Lamb Of God: Business As Usual
Don’t call it a comeback, kids. Lamb Of God have narrowly overcome one of the biggest and most tragic obstacles a band could face, and are ready to return to what they do best and prove that they still own the throne of American heavy metal. The band’s own Gandalf of Groove, bassist John Campbell, brought BLUNT up to speed.
For anyone unfamiliar with the harrowing saga that overshadowed Lamb Of God’s career during the past year, here’s a recap: vocalist Randy Blythe was arrested by Czech police upon landing in Prague in June 2012, on charges of manslaughter after having allegedly pushed a 19-year-old fan off the stage at a 2010 club show, leading the fan to sustain head injuries (unbeknownst to the band) that tragically claimed his life in hospital weeks later.
What followed was a complicated year of legal proceedings that essentially bankrupted the Virginian metal quartet, until in May of this year Blythe was finally ruled not to have been liable for the fan’s death and the charges were dismissed.
But as any band that has had a live show tarnished by death (most notably Limp Bizkit) would know, such terrible accidents highlight the risks associated with live concert-going in the alternate sphere, for bands and crowds alike. So how does a band with a reputation for some of the most chaotic moshes known to man balance this with a need to create a safe crowd environment?
“I’m not positive that there needs to be a change as such, outside of there being a better understanding of who needs to be where,” Campbell says, picking words carefully in his Southern drawl. “There are some rules that are in place, but are often ignored.
“Back when I was much younger and I would go to shows, I was in that pit, and in my day there was an understanding that you weren’t there to hurt each other,” he elaborates. “You were just there to jump around and act the fool, but also to look out for everybody. There was sense of community and it was an amazing thing. People could get hurt at shows, but we could also just as easily get hurt and break bones playing football with our friends. There are politics in any music scene. I remember seeing kids go in doing the karate kicks and throwing punches and that was definitely not in conjunction with how I thought things should be done. But before that, people used to pogo. Who am I to dictate how people should move? But it’s not about whooping someone’s arse.”
Without forgetting this dark mark in their career, Lamb Of God are now focussing their energy into more positive endeavours for the band’s future. And for a man whose band came this close to collapsing (had things gone a different way), John Campbell is one cool cucumber as he speaks about the band’s recovery and return to the stage.
“We just went back to what it is that we do! It was business as usual – we just got right back on the road,” says the seasoned metaller. “[Playing the first few shows] was an exhilarating and very happy but also bittersweet moment.”
Now that the Lamb Of God train is back on track, the band has steamed their way across the US and Europe and are about to head back to our Great Southern Land again for the first time since Soundwave 2012, bringing in tow the math-metal monstrosity that is Meshuggah – a tour Campbell feels is far overdue.
“Next to our home country, Australia is one of our favourite places to play and we’ve been wanting to tour with Meshuggah forever and trying to get our schedules to line up. To be able to put together a tour with them in Australia is incredibly exciting for us.”
Campbell’s declaration of love for the polyrhythm-prone Swedes doesn’t end there; he is quick to point to Meshuggah as one of today’s most important acts while speaking about the relevance of his own band in the ever-evolving scene.
“For us, the competition we face is all internal. We’re not really thinking about what other people are doing, for the most part, but of course there are some exceptions – for example, I think in the future Meshuggah are gonna influence absolutely everyone.”
That being said, it takes a certain kind of band to brave the tides of copycat bands and industry politics and emerge victorious to fly the flag of ‘Murican metal. So how have Lamb Of God kept the ball rolling year after year, without ever falling off the map?
“I’ve thought about this a lot and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s probably because we have one of the best looking and most intelligent and charming, and of course humble, bass players you’ll ever meet… with the best beard!” he says wryly – you can almost hear him winking through the phone.
Coming back down to earth, he lays the jokes aside and remembers his roots. “We never intended for this to become our jobs, we never expected to become this super-cool. We just wanted to write songs so that we could hop in a van and drive out of town to someone’s house and play at a party in their basement, then hop back in the van and go on to the next one and do all of that during our vacations from our shitty jobs.”
For Campbell though, it’s not just Lamb Of God that have won the long haul – it’s heavy metal itself. Somewhat echoing the message of Jack Black in Tenacious D’s track “The Metal”, he has little doubt that dark, aggressive and hard-hitting music will make it through the night.
“I’d like to think that there will always be people interested in it. Ever since Black Sabbath’s first record came out, metal has been going strong. When Kurt Cobain and Nirvana killed metal, it didn’t die, it just went underground. It adapted. I would like to think that if someone else comes along who threatens the state of heavy music it will only be like Obi Wan Kenobi – it will come along and make heavy metal stronger.”