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AS I LAY FORGIVING? An Opinion Piece, by Justin Wittenmeier.  

Added 12 March 2019, 1:54 PM
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As a reviewer/interviewer for Metal Temple, I feel it is my duty to remain impartial when speaking about/to the many bands I have covered.  However, I am using this opinion piece because I really feel like there is something growing within the Heavy Metal community, and well, music in general: judgment and how violence is viewed and ignored, while also be accepted, in music.  Please beware this is just my humble opinion and doesn’t represent Metal Temple as a whole.

Although I enjoy the band’s work that I have heard, I am not writing this out from the eyes of a fanboy or someone with a lot invested into the band—at best, I am a casual fan of this band.  What actually sparked the idea to write about this was the recent cancellation of an AS I LAY DYING show. The venue Growlers in Memphis, Tennessee canceled the show themselves—and I can’t blame them for that.  After all, they are a business and you can’t run a business if you ignore the people that give you the means to stay open.  After such an outcry from friends, local bands and patrons, they really didn’t have much of a choice in the matter, regardless of how the owners may or may not have felt about it.  My grievance and worry is with the people who out cried in the first place and others that have hold such a vehement problem with the band getting back together with vocalist Tim Lambesis.

He did something very bad, which was hiring a hitman to kill his wife although who turned out to be an undercover detective. Lambesis was, of course, arrested and found guilty of “Soliciting to murder,” and sentenced to 6 years in prison.   After serving two years, he was released on parole in 2016.  In no way am I condoning this—he without a doubt got what he deserved.  However, therein lies the problem: he got what he deserved.  He was judged in a court of law and found wanting then paid his debt to society.  I ask this: what right does anyone have to judge him once more now that he has gone through his trials and tribulations?    We have all done things we are not proud of.  Granted most of our regrets are not to the extremes as his past misgivings but none of us want to be constantly judged when we all we really want is to move on with our lives.  And I’m not pleading anyone to forgive him for what he did.  I’m asking that you forgive him as a musician.

It isn’t like Lambesis himself is making this hard–the man himself is the first to admit that he did wrong and that his punishment was just.  From the moment of release, Lambesis has thrown himself at the mercy of the industry and his fans but all they seem to be able to do is cast stones.   I’m just wondering where exactly is the line drawn?  Simply put, Lambesis is far from the first person in Metal, or music in general, to be convicted of a crime.  Need I remind everyone of Varg Vikernes from BURZUM or Jon Nodtveidt of DISSECTION?  Both of these men were convicted of actually killing someone yet where is the outcry about them?  Hell, Varg has turned down huge sums of money to reunite BURZUM, so the demand is still there despite his crimes. Nodtveidt is dead but DISSECTION was, and will always, remembered as a legendary band who helped from the pivotal Swedish Black Metal scene.   So why are these bands remembered fondly and still find consistent praise when Lambesis and AS I LAY DYING are having to fend off people with torches (so to speak)?  Is the the nature of the scenes? Obviously, both BURZUM and DISSECTION are far removed from the mainstream when compared to AS I LAY DYING.  Perhaps, due to the violent nature of Black Metal’s early days, people are more forgiving because it less surprising considering the often times misanthropic lyrics?

Speaking of lyrics, it isn’t like the band themselves promotes violence—the lyrics never spoke of ill will or spread hate.  I could understand “fans” being upset if the band released a concept album about a guy who kills his wife or if their lyrics put value on violence and mayhem but this simply isn’t the case.  On the other side of the coin, what about bands with violent lyrics, such as Brutal Death Metal?  So many bands of the genre have insanely sadistic lyrics but I seriously doubt their fans support any type of such violence.  I’m a fan of that that style and I tell you that I do not. You can’t say a person supports criminal acts of musicians by listening to them but ignore violence in lyrics.  You either believe neither are cause to support or both are.  You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

Lambesis, at one time, professed to be a Christian, so perhaps that is the point of contention for some people.  I’m assuming for those people who bark about his hypocritical values, they are Christians themselves…so isn’t a part of that religion to forgive and not judge people?  And if any of the out criers are not Christians, then why the hell do they care in the first place that he forsakes his values?

I also take issues with those who think going to see AS I LAY DYING or listening to their music is supporting murder. Simply put, that statement is beyond ridiculous. AILD fans don’t support murder anymore than fans of gangster rap support it.  CANNIBAL CORPSES’ Pat O'Brien was arrested for burglary and assaulting a police officer, I haven’t read anyone saying CC fans support violence against cops or doing the often violent acts depicted in their lyrics. How does it hurt a person in anyway that AS I LAY DYING are on the road touring?  If you feel that they shouldn’t have support then don’t go.  Show your non support through your wallet, not with continued hate that just perpetuates the cycle.   Why ruin it for everyone else?  The fans that continue to supply the band their income, are there for the band.  I seriously doubt there are fans that support them or find them badass now that they have black marks against their name.

However, in the end, isn’t it the music that matters?  Perhaps that is why other musicians both inside, and outside of Metal, still command respect for their music, if not for themselves.  AS I LAY DYING aren’t legends like a lot of the others with ill deeds among them but they shouldn’t be blocked from that chance. I think we should all dig deep, look inside ourselves, and try to understand that although he did wrong, Tim Lambesis has a right to try and salvage what he and his band mates in AS I LAY DYING started years ago. I’m not asking you to forgive the man or his past deeds.  I’m asking you to forgive him as a musician.

https://www.facebook.com/asilaydying/
Edited 05 December 2022
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