as rock and metal."[3]

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,[4] stating "It's funny [...], of all my influences, Tommy Lee is a visual influence. I never thought I'd have one of those."[5] 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."[6] "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.

The Rev was the drummer, composer, songwriter, vocalist, and pianist for the band. 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", "Art of Subconscious Illusion", "Save Me", and "Fiction". His music composing and songwriting are done in several songs for Avenged Sevenfold such as "A Little Piece of Heaven", "Afterlife", "Almost Easy", "Unbound (The Wild Ride)", "Buried Alive", "Fiction", "Brompton Cocktail", "Save Me", among others. Avenged Sevenfold released a demo version of "Nightmare" featuring The Rev on an electronic drumset and providing 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.[7]

The Rev

In an Ultimate Guitar online readers' poll of the "Top Ten Greatest Drummers of All Time", The Rev appeared at No. 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 No. 5.[8]

Pinkly SmoothEdit

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 of The Rev, and originally featured 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, as well as 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 (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.[9] 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.[10] The coroner noted an enlarged heart 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.[11] Shortly after his death, Avenged Sevenfold dedicated their fifth studio album Nightmare 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.[12][13] M. Shadows and 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."[12]


His triple bass drum kit from the 2008 Taste of Chaos tour was donated for display at a Hard Rock Cafe in Las Vegas.[14] Another drum kit he used is displayed in a Hard Rock Cafe in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.[15]


with Suburban LegendsEdit

with Pinkly SmoothEdit

  • Unfortunate Snort (2001)

with Brian HanerEdit

  • Cougar Bait (2008)

with Avenged SevenfoldEdit


  1. ^ "MTV Newsroom". 2009-12-29. Archived from the original on 2011-10-23. Retrieved 2011-10-28.
  2. ^ "Huntington Beach Independent". 2010-02-17. Retrieved 2011-10-28.
  3. ^ a b "Modern Drummer Magazine Interview Oct. 2006". Archived from the original on 2010-08-04. Retrieved 2011-10-28.
  4. ^ "January 5, 2010". Archived from the original on June 9, 2011. Retrieved 2011-10-29.
  5. ^ "James "The Rev" Sullivan | Modern Drummer Magazine". Archived from the original on 2018-04-29. Retrieved 2016-12-23.
  6. ^ "DRUM! Magazine Interview Nov. 2007". Archived from the original on 2012-04-02. Retrieved 2011-10-28.
  7. ^ "Revolver Golden Gods Awards 2010: The Winners | Latest News". Metal Injection. 2010-04-09. Archived from the original on 2011-12-05. Retrieved 2011-10-28.
  8. ^ "Friday Top: 25 Greatest Singing Drummers". Archived from the original on 17 June 2017. Retrieved 30 November 2017.
  9. ^ Lewis, Randy. "James 'The Rev' Sullivan dies at 28; drummer for heavy metal band Avenged Sevenfold". Archived from the original on 2016-05-27. Retrieved 2017-01-06.
  10. ^ "Avenged Sevenfold Drummer Died of Accidental Overdose". Archived from the original on 24 May 2012. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  11. ^ "The Good Shepherd Cemetery". Find A Grave. Archived from the original on 2012-11-08. Retrieved 2011-10-28.
  12. ^ a b "Has The New Avenged Sevenfold Album Been Given A Title?". Metal Hammer. May 14, 2010. Archived from the original on May 17, 2010. Retrieved May 14, 2010.
  13. ^ "Avenged Sevenfold: The Rev's Passing Steered Album's Lyrical Direction | Interviews @". Archived from the original on September 6, 2010. Retrieved 2011-09-20.
  14. ^ "Memorabilia". Hard Rock Cafe. Archived from the original on October 20, 2013. Retrieved July 14, 2013.
  15. ^ "Hard Rock Cafe, Gatlinburg, Tennessee- Drum set belonging to Avenged Sevenfold drummer Jimmy "The Rev" Sullivan displayed at the Hard Rock Cafe in Gatlinburg".