Lamb Of God’s Randy Blythe: My life in 10 songs

From run-ins with the law to reflections on his home state of Virginia, Lamb Of God frontman Randy Blythe looks back over more than two decades on metal’s most cutting edge…

Lamb Of God’s Randy Blythe: My life in 10 songs
Sam Law

Beneath the ear-gouging tumult of his sonic output, Randy Blythe is one of modern metal’s greatest thinkers. From the crustiest corners of California’s squatter scene to the depths of the Czech prison to which he was confined following manslaughter charges in 2012, life has found a way of presenting dark, chaotic challenges to the indomitable Virginia native. Bloodied but unbowed, however, he’s learned to separate experience from hurt, contemplatively absorbing every lesson and relaying them to his listeners through evocative, empowering lyrics.

From Body Count and Cannabis Corpse to Deafheaven and Gojira, he’s collaborated with some of heavy music’s biggest hitters over the last three decades. Tasked with telling his story, though, selections are lifted solely from the discography of main concern Lamb Of God. These are the snapshots, he gestures, backstage at Indianapolis’ massive TCU Amphitheater, with the greatest insight into the hard-won evolution and indignant darkness that drive his brutally beautiful mind…

Lamb Of God – O.D.H.G.A.B.F.E.(New American Gospel, 2000)

Following their transformation from Burn The Priest into Lamb Of God, this snarling ode to police brutality confirmed that the NWOAHM figureheads were only going to crank up the sonic violence.

“I’ll start with last track from our first album as Lamb Of God. Those letters stand for ‘Officer Dick Head Gets A Black Fucking Eye’. The song wasn’t actually named by me – that just started out as a working title – but because of the working title, I wrote it about an experience that I had squatting in San Francisco in lower Haight-Ashbury. The cops came and moved us all out of this abandoned building one night, into the back of a paddy-wagon. There were a few people – not me – raising hell in there, so they tear-gassed the truck. I was freaking out, trying to work my handcuffs around my feet to get my hands in front of me. They opened the van door just as I was doing that, and this woman just grabbed me, yanked me out onto the floor and beat the shit out of me. That was an, uh, pleasant experience. I was so scared that I just started laughing. This isn’t even really an anti-cop [song]. It’s really just about that one bitch. It’s never a good feeling to be handcuffed and have someone beat the shit out of you.”

Lamb Of God – Blood Junkie(As The Palaces Burn, 2003)

America would change forever in the wake of 9/11, and Lamb Of God were amongst the loudest voices attempting to hold the war-hungry Washington establishment accountable…

“This was a song written in the post-9/11 period about the horrific impact that that event had. It’s about the ensuing war in the Middle East that G. W. Bush continued on in his father’s footsteps, with all the nonsense they spun about ‘Weapons Of Mass Destruction’. It was a very distressing time. Whenever there is a tragedy, there is someone who will profit off of it. Bush, Cheney, and their murderous apparatus certainly did. I think that they should both be charged as war criminals. In 2022, after the lunacy of [the Trump presidency], some people are like, ‘Remember old G. W.? He seemed like a good guy!’ But he wasn’t. Fuck him.”

Lamb Of God – Omerta(Ashes Of The Wake, 2004)

This classic 2004 cut marked a convergence between Randy’s need for justice and honour and his fascination with the Sicilian mafia.

“I love all mob movies, but I really love the Godfather movies – much to my girlfriend’s Italian-American chagrin. I don’t glorify organised crime, thinking specifically about the Cosa Nostra in America and Sicily, but one thing that really interested me was the code of omerta – the code of silence – where you don’t go to the authorities, you handle things yourself. I’m not saying that I strictly adhere to that code, but normally when I’ve been involved with the authorities, it’s not ended up well for me. Also, I find it admirable in today’s particularly litigious age – this whiny, whingeing, soft time – when people always seem to want to blame someone else. Handle your shit yourself. People always ask where I got the [iconic spoken] beginning of the song, they’re like, ‘Is this a real statement from the mafia?!’, but it’s just something I put together from things that I’d heard and read.”

