.@planetmosh reviews the highly anticipated .@lambofgod documentary.
It might seem strange to some people, but heavy metal has as much tendency as power ballads to pull on an individual’s heartstrings and bring strong emotions to the foreground. If a song has specific memories attached to it, it won’t take long before somone listening to it has tears streaming down their face. It’s the same with films surrounding the genre; the shot of the Iron Maiden fan in Flight 666 crying and thanking the heavens at the end of one of the band’s concerts, his hand firmly clenched around Nicko McBrain’s drumstick, is a very potent moment indeed and can have even the hardiest of rockers wiping their eyes. But when it comes to As the Palaces Burn, the new Lamb of God documentary directed by Don Argott, there is no denying that the power of the footage, given the context and content, is far greater than anything before it.
It was one of the biggest shocks and uproars of 2012: the imprisonment of vocalist Randy Blythe in the Czech Republic on charges of manslaughter saw worldwide support from all corners of the metal community, and his subsequent acquittal saw huge sighs of relief from family, friends and fans alike. All of a sudden, the documentary’s initial intention of showing that music ties us together when there is no other common ground turned on a sixpence and it is to the band’s credit that they decided to not only keep filming the ongoing drama, but to release it in cinemas around the world regardless of whether this was their original plan or not. Along with Blythe’s upcoming book Dark Days, the film will be the final chapter in the saga and lay to rest the entire ordeal once and for all.
It begins as you would expect the majority of tour documentaries: the band relaxing as best they can at home with their families and rehearsing before heading off on the road. “There’s not much piece of mind being in a rock-and-roll band,” explains drummer Chris Adler, “because the whole thing could fall off the tracks at any moment, for any reason.” How heartbreakingly apt. As they travel across the world, the spotlight turns to the fans who, like many others, have found support and peace of mind through the music; the Colombian who has seen relatives killed in drug war violence and the Indian woman who has to battle with long-standing tradition to create her own identity and become one of only two female metal vocalists in the entire country. It’s a welcoming site: the amount of metalheads who battle with adversity over their music tastes, dress code and physical appearance is a substantial number, so to have the knowledge that this is a regular occurrence on a global scale creates a real ‘we are not alone’ mentality. If anything, it will give a number of people the inspiration and safety net they need to continue fighting the popular trends of today and finding themselves.
And then, it changes when they reach Prague, the city where it all happened in 2010 and nineteen year old Daniel Nosek sadly lost his life. It might sound obvious, but the shift in mood is dropped on the viewer like a tonne of bricks. From the band’s measured yet dark tones when they speak about the moment they got off the plane to Larry Mazer, Lamb of God’s manager, shouting his defence for Randy during a telephone conversation – the rollercoaster has reached the top of the climb and is beginning its descent. From here on in, you are quite literally glued to your seat. We see footage of the concert in question that would have been used as evidence during the trial. We witness the anguish of the band as they take pictures of their beloved awards and memorabilia to sell in order to raise bail. We have an insight into their own thoughts of the people who got behind them as a group and Randy as a person. When bassist John Campbell has to wipe his eyes during one scene, the waterworks begin to turn on as you fully realise that the guys are still human – they might be one of the biggest metal bands in the world but they are still humble and as down-to-earth as many of the people who walk our streets every single day. Minutes later, Willie Adler’s tears when Randy returns to Virginia on bail sum everything up and your own eyes can’t hold it in anymore. All they wanted was their friend back, and even though he has to return to stand trial, they have got that and will treasure it for as long as possible.
But the star is, understandably, Mr Blythe himself. From the off he is calm, collected and measured in everything he says and does (well, apart from his frontman persona during the live footage). He never loses sight of what has actually gone on and yet he never shows any great emotion when in interviews either. He even acknowledges the obstacle of filming a documentary which was meant to showcase the fans and yet has now been turned straight back onto the band. Despite this, we as fans cannot help but show outwardly what Randy must have been feeling inside. When the trial begins and Randy appears without his dreadlocks and in a suit, we can sense the fear and terror running through his head. His only moment of anguish outside of the courtroom is his admission that ‘In America, this would have been laughed out of the courtroom. But we’re not in America, we’re in the Czech Republic. And that fucking sucks.’ But inside, when being questioned, his voice cracks and the pain in his face is apparent: ‘I do not recognise [the deceased]. I wish I did’. When Daniel’s uncle explains to the court the consequences of his death, there isn’t a shadow of a doubt what Randy is thinking, which is ‘I understand, and I wish, above everything, that I could bring him back to you’, the latter half of that being reiterated when giving his closing statement. Upon hearing his exoneration, his throat gulps and his eyes widen slightly as he lets the first wave of his release wash over him, a relief felt by everyone who sees this.
And believe me, this is something you need to see. Regardless of your views on Lamb of God, this is a documentary that will speak to you on a number of different levels and will leave you exhausted physically, mentally and emotionally. But I want to to leave the last word to Randy :
“My core values were in place but have certainly been moulded by the whole music scene, so, for me, you can talk all day long about what you believe in, but when push comes to shove, are you going to do what you believe in? And I can’t go around espousing personal responsibility and saying how screwed up the world is in my songs if I don’t act like that, you know. I’m not an actor in a play, I’m a dude living his life the best I can.”
Lamb of God
Randy Blythe – vocals
Mark Morton – guitar
Willie Adler – guitar
John Campbell – bass
Chris Adler – drums