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Why is Randy Blythe Still Singing on “The Duke”?

Photo by Blair Hopkins
Photo by Blair Hopkins

We’ve covered Randy Blythe more in the past month than ever before, but not because of his day job screaming in still-successful metalcore outfit Lamb of God. Blythe just filled in for Mike Williams on Eyehategod’s current tour with Discharge, and even spoke to us about it.

Today, Lamb of God shared the title track from their upcoming stopgap EP, The Duke, which showcases Blythe’s melodic singing at front and center.

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Blythe sang on “Overlord” from last year’s VII: Sturm und Drang, but in the context of that record Blythe’s melodic side seemed like a moment of experimentation. In the immediate wake of “The Duke”, that shift appears more deliberate.

Lamb of God’s ability to sell both extreme heavy metal and intelligent lyrics to arena-level audiences is unique in 2016. A huge part of that appeal comes directly from Blythe. On a technical level, he’s got to be one of the top ten or fifteen extreme metal singers. His vocal instrument stands out in a crowd, but at the same time he commands a wide range from very low growls to piercing highs. VII: Sturm und Drang was probably the band’s best record since Ashes of the Wake, in large part because Blythe returned to the personal, political, and historical lyrical tradition of his past. Yeah the album has “Overlord”, but it doesn’t have “Redneck”. In fact, a little melody continued to expand Blythe’s toolbox, as he’s expanded it on every record since Ashes.

Blythe’s clean singing is competent, but not as distinctive as his hellcat screech. From an emotional standpoint, hearing someone who can elevate harsh vocals into a thrilling and technical experience rely on traditional singing seems like a very safe bet, especially when the backing track is so bland.

Part of what makes Blythe such an admirable figure is his unwillingness to play it safe. This is a southern man who took a deep anti-war stance in 2004 and then sold it to the Ozzfest audience. This is the man who refused to go to the Grammys while the rest of the band went without him. This is the guy who put his middle finger to both critics and knuckledraggers by taking the stage with Suicide Silence and also Deafheaven. This is the guy who attended his own murder trial in a foreign and, by some accounts oppressive country. In short, Blythe strikes me as the kind of guy who does what he wants, no matter what. So why does he want to do songs like “The Duke”?

The Duke will be released on November 18. Follow Lamb of God on Facebook.

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