Lamb of God is alive and well.
With a new album, “VII: Sturm und Drang”, set to drop on July 24, and a co-headlining summer tour with metal juggernauts Slipknot coming into Auburn’s White River Amphitheatre on July 23, things have never looked better for the band.
“We’ve just signed with Nuclear Blast outside of the United States, which has some record commitments to it,” bassist and founding member John Campbell said. “So we’re planning on doing this until the wheels fall off.”
That wasn’t the case just a couple years ago when the Virginia-based heavy metal band – which formed in 1994 as Burn the Priest – looked for all the world like its wheels were about to come off.
In May of 2010, while playing a club in Prague, Czech Republic, Daniel Nosek, a 19-year-old fan, died from head injuries suffered in a fall from the stage during Lamb of God’s set, pushed by lead singer Randy Blythe.
Unaware of the death at the time, the band left the country. When it returned in 2012, Blythe was arrested, charged with manslaughter and jailed for five weeks.
Although he was later released on the condition that he return in 2013 for trial, the future of the band looked uncertain, as did Blythe’s freedom.
“It was quite a psychological shock to me personally,” Campbell said of the ordeal. “But I never lost site of the fact that it was not my child who had died. I was definitely getting the better end of the deal. There was a family that lost a son, a nephew, the plans of a lifetime. It’s a terrible tragedy, and unfortunately, we were involved in the tragic story of this kid’s life ending.”
The trial court maintained that even though Blythe had indeed thrown Nosek from the stage, the real fault lay with the venue’s lax security and with the promoters for allowing audience members to reach the stage. Blythe was acquitted.
Regardless of the blame, Campbell said it’s impossible to be unaffected by the death of a fan at a show.
“It’s like when you become a parent: everybody tells you how it’s going to be different, but it actually has no meaning until you actually become a parent,” Campbell said. “It’s almost pointless to tell people who haven’t experienced it what it’s like. There is no measuring stick for me to point to and show you the measurement of change. But it’s a psychological shock to go through.”
In 2012, after Blythe was released from custody in the Czech Republic, the band returned to the stage at Knotfest in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
“It was great having a chance to be back in the moment of what it is we’ve done forever and what I thought we may not ever be able to do again,” Campbell said. “That was at Knotfest, and they were kind enough to let us come play that one date, even though we had to cancel the tour that was booked around that because we didn’t know if Randy was going to be incarcerated or not. But it was an amazing feeling [to play live again].”
On the band’s upcoming seventh album, Blythe, the chief lyricist, channels his experience in songs like “512” – his cell number in the Czech Republic – which opens with the verse, “Six bars laid across the sky/Four empty walls to fill the time/One careless word, you lose your life/A grave new world awaits inside.”
“You can write about whatever it is you experience, and for Randy, it was a brutal experience that he expressed as his art,” Campbell said.
With the ordeal – which Blythe chronicles in his book, “Dark Days: A Memoir” and in the band’s documentary, “As the Palaces Burn” – behind them, the band is ready to return to full strength with its first lengthy tour since the trial.
“We’ve toured with Slipknot back in 2004-2005,” Campbell said. “That’s where we got to know them and then we’d see them over the years at festivals and different events. We’ve got to know them well and we tour well together. I think they chose us because we were available and fit the bill and could add ticket sales.”
“Going out on tour with Slipknot, or any band, our goal is always making it difficult for the other band to follow and share the same stage,” Campbell said. “That’s a chore with Slipknot. They bring some production and have nine guys out there. But we’ll be at the top of our game and pushed by their ferocity. It’s not something we planned, but it’s a good side effect.”
Campbell added that Lamb of God is elevating the show’s production values to compete with the pyrotechnics and spectacle of a Slipknot show.
“Oh, we’ve got things,” Campbell said. “You can’t play in front of Slipknot without something. I’m not saying we’re bringing firecrackers and whistles, but we’ve got things.”
For anyone on the fence about whether to buy tickets to see the two bands this summer, Campbell had this to say:
“I’m one to let someone make their own decision, but if you’re sitting around trying to decide whether to see this show, or not, I can’t imagine how awesome your life is that you have something going on better than seeing two heavy bands that are top international touring bands, coming through your town in the beautiful summer weather. What else you going to do, sit around in your inflatable pool sipping tropical drinks?”
KISW’s 2015 Pain In the Grass show, featuring Slipknot, Lamb of God, Bullet For My Valentine and Motionless In White comes to the White River Amphitheatre on Aug. 23. For more information or to buy tickets go to www.livenation.com
For more information on “VII: Sturm und Drang” or to preorder a copy visit www.lamb-of-god.com/.