As an outside observer, events which unraveled in Prague last year and the subsequent manslaughter trial of Lamb Of God frontman Randy Blythe was for fans, and indeed the majority of the metal community at large, a cut and dry case of wrongful accusation and flagrant injustice. With his innocence never in question, a call to arms metallic battalion flocked to the aid of the beset singer in a display of unity and solidarity typical of our world. The story behind the story although, is something utterly more complex.
As director Don Argott guides us through a period in the band’s career as jeopardous as any in recent memory, ‘As The Palaces Burn’ looks beyond the archetypical rock doc scope and delivers as powerful and heart-wrenching a 90 minutes as our world has ever exhibited.
The scene is set as the band prepare to head out on the ‘Resolution’ touring cycle, with five-piece veterans in high spirits after the “most enjoyable European experience” they have yet been privy too and a succession of rabid festival responses. Most tellingly, we witness the stories of Oscar and Pratika, the former a Colombian taxi driver and the other one of the few female metal vocalists in India, both of which detail how music has aided them through social alienation and troubled pasts.
Whether it is fleeing from public norms or the horrors of a former life, it’s interesting how these profiles highlight the international appeal of metal, making the case that it provides people with an “‘organic outlet to get those fucking demons out”.
Halfway in, focus shifts dramatically to Prague, and the emotive power of ‘As The Palaces Burn’ increases ten fold. As an account as wholly unreserved as we could ever hope for, this second act clears up conclusively any discrepancies which could have lingered, and more importantly proves to underline the dignity and courage with which Randy Blythe conducted his time throughout proceedings. It’s thoroughly engrossing, and from guitarist Willie Adler weeping joyously as Blythe returns on bail to the sheer pain on the singer’s face as the victims father details his families anguish since the incident, the film practically tears open the band’s chest and spills their soul for all to see.
Indeed, the reading of the verdict is set to be perhaps the most suspenseful screen moment of 2014, and does much to cement Blythe‘s noble attitude in just a few seconds.
Through ruminations regarding Lamb Of God‘s future, back room preparation and the hysteria surrounding the band’s return to the stage at Knotfest, we walk with the Virginia quintet through every soaring high and devastating low, and leave in the knowledge that, regardless of how many legions of fans have been emboldened by their music, the loss of just one takes a toll which will endure for years to come.
Insightful, moving and fundamentally honest, ‘As The Palaces Burn’ is a searing indictment of not only the all encompassing power of music, but the boundless humanity and iron clad devotion that it inspires.
Written by Tony Bliss