The Lamb of God is an American heavy-metal band that has been touring the world for its loyal fans for the past 17 years. But don’t worry if heavy metal isn’t your thing, because Don Argott’s documentary The Lamb of God: As the Palaces Burn is not about the music. It is about the arbitrary divide between life and death and liberty and restraint. It’s also about the relevance of Franz Kafka and the importance of a strong moral compass.
The band members acknowledge that they are not household names and that they rely on touring (“I never dreamed in 1997 that we would one day be on tour with Metalica”) for their income. But turning 40 and having children are factors that have affected the five-man group. Chris Adler on drums and Mark Morton on guitar admit that it has become difficult to go on the road.
The lead singer and lyricist of the group, Randy Blythe, is an odd looking rock idol. Petit, with wild, wiry hair and thick glasses, he looks more like a beat poet than a heavy metal singer. Nonetheless he could (and did) drink his mates under the table and was drunk most of his waking hours. Now, he’s sober and likes to hang out on a walkway over the river in Richmond, Virginia.
There he thinks about the nature of success (“I fly around the world and make people scream”) and speculates that “music is the only reason why I am not in prison or dead.” Ironically, it was music that was to land him in prison.
Halfway through a successful world tour in 2012, Randy was bemused to find himself arrested in the CzechRepublic. The ordeal was Kafkaesque. Randy was accused of having pushed a fan off the stage at a previous concert. Unbeknown to the band at the time, the fan hit his head upon landing and subsequently died. A video taken showed that a security guard had dragged the deceased off of the stage and that Randy had not invited him onstage.
The ordeal reveals Randy in a new light, and not only because he scrubs up well. He handles the transition from lead singer for a sold-out concert tour to murder suspect with humiliation, dignity and compassion for the deceased and his family. What we hear of Randy’s statement is a balanced, rational yet forceful argument, delivered with respect at all times for the deceased. This sobering experience required a sober man to carry it off.
The viewer has more to think about than heavy metal. A fan goes to a concert to scream and have fun and ends up dead; a performer embarks on a routine tour to entertain his fans and finds himself accused of murdering one; and someone just happens to capture the incident on his camera.
Moreover, while the music might not sound like much to you or me, somewhere in the hell that is Medellín, Columbia, a young taxi-driver, whose family and friends have been slaughtered in the drug wars, remains alive through his faith in The Lamb of God. Visiting the cemetery in Medellín, he reflects: ‘It’s a band that reminds me that I want to be with my head up and not with my head down.’ Randy, the unlikely role model, might agree.