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As the Palaces Burn director Don Argott initially meant to shoot As the Palaces Burn as a “band-centric” documentary on heavy metal band Lamb of God meant to show metal’s far-reaching sense of community.
“The first shot of the movie, he’s walking down by the river, he’s got a jacket that says ‘Loser’ on the back — he’s like the archetype of the heavy metal scumbag, like, ‘Here comes trouble,'” describes Randy Blythe, Lamb of God frontman.
The group’s manager, Larry Mazer, presented the idea to Argott, and they began reaching out to fans via a contest on the band’s Facebook page — but didn’t really see much for the film beyond that. But when Lamb of God was en route to the Czech Republic, they were stopped at the airport and told that Blythe was under arrest. What followed was a year of confusion, overseas court battles and overwhelming support from fans all over.
“It totally changed the scope of what we were doing, but it’s certainly a much more interesting story than the original idea,” Argott tells The Hollywood Reporter.
Blythe then spent a month in a Czech prison and was released on the condition he returned to testify in court and eventually prove his innocence. The victim in question was 19-year-old fan, Daniel Nosek, who died from a head injury sustained at a Lamb of God show in 2010. Blythe wasn’t taken into custody until his return in 2012 and was finally acquitted in 2013. While no one is exactly sure how Nosek died, Blythe and the rest of the band proved the metal-head stereotype wrong in As the Palaces Burn, which includes heartfelt, emotional moments over the loss of a fan.
Following Bythe’s arrest, the band decided to move forward with the documentary, changing its original focus to include the trial and to show what the metal community is actually like. While many see lumbering Neanderthals, Argott is the first to point out that Blythe did what most people wouldn’t, by returning to the Czech Republic for the trial and potentially face a ten-year sentence.
“With everything that had gone down, he does the right thing — he goes back,” Argott says. “You know how many people, while we were making the film they were like, ‘I’d never go back,’ and I think that’s really telling.”
As the Palaces Burn gives non-metal fans a glimpse into the life of one of the genre’s biggest bands while simultaneously illustrating what its community is really all about.
As Argott sees it, “I do think that this type of music is about empowerment — it’s about railing against the system, it’s about trying to figure out your own identity, it’s about finding out who you are as an individual as opposed to who you are in the herd.”
Rather than head straight to DVD, Lamb of God and 914 Pictures is partnering with Specticast to release the film not only in theaters, but at converted music venues as well. Theatrical releases will also include 30 minutes of bonus footage that includes a Q&A with the band.
The doc premieres in Philadelphia on Feb. 16 at the Trocadero, with Argott and Lamb of God present to announce the film, followed by a limited release through March.
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