Lamb Of God – Remorse Is For The Dead(Ashes Of The Wake, 2004)

One of Ashes Of The Wake’s great shapeshifting highlights drew from the filth, fury and grotty good times of one of the wildest punk houses Randy ever called home.

“I have lived in many, many punk houses over the years. By far, the most disgusting of those was known as Dirtbag Manor – a place of extreme drinking, drugging and womanising. The kitchen was utterly foul, so I barely ever cooked food in it. It was also infested with roaches and rats. We used to just look around at all the filth and laugh, quoting The Princess Bride as we said, ‘We can’t believe we actually pay money to live here, wallowing in freakish misery.’ Remorse Is For the Dead is just drawn from various insane things that happened in that house. Dirtbag Manor lives!”

Lamb Of God – Foot To The Throat(Sacrament, 2006)

Although he is hardly a fan of its status as capital of the Confederacy and warmongering past, Randy holds great pride in his home state of Virginia, often ruminating on how it’s shaped him…

“This is a song I wrote after looking at the State Seal of the great state of Virginia, which – along with North Carolina – is where I grew up. Being a Virginian has certainly shaped my identity. The state motto is in there: ‘Thus always to tyrants.’ There’s a perception of the ‘Southern gentility’ there, but it’s really one long history of warfare. And there’s a lot of history there. A lot. We are where the United States started. Jamestown was the first permanent settlement by the English – and Mark Morton actually grew up just a stone’s throw away from Jamestown – and everywhere you look is steeped in American history. That may be a short history compared to some other countries’, but it’s all a matter of perspective.”

Lamb Of God – Reclamation(Wrath, 2009)

Starting with the sound of waves lapping against the Virginia coast, Reclamation was originally intended to be an instrumental, but grew into a furious environmentalist classic.

“Reclamation is about what I foresee, and countless cultures have prophesied: that our constant encroachment upon – and destruction of – the natural environment will eventually result in the Earth destroying us. The planet is our host organism, but instead of having a symbiotic relationship with it like we did in primitive times, humans are now acting solely as a malevolent parasite. And like any good host body, the Earth will eventually eradicate that parasite – even if we strip it entirely of life first, which we’re well on our way to doing. The song came about one day when I had a sort of a vision: I was sitting there in Richmond, looking at Downtown, and I just saw it in flames. As Werner Herzog would say, it was a vision that ‘the harmony of overwhelming and collective murder had descended’. How do I think the apocalypse will come about? There are a few possibilities. Right now it seems that we’re back in the Cold War. It’s an era that feels very reminiscent of my youth. I don’t think many young people today grew up like I did, which was feeling 100 per cent assured that we were all going to be blown to shit by nuclear weapons. There’s obviously the plague option, too. Or, there’s the possibility of horrific natural disasters. America is burning. The sea levels are rising. I always find it strange when people dispute global warming and these things, because they’re proven scientific fact!”

Lamb Of God – King Me(Resolution, 2012)

After years of rampant hell-raising, the decision to get sober was transformative for Randy, but it also led to a bittersweetness when he stumbled upon the ghosts of the past.

“This is one of the songs I’m proudest of, lyrically, which chronicles an important part of my existence. It was written maybe not even a year after I’d gotten sober, when I was taking a look at myself, trying to clear some of the wreckage of my past. We were recording in New York, and I did a lot of walking around the city at night. I’d go to places that had a lot of history for me: places where I did a lot of drinking and a lot of drugging. There is a part of the song specifically about CBGB’s, where I was walking down the Bowery one night and I looked at this building and thought, ‘I know this place!’ It was a men’s clothing place where CBGB’s had once been. I looked in the window and I could still see the bar and smell the beer. In my mind, I could still remember the times that we had there. It was a very important place in our musical history. It’s in the lines: ‘I keep walking past the places I was born in / Now their faces are blank, shiny, and dead…’ As I was writing the lyrics in the studio, though, I realised that I couldn’t afford to romanticise those times too much, otherwise I could slip back into them. It’s about trying to be a better person and resisting romanticising unhealthy aspects of your own past. Yes, now a lot of those places are shiny and dead, where once they were so dirty and alive, but that life was killing me!”

