Dark Days: A Memoir
By D. Randall Blythe
(Da Capo Press)
Randy Blythe’s first book, Dark Days: A Memoir, chronicles his experience getting arrested and charged with manslaughter in the Czech Republic. In 2010, two years before Blythe’s arrest, a young fan suffered a fatal head injury at Lamb Of God’s first show in Prague. The Czech authorities blamed Blythe, and the majority of Dark Days covers his stay in the notorious Pankrác Prison. While trying to navigate the churning cogs of the Czech Republic’s absurd justice system, Blythe was forced to live in a filthy cell and eat food that was often on the verge of growing mold.
One of the cool things about Dark Days is how Blythe weaves his journey to sobriety into this prison narrative. He deftly moves between strands, and the interwoven stories enhance each other on both thematic and practical levels. Blythe also discusses the brutal history of Pankrác throughout the book, detailing the scores of executions that took place within the prison’s walls. For him, this bloody past constantly loomed above him when he was imprisoned there.
Unlike most musicians that put out memoirs, Blythe didn’t use a ghostwriter, so his voice isn’t diluted. Ghostwritten books typically don’t have a definable tone, but Blythe’s voice, like his stage presence, is undeniably his own. He uses a mix of slang and formal language, which creates the sense that he’s talking directly to you—a feeling that’s reinforced by his sense of humor. Despite his seriousness as a vocalist, Blythe can be a funny motherfucker, which works in Dark Days as a way to counter the dreariness of his prison experience. At the same time, he doesn’t use humor as a way to avoid in-depth reflection about himself or his incarceration.
But Blythe’s uncompromising tone is sometimes a downfall for the book. He characterizes multiple people as being several notches below him in terms of intelligence, which usually feels unfair. For example, Blythe makes his cellmate and a prison psychologist seem like they have the smarts of sixth-graders, and he scathingly criticizes other prisoners for not reading as much as him. As the frontman of Lamb Of God, Blythe’s unflinching confidence is a strongpoint. On the page, though, it can make him seem arrogant and mean-spirited.
Still, I strongly recommend this book to any Lamb Of God fan, and especially anyone who followed the story of Blythe’s arrest, incarceration, and eventual exoneration. Dark Days includes some intense realizations about Daniel Nosek’s death, a few of which have my head spinning. Although Blythe could’ve been more forgiving to certain people in the book, he doesn’t shy away from examining the most fucked up parts of himself, which is one of the hallmarks of good memoir writing. The dude has some serious talent as a writer, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him make an occupation out of it one day. (J.J. Anselmi)