At this time last summer, everything seemed to be on track for Lamb of God. The band had released its latest album, “Resolution,” in December 2011, and the album had been greeted with favorable reviews, with some calling it the best album of the group’s two-decade career.
The band had spent the first part of 2012 touring outside of the United States and had a tour set in the States for the fall with Dethklok.
Then Lamb of God’s world got turned upside down. Arriving in the Czech Republic for three shows at the end of June, the band members were blindsided as they arrived at the airport.
“I came off of the plane to, there was a guy on the skyway who was checking passports, checking identifications and as you were. Most people were going to the left, they were sending us off to the right,” Lamb of God bassist Campbell recalled in a phone interview. “I walked up to the top of the skyway, to the side they were telling me to go to, and was asked for my passport and I asked who was asking and I was shown a badge for homicide, and I realized I was more or less surrounded by SWAT dudes with ski masks on and automatic weapons.”
The police were looking for singer Randy Blythe, ready to charge him with manslaughter stemming from an incident at a 2010 Lamb of God concert in Prague in which a fan of the band died.
Blythe, who faced up to five years in prison, was arrested and put in jail, where he stayed for nearly 40 days before he was released on bail on Aug. 2.
By then, Lamb of God had been forced to cancel its tour with Dethklock, but the band salvaged the fall by scheduling a headlining tour for later in the season.
But given the circumstances and the fact that Blythe’s trial was looming in February, it made this first tour of the states behind “Resolution” a very different proposition than any other tour Lamb of God had done.
“On our side of the stage it felt very different because we had mixed kind of emotions about what was going on,” Lamb of God drummer Chris Adler said in a separate phone interview. “Although people coming to the show were seeing Randy up on stage every night under the impression that Randy was free and here we are on tour, we knew what we were still coming to face in February and it was far from over. In fact, it was possibly just beginning in many ways. So we didn’t know if it was our last tour (as a band).”
The worry that Lamb of God was going to lose its singer wasn’t farfetched. In the Czech Republic, the person on trial must prove his innocence, rather than the prosecutor needing to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.And Adler, who testified at Blythe’s trial, said the band thought its singer faced a daunting task at trial.
“From the back seat and the meetings with lawyers and everybody as it was going on, we were all very skeptical that he would be totally exonerated,” Adler said. “We assumed there would be some sort of conclusion with a penalty of some kind.”
So it was a considerable surprise and relief when Blythe was found innocent of all charges by a panel of Czech judges at the beginning of March, allowing him to return to Lamb of God and for the band to book a second run of U.S. concerts in support of “Resolution.” The tour runs from May 16-June 20.
The Blythe saga stemmed from a May 24, 2010, concert at Club Abaton in Prague at which prosecutors in the Czech Republic asserted that Blythe had pushed a 19-year-old fan, Daniel Nosek, off of the stage. Nosek at some point fell, hitting his head on the floor. Later that evening, Nosek became violently ill, was taken to a hospital and underwent emergency brain surgery. Sadly, he slipped into a coma and died from his injury.
The show had been plagued by lapses in security, as fans had been able to get on stage during Lamb of God’s show. But Blythe denied ever pushing Nosek, and there was conflicting testimony from concert-goers about whether they saw Blythe push Nosek, and exactly when and how Nosek fell to the floor.
So the judges cleared Blythe, and now Lamb of God is back on a tour of theaters and large clubs this spring.
Adler said Lamb of God’s live set on the current tour will probably include four or five songs from “Resolution,” but the band won’t neglect its five other albums, devoting about two-thirds of its show to fan favorites from its back catalog.
“If you went out and got the new album (“Resolution”) and you don’t like it, you’re not going to have to suffer through the whole thing,” Adler said. “But if you went out and got it and loved it, you’re going to get a fair amount of it. Hopefully we balance it out pretty well and everybody goes home happy.”