Avenged Sevenfold was formed in Huntington Beach, California by Matt Sanders(vocals), Zacky Baker(guitar), Matt Wendt(bass), and Jimmy Sullivan(drums). M Shadows came up with the name as a reference to the story of Cain and Abel from The Bible, although it is not a religious band. They made two demos in 1999 and 2000. They finally released their first album, Sounding the Seventh Trumpet, in 2001 on Good Life Recordings while they were still in high school and only 18. During the two years between when they were formed and they released their first album, the band had gone through two bassists and were now on their third, Dameon Ash. After the release of Sounding the Seventh Trumpet, Brian Haner, Jr. joined the band. Their first record was bought by Hopeless Records and re-released with Brian featured on the first song.
The band got their stage names while they were walking through a park drunk. In 2002, Johnny Seward joined the band while they were on tour during his senior year of high school. They began to gain recognition and were playing with bands like Mushroom Heads and Shadows Fall. In 2003, they released Waking the Fallen on Hopeless Records. The band was invited to play on the Van's Warped Tour and again were invited in 2004 and recorded a video for their song "Unholy Confessions" which went into rotation on MTV2's Headbanger's Ball. Shortly after they produced Waking the Fallen, they gained their first major label, Warner Bros.