Randy Blythe is well known for his high-octane, high-volume, high-jumping-off-the-drum-riser live performances with Lamb of God. But, by his own admission, he's got nothing on his heroes in D.C. hardcore legends Bad Brains.
"They're my favorite band of all time," he told Revolver, "and their frontman H.R., at the height of his powers, was the greatest living frontman on the face of the planet."
Blythe witnessed this power up close and personal in 1989 — and it changed everything for him. On August 18th of that year, the 18-year-old budding musician and his then-girlfriend headed to The Jetty at Virginia Beach. The club was crowded, so Blythe and his girlfriend hung at the back while openers Leeway and Corrosion of Conformity warmed up the audience. But when Bad Brains hit the stage and unleashed opener "Re-Ignition," from 1986's I Against I, Blythe couldn't contain himself — and ditched his lady and bolted to the front of the stage.
"The musicians played with a conviction you felt on a visceral level — their music shook the audience into an ecstatic state," Blythe recalled. "And the frontman, H.R., had a stage presence that was literally life-altering to witness. The man moved and sang like a human lightning rod, as if he were communicating with the heavens, channeling some sort of vast cosmic power through his voice and body. …
"It was like a religious experience. There was no one else like that."
Blythe's love of Bad Brains runs deep. He's joked that "if you don't know about them, you're a defective human being," and showed his respect with Lamb of God's "I Against I" cover from their 2018 album as Burn the Priest, Legion: XX. He's even gotten the chance to take the stage with his heroes on several occasions.
"I've done three shows with them," said Blythe. "H.R. had brain surgery awhile back… he doesn't really do the super-fast punk-rock stuff off their first album anymore. He'll do the mid-tempo stuff and the reggae stuff. They asked me to help them out with the fast stuff. I've done Riot Fest in Chicago, a really cool art opening in Brooklyn, and Growlers Fest out in the water in L.A. Every time has been overwhelming to me, to be singing with my favorite band."
"If I watch old footage of H.R. I will [go], Oh I gotta step my shit up. [Laughs] It's like someone plugged him into a wall socket or something," Blythe continued. "I don't think I'll ever learn to do a standing backflip though. … They'd be playing "At the Movies" or something and he'd just stand still and do a backflip and land on the beat. It's intense."