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The Beasts of Summer

Lamb of God's steady ascent brings it through Virginia, leading the summer's hardest hard-core metal festival.

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Sponsored in part by The House of Blues, Jā€žgermeister, and the mall lizards at Hot Topic, the summer festival is slated for the Harbor Center Pavilion in Portsmouth Friday, July 1. Other bands include Clutch, High on Fire, Poison the Well, Opeth, Unearth, All That Remains, Norma Jean, and many other bands known for making people's heads explode.

Style recently spoke with Mark Morton, founding guitarist of Lamb of God (formerly Burn the Priest), about the upcoming tour, as well as the band's recent ride as one of the most popular metal bands in the country.

While Morton was admittedly surprised by the band's album success, considering it's "not your standard commercially viable band," he says he felt excited that the group was breaking new ground for extreme music.

After the band's first European tour drew crowds that were smaller than what they were used to, Morton said Lamb of God is still learning lessons about running a business and its members are more "hands-on" in terms of vision and direction than most bands he's seen.

A friendly and likeable guy, Morton says he's simply enjoying the greatest job in the world, "making music with my friends, having it touch so many people's lives" — if only to leave them bloodied and broken.



Style: Not long ago, Burn the Priest used to play Hole in the Wall to 20 people. What helped push it to the next level?

Morton: Every step precedes the next. There was no one glimmering moment of realization that we've made it. Getting signed to a major label was pretty big. Luck, timing, all that was involved. … But we're still that band you saw at Hole in the Wall. Our motivations are the same. As things progressed, it got more exciting because people in other towns were touched by it. … It requires a lot of dedication. We practiced a lot to become as tight as we are. I also think that at the time, file-sharing was popular and our drummer, Chris [Adler], was really up in that mix. People ask how I feel about piracy, but I think it's helped us more than it hurt us. Maybe our record sales are lower. … But it's more about exposure for the band. As an artist, your objective outside of your own enjoyment is to be heard.



The new DVD features moments of drunken brawling between band members. Is that a concern for the future?

The DVD is foremost a live show, and sliced in are moments of us wasting time on the road — some of it light and fun, some drunk and stupid. The premise was to be honest. It's not gonna be the hand-slappin', we're-all-bros kind of fake thing to convince everybody we're best friends. That's bullshit. We've been together for 10 years. You get sick of each other. We wanted to show who we really were.



In terms of political songs, you've had some scathing anti-Bush moments. Do you think you'll ever get involved in more public causes?

Certainly as a group, I think we'd keep it in the songs. The stuff Randy [Blythe] and I have been writing lately has been moving away from that. There are other things to think about. We're not a political party that wants to be identified with any causes. It's just a metal band. It feels like the next stage is going to be more personal, more reflective of where our lives are individually.



What is it about Richmond that spawns metal bands?

It always seemed to me like Richmond was a small town with an arts school with a bunch of creative weirdos running around — kind of a slacker town that was cheap to live in, so any scumbag can go get a practice space with their buddies.

When I moved here [in 1990] there was the real angular, off-rhythm, heavy sound going on of Breadwinner and Alter-Natives — we wanted to be a part of it.



Any misconceptions now that you're reached stardom in the metal world?

When I was younger and pictured rock bands, I thought they were all rich. But there's not as much money floating around as people think. The business side of it is different from what I thought — it's a real rat race. Just 'cause someone is on TV doesn't mean they're a big, rich rock star by any stretch . … But it's cool and has its perks. Being able to hang with Kirk Hammett [from Metallica] and hear he likes your music. The fan thing still kicks in.



Will you guys ever leave Richmond?

The band is not going to pack up and move to L.A. I know I will keep living in Richmond. I was born in Williamsburg — I like it here a lot. It's great to come back to the people you love. It's quiet, there's nothing going on, and that's the best part about it. S



The Sounds of the Underground tour hits the Harbor Center Pavilion in Portsmouth July 1 at noon. Tickets are $28. A Music Choice Metal special on the tour will be available on Comcast Digital Cable's Video On-Demand service through July.



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