Lamb Of God – 512(VII: Sturm und Drang, 2015)

The painful story of Randy’s imprisonment and manslaughter trial following the death of young fan Daniel Nosek in Prague in 2010 hardly needs to be retold at this point, but the classic 512 – named after Randy’s cell number – remains a potent reminder to never take things for granted.

“It’s pretty well known that 512 is a song that was written partially while I was in prison. It’s about the mental shift you undergo when you enter a large correctional facility for you-don’t-know-how-long. Is it a song that I’ve got a particularly complex relationship with? I mean, this year I’ve had people coming up to remark on how it’s 10 years since I went to prison like it’s a record-release anniversary, or saying ‘Happy 512 Day’ on May 12. [Those memories aren’t] something I celebrate. But it’s a song that I like playing. People like it. It reminds me to be grateful to be where I am right now. I don’t dwell on the past because life only exists right here in this very moment. But it’s foolish to forget the past and to not be grateful for any progress that you may have made, or to forget the lessons that the past may have taught you.”

Lamb Of God – Poison Dream(Lamb Of God, 2020)

Randy has made a career of tapping the metaphorical poison in his veins, but he’s probably had some of the more literal stuff pumping around inside, too. One of the most powerful cuts from 2020’s self-titled album saw him reckoning on the vulgar sacrifice of people’s well-being for profit.

“Poison Dream came about when I realised that every single place that I have ever lived has suffered from horrific water pollution. I was born in Fort Meade, Maryland on an army base where there have been a lot of stories in recent years about industrial waste in the water supply. The Cape Fear region in North Carolina, where I grew up, turned out to have a plant upstream just pumping poison in the water – to the point where I bought my mom and brother water purification systems that could be installed into their homes. In Richmond, we have the James River which was polluted for years with the insecticide Kepone. There was even a local band called Kepone. Jamey Jasta features on that song because I know that up in Connecticut there’s a plant that just keeps putting stuff in the river, too, that’s caused birth defects and cancers. It’s an environmental song, once again. I have a friend in the EPA, and I [talk to him about] how it’s crazy that they keep trying to deregulate all of this stuff for the sake of money. Money doesn’t matter if your grandchildren are born with three eyes, or half an arm! Money is not everything.”

Lamb Of God – Nevermore(Omens, 2022)

Quoth the Randy, ‘Nevermore…’ The lead single from new album Omens imagines what fellow Richmond native Edgar Allan Poe would’ve made of the city’s ongoing history.

“Nevermore is the first track off our new album. It’s specifically about the city of Richmond, Virginia from the beginning of the Revolutionary War until now, imagined as if seen through the eyes of Edgar Allan Poe. Poe was actually raised in the city from when he was a baby. His mother was an actress who died when he was maybe just two years old. She was a much-liked member of society, but ended up buried in an unmarked grave because her profession was deemed disreputable. But Poe was still raised there. He got his first writing gigs there, for a paper called the Southern Literary Messenger. There’s a lot of dark history in the city – it had the second-largest slave market in America after New Orleans – right in an area called Shockoe Bottom, which is where Richmond started. There’s an African burial ground that was under a parking lot for years. There’s the site where they hung the slave Gabriel Prosser who was trying to incite a rebellion before the civil war. There are also references to Patrick Henry giving the famous ‘Give me liberty or give me death speech’ up in St John’s Church on Church Hill. The song goes from that history on up to the unrest of the summer of 2020 which I was out there documenting with my camera. What would Poe have made of that recent history? I think he would have been as sardonic and cool-witted as he always was. He could be a pretty biting social critic!”

Lamb Of God’s new album Omens is out now via Nuclear Blast

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