While shooting a documentary about Lamb of God's rabid fans around the world, director Don Argott stumbled into heavy drama when the group's singer, Randy Blythe, was arrested for manslaughter in the Czech Republic after the death of a fan at a 2010 concert.
About a third of the way into the 90-minute documentary, "As the Palaces Burn," Blythe is detained, and the film's focus shifts to covering the trial in Prague with behind-the-scenes footage of the defense preparing to face a three-judge panel. One gets a clear sense of the trauma for the group (not so much for the family of the deceased) as Blythe's fellow band members wonder if their livelihood is about to go up in smoke. Meanwhile, the singer, who had only recently found sobriety, ponders the loss of his freedom just as his life is gaining renewed focus. It was an international story that seemed to hold ramifications for the concert industry as a whole.
With such high stakes at play, the film has no problem holding the audience's attention. We get a detailed depiction of how the trial played out, with contradictory witness accounts and video footage being discredited. There are genuinely moving moments as well, including the uncle of the fan delivering a statement in court, and Blythe's simple and direct closing statement of regret over the tragedy.
It's a compelling film, but one with untapped potential. Argott could have delved deeper into the deceased fan's life. So, too, Blythe's own character —someone who would willingly choose to face a decade in a foreign prison in order to "walk the talk" of his art — could have been more fully explored. Instead we have a film with a false start that suddenly launches into a much more interesting story. "As the Palaces Burn" opens this month in 25 countries and plays locally at Movieland at Boulevard Square from Feb. 27 to Mar. 1 (see theater for times).