Review: Dark Days: A Memoir – D. Randall Blythe

dark days randy blythe book cover

SYNOPSIS: Lamb of god vocalist D. Randall Blythe finally tells the whole incredible story of his arrest, incarceration, trial, and acquittal for manslaughter in the Czech Republic over the tragic and accidental death of a concertgoer in this riveting, gripping, biting, bold, and brave memoir.

On June 27, 2012, the long-running, hard-touring, and world-renowned metal band lamb of god landed in Prague for their first concert there in two years. Vocalist D. Randall “Randy” Blythe was looking forward to a few hours off—a rare break from the touring grind—in which to explore the elegant, old city. However, a surreal scenario worthy of Kafka began to play out at the airport as Blythe was detained, arrested for manslaughter, and taken to Pankrác Prison—a notorious 123-year-old institution where the Nazis’ torture units had set up camp during the German occupation of then-Czechoslovakia, and where today hundreds of prisoners are housed, awaiting trial and serving sentences in claustrophobic, sweltering, nightmare-inducing conditions.

Two years prior, a 19-year-old fan died of injuries suffered at a lamb of god show in Prague, allegedly after being pushed off stage by Blythe, who had no vivid recollection of the incident. Stage-crashing and -diving being not uncommon occurrences, as any veteran of hard rock, metal, and punk shows knows, the concert that could have left him imprisoned for years was but a vague blur in Blythe’s memory, just one of the hundreds of shows his band had performed over their decades-long career.

At the time of his arrest Blythe had been sober for nearly two years, having finally gained the upper hand over the alcoholism that nearly killed him. But here he faced a new kind of challenge: jailed in a foreign land and facing a prison sentence of up to ten years. Worst of all, a young man was dead, and Blythe was devastated for him and his family, even as the reality of his own situation began to close in behind Pankrác Prison’s glowering walls of crumbling concrete and razor wire.

What transpired during Blythe’s incarceration, trial, and eventual acquittal is a rock ‘n’ roll road story unlike any other, one that runs the gamut from tragedy to despair to hope and finally to redemption. While never losing sight of the sad gravity of his situation, Blythe relates the tale of his ordeal with one eye fixed firmly on the absurd (and at times bizarrely hilarious) circumstances he encountered along the way. Blythe is a natural storyteller and his voice drips with cutting humor, endearing empathy, and soulful insight. Much more than a tour diary or a prison memoir, Dark Days is D. Randall Blythe’s own story about what went down—before, during, and after—told only as he can. – via Goodreads

GRADE 7I have been waiting to get my hands on this book since I heard it was coming, and recently my friend acquired a copy and so graciously lent it to me to soak it all in. Randy Blythe’s arrest and subsequent trial was a pretty big thing in the metal community, and there wasn’t really an awful lot of information to peruse when it was all going down, so my people and I basically got some scraps to understand bits and pieces of what happened. Finally, there was a book to be far more enlightening on the topic. Not long after Blythe’s incarceration and trial, we were very fortunate to have Lamb of God tour South Africa (which is a fucking huge deal for us – we never get anything or anyone down here) as the last leg of their Resolution tour, and it was a fantastic gig. Blythe commented on the barricade at the gig, telling us to make sure it wasn’t wrecked, taken down, trashed, etc. and that we should please not be up on stage, that he really didn’t want to end up in another foreign prison. We laughed, but it was a serious thing for him. Reading this book, you get a detailed look at just how rough the ordeal was. I appreciated the humour that Randy was able to convey in this memoir, even though what he went through was no laughing matter. Dark humour, a lot of it, but I like that. I really had to laugh at how Blythe talks about how he can take a situation and it can just blow out of proportion in his mind (I think we all do that – things can get crazy), and it comes up time and time again throughout the book, which is great. Also, the writing style comes across as gruff but brutally honest, and I have always thought Blythe to be both exceptionally bright and well written/spoken, and that shines through while reading this memoir. The bulk of the book deals with Blythe’s incarceration in Pankrác prison and the frustrations of an inept legal system. This section of the book was the bulk of the book, and carried on longer than was strictly necessary. His arrest and and trial are both not covered in extreme detail, but tell you enough to know how the trial played out, and how confusing his arrest was, and his exoneration at the end and what that meant for him. There are times that Blythe comes across as quite cavalier about the whole experience, but this is addressed by him in the book. Definitely worth a read and I would read more of his work, Blythe is a good writer. A little long-winded and preachy at times, and there were quite a few grammatical and spelling errors throughout the book that annoyed me (surely someone should have picked this up when editing?), but not constantly. I think the book could have been tightened up a bit more, but it is not a deal breaker. Also, I really wish we had heard more about what the rest of the band was doing during Blythe’s incarceration. I understand him not wanting to share too much about his family and all, but some more details about the band would have been appreciated. I loved the fact that Blythe had kept a journal while in prison, that documented everything, so there were not chunks of the book where he was like “I don’t know what happened over the next few weeks”, etc. because it was all there. I also liked the excerpts from his entries that were printed, as well as the photos and drawings. I truly enjoyed this book, and I would recommend checking it out, whether you are a metalhead or not.

7 thoughts on “Review: Dark Days: A Memoir – D. Randall Blythe

    1. It was a crazy story! Yeah, didn’t think this would get an awful lot of publicity due to the type of music scene Blythe is from – not a pop king, so we thought it may fly under the radar. There was hardly any news to pull up from it online even.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. After reading your post, I think I remember a very small mention in the news at the time. Forgot all about it! Have to admit I know none of their music myself, though. : )

        Liked by 1 person

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