Not jumping aboard the freedom train

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I, like so many others in the metal community, were stunned to learn that Lamb of God frontman Randy Blythe had been arrested and detained by Czech police for an alleged incident at a gig in Prague in 2010. The suspicion: manslaughter, caused apparently during an incident with a fan who got up on stage and allegedly wound up in an altercation with Blythe. Whatever happened next isn’t evidently clear, but the fan died 14 days later from injuries sustained in the incident.

When not sniping on one another’s tastes and deciding what is tr00 and what is kvlt, metal fans are undoubtedly the closest of any genre. That’s why its unsurprisingly to see the outpouring of support for Blythe, with bloggers, writers, fans and musicians alike appearing united in the cry of ‘FREE RANDY BLYTHE!’ It’s only right that they do – in an age where you’re now often guilty and never innocent, and less often innocent before being proven guilty, it is all the more vital that we do believe that Blythe didn’t do anything, that he is exonerated of all charges; that he is once again, free.

But as Team America once said, ‘freedom isn’t free’. And the hefty fuckin’ fee is the sweet tune of €100,000, the money Blythe and his legal team have had to pay to see him released on bail – and to this day, he’s still being held because of Czech bail rules. That means he’s far from free yet. No doubt there’ll be plenty of stipulations in that bail agreement, one namely being he has to remain in the Czech Republic for the time being at the very least. And right now he doesn’t look like he’s getting off the hook that easy.

I’ve seen the video of the alleged incident (see below) numerous times and it’s really not any easier to call. Sure, the second stage dive in the video seems as though it appears that Randy (or security) gets hold of someone’s hair real good and slings them back into the crowd. Yet shortly after that, the same guy hops up on stage for a third time and then just appears to collapse and roll back into the crowd. Upon closer inspection, that kid gets hauled back by security, smacks his head on the railings and then falls headfirst onto the concrete floor behind the barrier.

Stage diving and moshing are often (pitifully) prohibited by club owners. If you clamber up on to the stage then you are taking a risk. Nobody is asking to be killed, but there’s every chance of being manhandled by security and occasionally the band because you keep going for more. Perhaps they don’t want your presence on stage. Who knows what you’re gonna pull?

What evidence is there to say that Blythe’s possible hurling of that guy even caused his death? In a packed crowd, you’re not likely to hit the floor unless there’s a parting of the seas. I mean, look at the way that bloke falls back into the crowd following his third stage climb. He wasn’t lacking the energy to hop up on stage but he was out cold when his head hit the railing. For me, and I’m sure many others, this has to be the moment things got bad for the victim.

The evidence to me is so clearcut that how any of these allegations against Blythe make sense at all defies belief. Even Blythe’s lawyer has said Czech authorities hadn’t notified American authorities about the incident, refuting Czech claims that they did. All that said, there’s seems to be a number of people witness to that particular gig who claim what they saw that night was potentially down to Blythe. And who knows, maybe the club’s owners are trying to get themselves off any proverbial hook by pinning the blame on Blythe. None of this we know. What we can summise is that the Czech police who made the arrest must have their reasons for accusing Blythe. Otherwise, why make such a high profile arrest?

Whatever reasoning they have for arresting Blythe, of which more will surely come out in the wash, is cause enough to not jump aboard the freedom train just yet. Sure, I believe Blythe is an innocent man. Sure, I don’t believe the evidence will stack up. Yet sure, only time will tell whether Blythe is found culpable. Hero worship should not get in the way – Blythe can be assumed innocent until proven guilty – but not proven innocent unless we hear otherwise. For that reason, I’ll refrain from excitedly hashtagging ‘FREE RANDY BLYTHE!’ until the day we hear that the charges have been dropped, because the rate at which this story keeps turning is unbelievable and will no doubt throw up many more things yet. And who knows if those charges will be dropped? Beliefs are fine; just not assumptions. I believe and I really do hope Blythe is cleared – I just cannot assume that true justice will out, for Blythe or the victim’s family.

Peter Clegg

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