With a killer new album and an explosive live stream tonight, Lamb of God’s always-informed vocalist D. Randall Blythe talks COVID, conspiracy theorists, and what can be done now to help the music industry.
As it has been for most of the planet, 2020 has been a wicked roller coaster ride for heavy metal titans Lamb of God.
Their new, self-titled album was first scheduled to be released on May 8, until the coronavirus pandemic delayed the release by five weeks. The album was ultimately released on June 19, but not surprisingly, their highly-anticipated tour with Megadeth was canceled.
Suddenly, after coming off a 5-year hiatus of their own, Lamb of God found themselves indefinitely grounded, right as they were gearing up for lift off.
Prior to the tour being cancelled, vocalist Randy Blythe told The Aquarian, “If this situation is not contained sooner, I can guarantee you the Megadeth tour won’t be happening, [and] I think it would be insanely futile to schedule something right now and say, ‘Yup, this is going to happen,’ because we don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Fast-forward to the present, and sadly, we all now know what happened: Blythe’s worst fear—that the situation would not be contained—came true. But as AQ spoke with Blythe in March, as he sat on the back deck of his home in Richmond, Virginia and the COVID-19 pandemic began hitting the United States in earnest, we found the 49-year-old-growler not tripping out too hard just as of yet. Nonetheless, Blythe was clearly displeased with “the morons you see at the beach on spring break,” as he put it, and the country’s partisan and disturbingly political divide on social distancing.
“People need to take the social distancing stuff seriously,” he said, “because the fact is, this is only going to get worse and it’s only gonna get worse rapidly and we don’t have the capacity within our healthcare infrastructure to handle all the people that are going to get sick. That’s just a fact.”
The sharp-as-a-tack Blythe continued, stating that “We have less hospital beds per person than Italy does per capita and they’re overloaded. People are dying. We have to take this shit really seriously. All the conspiracy theory kooks and all that other shit… just shut the fuck up and stay inside…. I’m going to listen to the CDC and the World Health Organization before I’m going to listen to some dip shit on Facebook. You know, all it’s doing is spreading panic. If people observe protocols and start keeping some distance from other people, we’ll be able to slow the spread of this thing, because it’s gonna spike soon. The numbers are already increasing.”
And increase, and increase even more, they did. At the time of our conversation, there were nearly 5,500 confirmed COVID cases and 20 reported deaths; as of this publication there are now 7 million confirmed cases and 203,000 deaths nationwide. In just 8 months, the disease set the United States on a path towards unprecedented devastation. But as shocking as the statistics are, so are the amount of Americans who deny the virus even exists. Perhaps its driven by a desire for control, and to maintain order and self-image. But, it’s hard to comprehend what is worse, truthfully. Blythe, however, offers a possible explanation.
“People are like, ‘Oh, the federal government is using this as a way to control our movements,’ and all this other shit. Or, they think the economic elite are doing this. And it’s like, that’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of, because what do the people in power want? They want a healthy, viable working consumer class so that business can go on as usual. So if everybody is too sick to go to fucking Walmart and buy shit, everything is going to fall to pieces. It’s just utterly ridiculous…. People [are] offering different opinions, you know? Stuff like, ‘I hear this cures [that]!’ You don’t know shit. We don’t have a cure for this right now. What we need to do is arrest the spread of it.”
While releasing an album in the middle of a pandemic is by no means ideal, it has presented bands with the opportunity to get creative in how they bring new material and new experiences to the fans—especially without pretending something such as a live stream is something it is very much not—a live, in-person performance.
But in person or not, the first of two world-wide live streams last week confirmed yet again that Lamb of God are absolute beasts on stage, a fact that has played no small part in what has made the group universally revered. In addition to pummeling through Lamb of God in its entirety with blade-like precision, the band also performed “512” from 2015’s VII: Sturm Und Drang, “Contractor” from 2009’s Wrath, which Blythe introduced as being “a punk rock song,” as well as a new composition: “The Death of Us,” written while the band was quarantined and is featured on the soundtrack to Bill & Ted Face the Music. Tonight, in addition to fan favorites, the band will perform their classic LP Ashes of the Wake in its entirety.
Besides the new music and live streams, Lamb of God also found other ways to remain active while in lockdown: they celebrated the release of Ghost Walker, the world’s first non-alcoholic beer collaboration with Scottish craft brewer BrewDog. Meanwhile, Lamb of God became the band’s fifth consecutive album to debut in the Top 20 of The Billboard 200. But small victories notwithstanding, Blythe already knew in March that the music industry’s road to recovery would be long and hard.
“Everybody in the business has been taken a fucking hard bath right now. People are losing a lot of money, including my band,” he says candidly.
“But you know, I’m not complaining about my band [being] in need of money, or whatever, because I have a bit of a financial cushion. I’m not a millionaire, but I’m pretty smart with my money. I don’t live extravagantly. But there are younger bands who are just starting to do this thing for a living who have had to fly back from Europe on ludicrously expensive tickets. And forget about all of the merch that they already printed, forget about the airline costs, forget about some of the hotel costs that they already paid deposits on. You pay this stuff out pretty well in advance if you want to reserve things.
It’s hurting a lot of people, so for me, I’m not gonna say ‘Support Lamb of God and buy a Lamb of God t-shirt!’ because that’s fucking stupid. Lamb of God is going to be alright. I think the people that want to support artists, they should support the smaller bands right now. They should buy their merch, buy their music. And I think in general, that’s what people need to be doing right now is helping the little guy. Those of us who have some money or have the ability to raise money for people should be doing that right now. You know, people should not be fucking hoarding toilet paper and all that shit just because they have the money to buy 30 rolls of toilet paper. That’s stupid. People need to start helping out the little guy.”
Click here to watch tonight’s live stream with Lamb of God, performing Ashes of the Wake in its entirety, plus other fan favorites!