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Lamb of God guitarist on the band and heavy metal

Lamb of God guitarist on the band and heavy metal

Band joins Slayer, Testament and Napalm Death on TU Center bill
Lamb of God guitarist on the band and heavy metal
Heavy metal group Lamb of God, with bass player John Campbell at far right.
Photographer: photo provided

On Wednesday, the Times Union Center is turning up the volume.

In an evening filled with nothing but the heaviest of metal, the venue will feature icons of the genre such as Slayer, Lamb of God, Testament, Anthrax and Napalm Death. 

It’s Slayer’s last tour, and Lamb of God has joined with the thrash metal band. 

Lamb of God formed in 1994 as Burn The Priest. Band members Randy Blythe, Christ Adler, Mark Morton, Willie Adler and John Campbell got together after attending Virginia Commonwealth University. Their latest album harkens to their history as well as the history of others on the heavy metal scene. With the release of “Legion XX,” they’re returning to their roots, with their initial name Burn The Priest and featuring covers of songs by bands such as Cro-Mags, Bad Brains, Big Black, Ministry, Melvins and others. 

Shortly before the band headed to Albany, The Gazette sat down with bassist John Campbell to talk about metal, then and now.

Q: When you guys first formed, were you hoping to change the direction metal [was going in]?

A: When we first formed metal was a bad word. We didn’t form with any thoughts that we would be changing heavy metal or anything like that, we were just making songs that we wanted to make. When we were first starting to book shows for ourselves we would call people up and say "Hey, we’re a metal band. We’ve got a demo we’d like to send you and we’d like to play a party." People would pretty much say "No, that’s alright. Thanks." Then we would call back the same number a couple of weeks later and say "Hey, we’re a punk metal band and we’d love to play your party. Can we send you a demo?" If we threw in punk they would let us send them a demo. When we started we were just making the noise we wanted to make, [which] was heavy metal and that was a bad word. 

Q: Why do you think that was?

A: Well, Kurt Cobain killed what was considered metal at that time, and I guess metal got a little ahead of itself with the hairspray and the spandex. It was kind of laughable, to be honest. I [grew] up listening to D.C. Hardcore, which was a version of punk rock at the time, and somewhat with blinders on, ignored what metal was. I would hear Def Leppard and Poison and Skid Row, and to me, if that’s metal, you can keep your metal. I think Kurt Cobain came along and changed what was going on in music dramatically and the weakness that was mainstream metal died off. 

Q: What bands influenced you at the start?

A: All of us came in with different influences. Randy and I were the punk rock side, while Chris and Willy and Mark were more for the metal side. Although Mark would definitely run the gamut of punk and many other forms of music. But what was really inspirational to us as a band in the early days were the local bands that Richmond had. [They] were incredible bands that had no intention of doing anything other than playing locally. No one thought there was any chance of real commercial success, so it was really done with passion. Artistically, the city of Richmond at that time was populated heavily by people who went to Virginia Commonwealth University, which was a really big art school back in the day. In the band scene, you had to be good or people would completely ignore you. Richmond was known at the time for the crowds being incredibly difficult if you sucked. The way you could tell if the crowds liked you was if their arms were folded across their chest and they were nodding their head to the time of the music and paying any sort of attention to you. So the bar was set really high to get a reaction out of people. The bands specifically are bands like Sliang Laos, and a ton of other bands in the Richmond scene were very influential [for] us. [On "Legion: XX"] we covered some of the more mainstream punk rock tunes that influenced us but we were able to throw in “Axis Rod,” which was a Sliang Laos song. That was a huge inspiration for us, and it’s great that on this latest record we were able to include this completely unknown band outside of Richmond and a certain era, to play their music and give it more legs. 

Q: You did a lot of reimaging and paying homage to all these other bands [on “Legion XX”]. What led to that?

A: We’ve been talking about doing a cover record forever. As the 20th anniversary of the BURN THE PRIEST record was coming around, I believe it was Mark [who] had the original idea that this was the time to do it. Early [on], there was talk of doing this as a Richmond-based thing and cover old Richmond bands. Unfortunately in the real world, record companies don’t want to pay for a cover record of bands that no one had ever heard of. So we took this one song we said "Let’s throw this one song we all love and have talked about playing forever, and then take songs that were big and influential for us at that time period. Let’s have fun with this."

Q: You’ve answered this question before, but how did the name change happen? 

A: Basically, as Burn The Priest people thought we were a satanic band and as a group, it was kinda frustrating that we were putting all this effort, time and energy into this project that people would write off and say "Oh, they’re just a satanic band." When we were getting ready to sign to Prosthetic Records, we decided as a group that that was the time to make a change and to go the other way with it, and Lamb of God would be the way to go. 

Q: Back in college and high school, did you ever imagine that this would be your career?

A: No way. We were stoked that we convinced some dude in Ohio to let us play his house party on the strength of a four-song demo tape we sent him. Not expected at all. I mean, our goal was to write a set that we could then go play and jaws would hit the floor. That’s been the underlying motivation for our entire career. We got really lucky at the time. There was that new wave of American heavy metal and we coincided with a bunch of other bands coming up with similar interests. 

Q: What have been your favorite cities to tour in over the years?

A: I appreciate hitting places like Vegas or anywhere there might be a casino nearby if I have a couple of bucks in my pocket to play around. But really, when you get onstage, what city you’re in doesn’t matter. It’s really about the crowd there and honestly, that’s my focus all day long is the set that we’re going to play. It’s nice to get days off here and there, but sometimes those are nothing but sleep days. Touring outside the U.S. can be nice. Probably the best touring I’ve ever been able to do outside of the U.S. was touring Australia with Metallica. We would be in each city for a week and have days off.  

Q: How long do you guys ideally like to have in between shows?

A: Days off are expensive. You’re still paying for the bus and the crew. Those costs don’t stop because you’re not playing. We like to play as many shows as we can get in during the week. But sometimes it can be brutal. On this last run, we played in Orlando and then the next day we played in Montreal and then the next day we played in Houston. That was kind of a brutal three-day run. But that was towards the end of the tour, everybody was warmed up, [and] the rock neck had subsided. The first week of a tour, especially if we haven’t toured in a while, can be rough. Standing around like a tough guy playing onstage kills your quads. So for the first three or four days after this last run started, I was having a little bit of a hard time picking my legs up to walk upstairs. Then, you know, with rock neck you get a bit of a stiff neck for a few days, but it goes away. I consider myself lucky to be able to do this and that’s what I’m sitting around all day waiting to do. It might beat me up a little bit, but I’ve still got some youth left in me. 

Slayer, Lamb of God, Testament, Anthrax and Napalm Death

WHEN: 5 p.m., Wed. 
WHERE: Times Union Center
TICKETS: $29.75-79.75
MORE INFO: timesunioncenter-albany.com
 

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