I think I can speak on behalf of all that consider themselves a fan of heavy metal music that I am looking over this terrible case of Randy Blythe with much worry and suspension writhing in fear that the worst may happen. Yes, despite the general beliefs that the Lamb of God frontman was going to be released from Czech prison on $200,000 bail, Blythe now must remain in the Czech Republic where his arrest took place, before attending a final court hearing regarding his being charged with manslaughter, following Blythe pushing an individual that invaded the stage during the band's set in Prague in 2010, who landed on his head and consequently died twelve days later of a resulting brain hemorrhage. It's a horrible situation. If Blythe is charged guilty, he could face up to ten years in Czech prison. It could seriously affect the countries that the band would get the band to tour. I mean, who knows if he'd even be able to get back with his the rest of the band in Virginia?
The really frustrating thing to come out of this whole ugly situation is the fact that my last few experiences of listening to Lamb of God have been marred by thoughts of "Hey, the guy singing caused someone to die! That's pretty messed up, right?" This is a horrible notion. If you've heard or read my views on Lamb of God before, you'll know me to be a massive fan and I dread that I may never be able to hear classics like Omerta, Walk With Me in Hell, In Your Words and the best single song of 2012 so far, King Me with total clarity towards the music ever again and instead be surrounded by thoughts of Blythe's actions.
But there's no way that such a notion exists with all music fans when listening to artists that have been recognised for infamous acts outwith their music. Are musicians always attached to things they've done and does it always affect the way we listen to them?
There's plenty of musicians we can look at as examples so let's start off big by looking at one of the most infamous men in metal. I started listening to some more underground black metal bands a while ago in an attempt to make my metal taste that bit extra on the kvlt side. I started by checking out what bands people that liked Mayhem and Darkthrone were into, so it wasn't long before I came across Burzum. And so as I started listening to tracks from the Aske EP and fifth album Filosofem, I learnt about the twisted ways of Varg Vikernes. Now Varg is an amazing musician being the prime contributor to all Burzum album, but he will always be associated with his arson of several historic churches across Norway and his murder of Mayhem's Øystein Aarseth better known as "Euronymous". And really, those tales always have a tendency to dominate my thoughts when listening to his music. No matter how immersive it is.
And yet, depending on just how devoted to metal your local branch of HMV is, you're most likely to find Burzum CD's being stocked. But, when stories become more widespread and a wider reaction is created, then the effect on listening to the musicians is surely clouded more by thoughts about the musician themselves. I don't know what you think the worse crime is but when I cared more about music in 2006 and reports about former glam rocker Gary Glitter emerged across the BBC News about his continued child sexual abuse crimes from his possession of child pornography in 1999 to sexual intercourse with children in Vietnam, the reaction was widespread and sense of disgust from the public towards Glitter meant there was no forgiveness towards him for his actions. You will never see a Gary Glitter CD in HMV anymore and I'm fairly sure I've only listened to him once since after my Dad was playing some kind of hits of the 70's compilation album in his car. But Gary Glitter will never be listened to by anyone without some kind of hostility towards him and his actions in the minds of listeners.
I suppose an argument here is that it's only really central figures that cause listeners to have some thought of actions committed by individual when simply wanting to listen to the music. Is there any lasting effect when a bassist commits some kind of atrocity. I'm constantly listening to songs from Kyuss' Wretch and Blues for the Red Sun and Queens of the Stone Age's Rated R and Songs For the Deaf and at no point do the actions of Nick Oliveri enter my mind. Especially when you consider his actions last summer. And it's not exactly something you could forget about any time soon. The guy had a four hour standoff with the LAPD. That sounds like something from an action movie, were it not for the fact that the standoff was to keep the police from entering his apartment where he had been keeping his girlfriend hostage and was keeping a loaded rifle and lotsa drugs. I don't really know what's come of that situation. I believe a final verdict is still to be reached. If that's so, Oliveri has the potential to face up to fifteen years in prison. Not the same prison as Blythe though. I mean, they could be good companions.
Sometimes however, it's the kind of actions of musicians on and offstage that makes that really helps them rise to ultimate popularity and makes them true icons. Do I make sense? The best example you could think of is The Who. The Who will always to be known for crafting some of the finest rock songs of all time but you know, you won't have a conversation about them for that long without delving into talks of Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend smashing their guitars up onstage and the destructive lifestyle of Keith Moon, wether it's his stories of smashing through a corrugated iron roof, crashing a milk float or filling toilets with dynamite and bombs, as well as passing out onstage in 1973 after consuming a mixture of horse tranquilizer pills and brandy. And all the danger, all the violence and all the the insanity helped make the group more, well, badass! It surely helped boost the band's musical popularity. Maybe. I couldn't really think of many other decent examples.
So, when considering these bands and musicians as a few examples, the whole notion of musicians becoming more recognised for controversial acts outwith their music definitely exists. When I first got into The Who, I was lured in with the promise of seeing guys smashing guitars onstage and the like, which was cool! With weird people with brutal values and tastes thinking that Varg Vikernes is awesome, Burzum is also worshiped for Vikernes' church burning and murders that all the people thinking "Hahaha! Down with religion!" appreciate. The whole badass element was also attached to Nick Oliveri after hearing about him facing the LAPD with a rifle, which was bizarre and of course, Gary Glitter is forever damned by everyone, mainly because his songs were also pretty terrible as well as his actions. So, while we remain unsure of what will happen to metal's beloved Randy Blythe, we will just have to wait, it seems like there are worse acts that musicians have been associated with than what Blythe has. But with Lamb of God, I will have to separate the artist from the art. And as always, Lamb of God deal exclusively in art.