Directed by Don Argott
Starring Chris Adler, Willy Adler, Randy Blythe, John Campbell, Mark Morton
121 mins - Documentary | Music - Release date: 16 February 2014
There’s no doubt that Lamb of God is among the best bands of the new generation, and certainly a contender to carry the torch once the old-school legends hang up the guitars and put away the skins and sticks. Formed in the mid-’90s, and being seven albums in, the band from Richmond, Virginia, is certainly ready to be the heavy metal banner band and they’ve definitely paid their dues. In all honesty, Lamb of God should have moved to the front of the pack long ago, but because of existing icons they’ve been cock blocked, so to speak.
One of those “paid dues” mentioned above was the arrest, charges, and trial involving vocalist Randy Blythe in the Czech Republic. Blythe was brought up on charges of committing intentional bodily harm that led to the death of their fan Daniel Nosek, 19. In large part, the documentary As the Palaces Burn is about the trial and its effect on Blythe and the rest of the members of Lamb of God.
But the film didn’t start out with that intention. It began as an account of Lamb of God and heavy metal’s effect on metal fans throughout the world and in various cultures. And since filming began prior to Blythe’s arrest what was shot and conceived remained. In fact,Don Argott made a perfect and near seamless segue between the two story arcs.
For the first 30 minutes of the film we follow Lamb of God as they traverse the globe in support of their 2012 album Resolution. It’s an enjoyable ride as we learn about Blythe’s outlook on life and commitment to work and music since being sober for two years. As originally intended, we do get to meet a couple of fans: a cabbie in Colombia who, like Blythe, hangs his salvation on heavy metal, and then there’s a female fan in Pakistan who faces the pressures and persecutions of being a female, tattooed metal fan and singer in a culture where heavy metal isn’t as widespread or as visible. All of which is split with epic performance , shots of fans and audiences, and interviews made all the more intense with Lamb of God’s music.
This was the core concept of the film, and even in its short time the message is not lost, at least not on heavy metal fans. We know that heavy metal is or will be the great unifier, because, as Blythe says toward the end of As the Palaces Burn, this is music that means something.
Heavy metal culture is a beast unto itself, and if you’re outside of it, you probably won’t understand it. Yes, it’s violent, it’s aggressive, it’s abrasive, and it’s intense, but it’s also a release, calming, meditative, inspiring, motivational, and spiritual. It’s more than a genre of music, it’s a lifestyle, a brotherhood, and damn near a religion.
And that is the crux that led to Blythe’s arrest and trial, a lack of understanding the heavy metal culture and fear of it. It’s actually unbelievable that there are still some people who fear music that they don’t understand or find appealing.
As we follow the band on tour and into the Czech Republic, Blythe is taken into custody upon landing. But would that have happened if the people who put his arrest into motion understood metal culture?
From the outside, this culture looks barbaric and violent, and I suppose to a certain extent it is. However, what outsiders may not be aware of is that our intent isn’t to hurt one another as we mosh, stage dive, or let our inner beast out. In some regards it’s not unlike a spiritual ceremony in which we celebrate life, we celebrate the fact that there are others who feel as we do, that there are others who believe what we believe. It’s a brother/sisterhood. It became clear in As the Palaces Burn that this subculture wasn’t understood as Blythe and his legal team prepped him for the proceedings, reviewing the definitions of “moshing,” “slam dancing,” and “stage diving” for the benefit of the judges and the prosecution.
Throughout the legal aspects shown in the film, it was touching to see how the band came together to raise money for the legal fees, by auctioning off some priceless memorabilia, and how the band actually got closer to one another than ever before. The outpouring of support from fans was also shown, as well as peers like Slash and Corey Taylor. Additionally, it was very revealing of the band members’ character as they expressed the paradox of emotions they were going through.
As the Palaces Burn comes to DVD on October 14th. Pre-order your copy here: myplaydirect.com
As the Palaces Burn was beautifully shot, even the internal shots as the case was prepared. The editing was spectacular on all fronts, making this one of the best music documentaries I’ve ever seen. Truly an amazing real-time journey with raw emotion as it happens. The film started out as an exploration of heavy metal’s multiculturalism, and in the end, it maintained that idea by showing us that metal is still misunderstood.