Released: 2015, De Capo Press
DARK DAYS is the recent book by Lamb Of God singer, Randy Blythe. Full disclosure: I’m not a Lamb Of God fan. At all. If it wasn't his life-story and was just about the band, I would not have bothered reading it. However, this book is about an important event in Metal history, namely, the arrest, imprisonment and eventual trial of Blythe when he was implicated in the death of a fan at a concert. This event had repercussions for the global metal community so it is an important story. In addition, I’ve seen interviews with Blythe and he seems articulate and intelligent so I decided to read and review the book and I’m glad I did.
DARK DAYS is pretty weighty tome clocking in at almost 500 pages. The dust-jacket is nice and the story of the curious back cover is only revealed near the end of the book. There are a few photos and some copies of his notes and a sketch or two but for the most part the book is very text heavy. But that does not mean it was unreadable or heavy going. Quite the contrary, it was extremely entertaining.
You may recall that Blythe was arrested in the Czech Republic in June 27th, 2012 for the death of a fan at Lamb of God concert two years prior. What surprised me, (to some degree) is that Blythe was unaware of the death of the fan. No one told him or the band, the label or management. I would not be surprised if the Czech authorities deliberately withheld that information from Blythe and the LOG organization so that they could ‘ambush’ him when he returned and make the arrest. Perhaps if they had told him he may have returned to the country if he knew there was a warrant for his arrest. Blythe to his credit never makes this accusation of the authorities in Prague but I would not be surprised if it was not orchestrated to capture him.
The book describes Blythe’s entire ordeal from his arrest at the airport, his hellish days in the jail, his dealings with the police, guards, lawyers, translators, judges, the media, his long suffering wife, and more, and it all follows through to his eventual release on bail, his return, trial and eventual release and exoneration. I feel confident that by sharing this information about the ending I will not spoil anything because the situation was concluded a few years ago and obviously he is a free man, on tour and not rotting in a jail in Europe.
Blythe is an intelligent and engaging writer, early on he is using words like ‘hirsute’, ‘ebullient’ and ‘banality’ which indicated right away he is not, in the words of Dee Snider of Twisted Sister, ‘just another dunder-headed rocker’. He does not come across as patronizing or condescending, just bright and well read. He is also incredible honest. There is no macho posturing, false bravado or cavalier attitude. He admits he was scared and scared shitless most of the time which was pretty brave to admit for the font-man of a tough-guy Metal band favoured by the knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathing, jock rock crowd.
I’m a bit surprised at Blythe’s reaction and distaste of the jail in Prague. Did he expect jail to be a day at the beach? He spends a huge amount of time described in minute detail the horrible condition of the jail of what is essentially still emerging from being a second world country. Jail is not supposed to be nice. It’s punishment. The only other part of the book that puzzled me was Blythe’s insistence that he was doing something brave or noble by agreeing to return to the Czech Republic to stand trial. He mentioned this frequently like it was some great tribute to his character. Every single day hundreds, maybe thousands of people world-wide show up on time for their appointed court date. It’s not a big deal like he made it out to be. What were his other choices? Flee and have a warrant for his arrest? Avoid the one chance to prove his innocence? That is what court and trials are for. There was no other moral or legal choice and yet he made it sound like he was some sort of superhero for showing up on his court date. There was never a doubt that he would not return to have his chance to prove his innocence but it was not a great and noble gesture like he states.
DARK DAYS read as a part legal thriller, part philosophical look at his character but perhaps most importantly (from a Metal perspective) a very interesting look at how the mainstream (media, the legal system, the justice system) portray and inherently discriminate against (due to lack of comprehension) Heavy Metal and Metal performers. The part where the bedraggled Blythe is trying, mostly in vain, to describe (via an semi-competent translator) to a foreign, straight-laced, judge who has absolutely no comprehension, who he is and what he does and what ‘moshing’ is, and what Metal concerts are is brilliant. Frustrating to say the least and a battle he just couldn’t win by having to describe his professional career as (in Blythe’s own words), “…screaming rhythmically like some sort of a terribly wounded and very angry mountain ape…” (p. 31.) Much of the book highlighted the true underground nature of Heavy Metal and while underground Metal guys like myself may dismiss Lamb Of God as being too commercial and mainstream, most of the people on the planet has absolutely no clue, zero comprehension, of what Metal is, except for maybe hearing a Metallica song on the radio once.
The fallout of the entire event naturally is tightened security at venues everywhere. Like a single event, the terrorist attacks of September, 2001, the fallout that now inconveniences millions of air travelers daily, this unfortunate death of a fan has changed the face of Metal concerts everywhere, for everyone.
You don’t have to be a fan of Lamb Of God to enjoy this book or appreciate it’s value. It is fun, intelligent and somehow Blythe through intelligence, smart choices managed to come away victorious, not only in the legal sense, but stronger for surviving a difficult ordeal and having the strength of character to share his dark days.