Lamb Of God – As The Palaces Burn Documentary Review

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Steve Gerrard Photography

“Music is the only reason I’m not in prison…” These words, spoken by Randy Blythe towards the beginning of As The Palaces Burn, may also seem like a cliche coming from a rock star, but, in retrospect, they could not seem much more ironic.

When Lamb Of God and director Don Argott first came up with the idea of a new documentary film, the idea was to focus more on the fans around the world and their relationship and dedication to the Virginia metal band and, for the first 30 minutes or so, that’s exactly what this film is. But, as many of us now know, the band’s story took an unexpected turn and the film crew were in a position to tell an altogether different story which, at the time, they weren’t to know quite how it would end.

Lamb Of God’s steady rise to a level where they now headline festivals and play to crowds of tens of thousands of dedicated fans around the world has resulted from a band who stay true to their principles and a defined idea of what a metal band should be in the 21st century. They’ve had a turbulent history including fist fighting between band members and Blythe’s drinking problems, all of which have been documented before, but with Blythe now sober and far more focused, the band’s future was beginning to look more and more positive, and that’s the place we find the band members in as this 90 minute documentary begins.

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Randy Blythe tells us how the biggest compliment he receives from fans is that his band’s music has helped them through hard times. It’s a feeling he can relate to and one which, even when the band tire of life on the road, means they know how much it means to their fans for five guys from Richmond to take their songs to the people who allow them to earn a living through music. We meet fans who feel disconnected from their community and find solace in the music, as well as those who have travelled 39 hours across India to get to the band’s concert.

As the Palaces Burn sees the band travel through countries as diverse as Columbia, Israel, India and then onto Europe, which is where the film finds one fan-related story that has huge implications on Lamb Of God, but most dramatically with their singer. “We don’t want anyone to get hurt”, Blythe says earlier in the film, “It worries me sometimes”. And then, as the band leave their plane in Prague, they are escorted by armed police and questioned before Randy Blythe is arrested and charged with murder.

The charge, they soon learn, stems from an incident at a Lamb Of God show two years previously where one fan, Daniel Nosek, suffered brain damage and later died from his injuries. Blythe is accused of pushing Nosek when he jumped on stage and, with unique access, the film makers follow the trial as it unfolds.

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One message that comes across repeatedly through the film is that, no matter how bad things seem for Randy and his bandmates, they know that what they are going through is nothing when compared with what Nosek’s family now have to live with. Bassist John Campbell is clearly emotional as he reminds us that “a family lost their son. I couldn’t begin to imagine that”. As the trial drags on Blythe seems resigned to the fact that he’s likely to be spending some time in prison, despite making it clear that he’s not to blame for what happened. He does, however, want the truth to be told, as much for Daniel’s family as anybody else. It’s fascinating and somewhat humbling to see how the singer deals with the situation he finds himself in. “It’s not a story I can write,” he says. “It’s a story I can live and hope for the best”.

As The Palaces Burn ends up becoming a film about a Grammy-award nominated band’s relationship with its fans but then so much more. It’s about human relationships, family, loss, justice, uncertainty and maybe it can help us see what’s truly important in life. Along the way, musicians including Slash and Corey Taylor offer their thoughts on events. Indeed, the trial could have had dramatic implications, not just on Randy Blythe, but also touring bands and live events around the world.

Don Argott’s footage is beautifully filmed and the movie seems honest, respectful and certainly held my attention throughout. It’s a must-see for Lamb Of God fans but I’d recommend it to anyone with an interest in the world of modern music or simply humanity. Blythe is in the process of writing a book about his experience, telling more about what he went through during his time in prison, but for now, As The Palaces Burn is a fascinating look at a story that no-one ever wanted to have to tell.

Review and photos – Steve Gerrard

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