It has been a few weeks since As I Lay Dying vocalist Tim Lambesis was arrested for attempting to hire a hitman to kill his wife. Today is the first time in this stretch of days that I’ve listened to the band.
When I heard about this incident, a part of me died inside. I was horrified. As I Lay Dying is my favorite metal band, and earlier this year, I declared on Facebook that they are currently the best metal band in the world. I no longer possessed the same fire that this band once gave me. But in a metal scene that is often full of anger, blame, and individuality, this incident has changed how I look at this genre of music, and even music in general.
For many years of my life, I hated metal. My friends and I were big fans of hard rock and a lot of alternative music, especially Christian artists such as Skillet, Flyleaf, and Relient K. But as my friends eventually ventured into heavier zones, where The Devil Wears Prada, Underoath, and a band named As I Lay Dying roamed, I was filled with disgust. “How could they like music that fills you with such negativity? How could these bands be powered by the word of God?” I said. I didn’t understand.
However, a few years later, something changed inside of me. I decided to give metal music a chance. Now, I can’t even believe where this change has led me.
The next few years are a bit of a blur to me, as so many things happened that molded me as a person. But seeing the progression of my own being come into who I am today brings me to tears. I used to be the person who judged things without examining them, without understanding the real depth to people, music, and ideals. Today, I am a person who has been given the strength to forgive, accept, and support. The only other thing that parallels this is my taste in music, and I love metal music more than anything in the world. It’s taken me time to really put the pieces together, but I now know why my actions have importance. It’s the actions of one metal vocalist that have given me – and the rest of the metal world – the ability to change the outer reputation of As I Lay Dying, and the ability to strengthen a man who took a wrong step.
It took me nearly a month to actually forgive Lambesis for his actions and finally dive back into the music of my favorite metal band, and it sucks that it took me so long. However, I am fortunate that my love for As I Lay Dying wasn’t ruined forever. My friend once told me his biggest worry was that he would end a relationship with somebody on a poor note, a band, song, or album would be right in the middle of this relationship, and the music would be forever filled with dissonance because of the bitter relationship. The fine line between actions outside of music and inside of music can be cut if something goes wrong on either end. It didn’t take a one-on-one relationship to do this to me, but it took the connection I had to As I Lay Dying and the actions of Lambesis to create a distance between me and the band.
The thing that hurt the most about seeing Lambesis’ arrest was that my connection with As I Lay Dying was so deep. In less than a year, Lambesis had cut this line all by himself.
As I seeked to understand this, I began to recount my run-ins with As I Lay Dying as a band. After years of hating their music because I didn’t understand metal, I had the opportunity of interviewing them. At Mayhem Fest last year, I talked to bassist Josh Gilbert. This experience gave me one of the most gratifying feelings I had felt as a music journalist. He complimented me on my interviewing ability, and filled me with motivation as a writer and as a person. Later I was able to meet the entire band at their merch tent, and I thanked them for their music and their actions. I could see the sincerity and care in their eyes. As a Christian, I could tell they were sent by God to motivate people, and one of those people was me.
But once Awakened came out and the band began to tour the world, a little piece of me felt a bit shaken, and I couldn’t tell what it was. Later, I realized that something was different about Tim.
My friends and I noticed how big Lambesis was becoming, and the thought that maybe he was on steroids began to scare me. When he began preparing the new Austrian Death Machine album, I could sense something was wrong. A promo photo with derogatory connotations towards women? A song with the word “dick” in it? This was not the same man I thought I knew.
Lambesis’ image was turning away from the Christian ideals I first connected with when I heard Shadows Are Security and read the lyrics. Not even a month later, when I saw the band on their tour with The Devil Wears Prada, For Today, and The Chariot, I noticed that they were the only group of the four that didn’t preach, or at least mention God during their set. I could tell the pieces weren’t fitting the way I used to see them fit together. Everything was building up into a ball of ruin, and when I heard the news about Lambesis’ arrest, this ball had metaphorically crash landed through As I Lay Dying’s career, and the connection, the sense of belonging, the motivation that this band once gave me was gone. I found no motivation to listen to them anymore. Songs like “Losing Sight,” “Through Struggle,” and “I Never Wanted” only reminded me of Lambesis’ current state, and even listening to Awakened, I couldn’t help but think that Lambesis wasn’t writing or screaming with the same fuel, or for the same reasons, that he once was. It made me feel awful inside.
But I didn’t give up. Instead, I acted the same way when I first gave metal music a chance rather than calling it out, hating it, and eventually giving up on it. I seeked understanding, and I hoped to give this band the same strength they once gave me.
Once I began to act with love and forgiveness instead of hate and judgment I felt much better, and I began to see Lambesis with the same love that I used to. While he still deserves to be punished for his wrongdoings, I took a lot away in terms of reconstruction and healing. Just as I had looked to God in hope of diminishing my negativity and sadness towards the band and their music – and once again feel the same inspiration this band gave me in my journalistic pursuits – I prayed that Lambesis would be healed also and be filled with the same spirit that he once was.
The big takeaway from this whole playout of events is also its most meaningful. It’s up to the listener to decide, but the mismatching motivations between As I Lay Dying’s music and Tim Lambesis’ actions scars the band’s albums for the time being. It’s letting those scars heal that makes the biggest difference between the demise of the band’s inspiring musical repertoire and the further existence of an identity outside of the actions of one man. While it’s hard for me to really seek the same strength from these records currently, I am hoping that the healing power of God and the forgiveness of others will give these albums the complete healing power they once held. As of now, they’re getting there.
It’s easy to blame Tim and judge him for his change in personality, ideals, and actions. But that’s because it’s so tough to side with a person who lived a life that’s full of such juxtaposition and flaws. It will take time, effort, and a change in perspective, but I want to make a call to other fans of As I Lay Dying, other fans of metal music, and fans of music in general to understand that while we often call out our heroes and our idols for their wrongdoings, it’s much more constructive to learn from their mistakes and seek reassurance rather than let them fall further into a pit of despair. What we all have in common: musicians are human, Tim Lambesis is human, and we’re human. It’s time that we begin to act with love even to the broken, confused, and misdirected, and help direct them to a place where they can be whole again.
I’ve found meaning in tragedy, and I hope that everyone else can as well.