Rock Doc Review: Don Argott’s ‘As the Palaces Burn: Lamb of God’

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What started as a documentary about the fans of Lamb of God, a documentary only Lamb of God’s fans would ever want to watch, turned into a documentary that followed the band’s singer Randy Blythe as he is forced to examine cultural differences and pursue justice in the Czech Republic. These lessons changed the lives of everyone in the band, and were felt not only by loyal fans, but by Lamb of God’s peers in the music business as well.

Blythe was arrested in the Czech Republic for an incident occurring at a 2010 show in Prague, which resulted in the death of 19-year-old Daniel Nosek. Nosek suffered a head injury after falling/being pushed from the stage. Blythe was formally accused by the Czech government of pushing Nosek from the stage and causing the injury. Blythe, and the rest of the band, learned of Nosek’s death for the first time in 2012, after they were pulled aside by authorities while exiting the plane to play in Prague.

'As The Palaces Burn'

‘As The Palaces Burn’

Things were going well for the band before landing in Prague. Randy Blythe, the man at the center of the controversy, had recently made drastic changes to his lifestyle, and was more motivated and energetic than ever about the band, the music, and the fans.

Then, boom! He’s arrested and spends 38 days inside a Czech prison, waiting for his bandmates to raise enough money to bail him out.

Director Don Argott was able to follow this story from the beginning thanks to the fan-focused documentary that was already being filmed. This sudden change of focus is worked into the documentary, and the shift in focus hits out of the blue, much like the news of Nosek’s death did to the members of Lamb of God in 2012.

The arrest happens and the documentary then becomes about Blythe’s determination to prove his innocence, and the effort by fans and peers supporting his effort. Argott does a great job of telling this story through the people involved, rather than just doing a play-by-play narration like many documentarians are prone to do. We see Randy Blythe and his bandmates struggle to make sense of the situation, and still do the right thing for the family of Nosek, the fan who lost his life.

In some documentaries about rock bands, the bands’ humanity never seems to show through, not even in the interviews. Many times rock stars come off as being arrogant pricks in these films. They do things like wear sunglasses at night, smoke during the interviews, or just do the interviews plowed under by a tsunami of booze. Rock star egos like these are nowhere to be found in this film. Argott does a great job of showing the guys in Lamb of God working hard for a living and taking their job as musicians seriously. This is a working class band, and that is what makes this story so compelling. Rather than reacting to the situation with arrogance, and an indignant attitude, the way an egomaniac might, Blythe and his bandmates approach the situation head-on and handle it with class and respect.

This exploration of humanity is what separates ‘As the Palaces Burn: Lamb of God’ from the typical rock documentary. This is a story about doing the right thing and being a good human, told through characters who just happen to be in a moderately-successful rock band.

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This is not a ‘Locked Up Abroad’ story, like you would see on the National Geographic Channel. Blythe wasn’t arrested for doing something dumb, and obviously illegal. He was arrested because he was at a show in 2010, where he did his job as the singer of a metal band, and pushed the energy in the house as far as it would go while he was on stage. It was just unfortunate Nosek was somehow fatally injured while Blythe and the band did their job.

No prior knowledge about Lamb of God is needed to enjoy this film. This is a human interest story. The same is true of another of Argott’s documentaries, ‘Last Days Here,’ about Bobby Liebling, the cracked out lead singer of Pentagram. Liebling’s personal story transcends the fact the documentary is ultimately about a band with a die-hard fan base, who just want to see the band perform one more time. Argott’s experience in telling stories of people facing an uphill battle, made him the perfect person to be in position to bring this story to us in As the Palaces Burn.

‘As the Palaces Burn’ was released worldwide in February 2014. Unfortunately for fans, Randy Blythe announced his intentions of taking a long break from Lamb of God at the end of January. Lamb of God was also featured on That Metal Show in Episode 6 of the current season.

Find out more at AsThePalacesBurn.com.

Lee Arnold is the cohost of the Acid Pop Cult podcast and an active to their website. New episodes of Acid Pop Cult drop every Monday. Be sure to tune in! You can verbally harass Lee on Twitter at twitter.com/LeeArnoldMWF.

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