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Book Review: Dark Days

Book Review: Dark Days


Dark Days: A Memoir
by D. Randall Blythe
Da Capo Press

Let’s kick off with a little empathy here. Or at least, let’s try. Imagine you’re traveling through Europe with your band, flying into one city after another, playing a gig and flying on to the next destination. You land in Prague, in the Czech Republic, and are unceremoniously whisked away from your crew by the local police and kept in a holding cell for killing a young man two years earlier, an event you have no recollection of. A date for the trial is set and, despite bail being paid (twice), you’re thrown in a filthy prison cell – not speaking the language, no knowledge of the Czech legal system and its weird intricacies, and still no memories of the crime in question.

Terrifying, huh? But that’s exactly what Randy Blythe, frontman with metal band lamb of god (lower case formatting deliberate, as dictated by Blythe), went through a couple of years ago. A 19-year-old fan, Daniel Nosek, died following injuries sustained at a lamb of god show. Witnesses said that Nosek had jumped onto the stage, and Blythe had pushed him off with unnecessary force. Nosek banged his head, fell into a coma and, later, died. It’s a tragedy – Nosek did what metal fans have been doing at shows for decades, and he died for it.

Blythe remembers none of this. He remembers a show with next-to-no security, despite the band spelling out what is required in their contracts with venues. Ditto barriers. He remembers wrestling with an over-zealous fan, but that guy turned out to be somebody else entirely, somebody very much alive. More importantly, the various witnesses all offered conflicting testimony so, tragically, we still don’t truly, accurately know what happened to Daniel.

What we do know is that musicians shouldn’t have to act as their own security when they’re in the middle of performing. If Blythe did push that young man from the stage, he did it out of a sense of responsibility for those on stage, as well as for self-preservation. As he points out, metal guitarist Dimebag Darrell of the bands Pantera and DamagePlan was shot and killed while performing on stage by a crazy fan just a few years prior. That changed the mindset of many musicians.

So Dark Days is Blythe’s memoir, his retelling of the whole Godawful experience from his arrest through to his eventual release, and finally his relief when the prosecution’s appeals were thrown out of court. Blythe is, as it turns out, a gifted writer. We’ll never know what it was really like in Pankrác, but Blythe offers some seriously deep insight into the surroundings and his own state of mind. We can all relate to his very natural fears of being violently assaulted, although nothing like that ever happened. He vivid description of showering with a very sick man, colostomy bag included, is brutally frank – sights and smells. His rollercoaster ride of emotions is all detailed and, by the end, we don’t feel like we were in the cell with him but we do at least get an honest flavor of it all. Through everything, Blythe never tries to turn his back on any responsibility that might be his, and that’s most impressive of all.

Blythe’s experiences are so unique for someone in his position that Dark Days is unlike any rock memoir previously published. It’s a fascinating, unsettling and ultimately satisfying read, and one that people who have no interest in metal music can enjoy as much as the more hardcore fans of lamb of god. Recommended.


Brett Calwood
Brett Callwood is an English journalist, copy writer, editor and author, currently living and working in Los Angeles. He is the music editor with the LA Weekly. He was previously a reporter at the Longmont Times-Call and Daily Camera, the music editor at the Detroit Metro Times and editor-in-chief at Yellow Scene magazine. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brett_Callwood

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