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The Stage is the seventh studio album by American heavy metal band Avenged Sevenfold, released on October 28, 2016 by Capitol Records after a live stream event on the band's Facebook page. It is the first Avenged Sevenfold album to feature Brooks Wackerman on drums, who joined the band in late 2014 but wasn't revealed as Arin Ilejay's official replacement until Ilejay's departure in 2015, because the band wanted to find a drummer that would "fit in". The Stage is also the band's first album to be released through Capitol Records. Written and recorded throughout 2016, The Stage was musically different for the band, marking a progressive metal sound. It was a surprise release, being the first mainstream heavy metal album without promotion of any kind. It is Avenged Sevenfold's first conceptual album, with its main theme being based on artificial intelligence and self-destruction of society. It is also the band's longest studio album at 73 minutes and 35 seconds, thus beating City of Evil by almost a minute. In addition to being their longest album, The Stage features their longest song to date, "Exist", with a run-time of 15 minutes and 41 seconds.