Lamb of God’s “As the Palaces Burn” (2014)


Five weeks.

That’s how long Randy Blythe was confined before the judges occupying the Supreme Court of the Czech Republic woke up and realized that the prosecution didn’t have a leg to stand on.  That’s how long the Lamb of God singer spent at the mercy of a foreign system whose burden of proof allowed for two-year-old eyewitness testimony to play a significant role in the outcome of his case.

Had he been the face of a band more in lockstep with what the mainstream media finds acceptable, you can rest assured that things would’ve turned out differently.  President Obama would’ve ignited public outcry, Nancy Grace would’ve carved out six months of programming, and forces beyond just the metal community would’ve galvanized in an attempt to exonerate a fellow American citizen.

Unfortunately for Blythe, he’s a member of a group known for its anarchic live shows and acerbic contributions to the New Wave of American Heavy Metal (NWAHM).  Blythe’s guttural onslaught has been at the forefront of the band’s sound since 1995, and, during an era when Nu-metal threatened to strip the genre of its ability to agitate the status quo, somehow the quintet from Richmond, Va. was able to fortify its fan base by staying true to the dark roots of thrash.

The first half of Don Argott’s documentary, “As the Palaces Burn,” explores how much that base has expanded through the years with a stirring sense of clarity only to be outdone by how eloquent each member comes across when discussing their humble beginnings.

What we see in this film is a paradigmatic example of a band, warts and all.  They make no attempt to sugarcoat life on the road or how they often can’t stand to be in the same room with one another, but the subsequent solidarity exhibited never appears to be anything but genuine.

Because their personal and professional relationships have been tested on a level none of them envisioned, guitarists Mark Morton and Willie Adler, bassist John Campbell, and drummer Chris Adler are in the unique position of having to decide whether or not Blythe’s predicament is worth waiting out.

Do they stand by their singer in the hope that he’ll be back in business once the evidence, or lack thereof, proves him innocent of all charges?  Do they wish him luck and commence the search for a replacement amid reports that legal fees could bankrupt the band moving forward?  Better yet, do they have any obligation to come to Blythe’s defense given his erratic past with the band?

Then again, his past struggles are exactly what make this saga so compelling.  The possibility of his hard-fought journey on the road to recovery being derailed under mystifying circumstances exacerbates the tragedy here, because sacrificing one man’s liberty under the guise of justice was never going to bring Daniel Nosek back from the dead.

The death of one of their fans during a concert is something that each member will have to live with for the rest of their time on this planet, so I find it highly unlikely that any of them feel as if Blythe got away with anything.  He was cleared with the understanding that, while a devastating death occurred, he was in no way responsible, legally or otherwise, for anything directly related to the incident.

Thoreau once said that an honest man can morally reenergize an entire society.  I don’t want to overstate the degree of integrity Blythe displayed in facing the charges like a man, but other celebrities could learn a thing or 10 from how he and the rest of the band conducted themselves throughout the ordeal.

Even if you’re not a fan of metal or have never heard a second of Lamb of God’s material, you will, at the very least, come away with newfound respect for the band as individuals.  A lesser band of brothers would have folded quicker than Enron’s stock options, but these guys are clearly built for the long haul.

It’s a great thing, too, because metal fans around the world need quality spokesmen when combating the stigma associated with wearing black and attending shows where few people remain sedentary.

In 2014, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better source of inspiration than Lamb of God.



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