Before Lamb of God there was Burn the Priest. The band released their self-titled record in 1999 and for a long time it served as the only full length under this moniker as the group changed their name Lamb of God and quickly issued New American Gospel one year later. Now, the Burn the Priest name has been reactivated for a 20th anniversary celebration and it will grace the cover of Legion XX, the forthcoming new covers album. Frontman Randy Blythe spoke all about it on Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio program, reflecting on the significance of this release, the early days of the band as well as Slayer's farewell tour. Check out the chat below.

Burn the Priest is the band before Lamb Of God and the band is celebrating its 20th anniversary with an album called Legion XX, which is a record full of covers that you chose.

I didn't choose all of them myself; it was a collaborative effort. We had a little time in between tours. We're still touring on the last Lamb of God record on the never-ending tour cycle. We're getting ready to go back out with Slayer. The idea was brought up, "Hey, why don't you guys knock out this cover record that you've been kicking around for several years?" It seemed like a good time, so that's what we did, man.

Talking about the 20th anniversary of Burn the Priest, what still resonates with you about that time in your life?

Alcoholism. I mean, it was a gnarly time. We were young, very excited guys and all partying pretty freaking hard. Really man, that time in my life, of course, you grow over the years, but I'm still the same guy I was. That's why it didn't feel false or artificial to release a record in the name Burn the Priest because Burn the Priest never broke up, we just kind of morphed into Lamb of God. It's still there. So, I was listening to a lot of punk rock then — I'm listening to a lot of punk rock now. This is evidenced by this choice of music we've covered on this record. All this still resonates with me. Everything, everything from that time of my life. Thankfully, the hangovers are gone now.

Musically what aspects of that Burn the Priest foundation ultimately defined what the Lamb of God would become?

Musically? I think really what Burn the Priest was, our bass player said it many times -- we're a punk band that plays metal, because that's kind of the scene we grew up in. Particularly, myself actively and the other guys listening to a lot of that stuff. Earlier shows were all with punk and hardcore bands because the metal scene at that time didn't exist as it does today. There weren't a bazillion metal bands going on, at least in America. In Europe, it was still really strong. Musically, I think just the aggression of Burn the Priest has carried through always with Lamb of God.

I think what Lamb of God is, is kind of Burn the Priest learning how to become a more polished band, I guess. It's the same spirit but the technicality just wasn't there yet. I mean, our drummer picked up the drum kit and learned to play drums, in order to play drums in Burn the Priest. He was a bass player. That was his first drumming gig. He was not originally a drummer, he was a bassist. Everybody's honing their chops over the years. I think just the aggression and the attitude though ultimately defined what we are now. It certainly was present from the beginning though.

Why did you choose to do a covers album for the band's 20th anniversary and what's the significance of the songs you have on this record?

We've been talking about doing a cover record for a long time, and like I'm saying, we're still touring on the last Lamb of God record. It's not like we exactly have time to sit down and write a whole new album [laughs] of Burn the Priest stuff, which, I don't know if we would ever do anyway. It seemed like it would just be a fun idea. We're certainly not the first band to do it. Hatebreed has done it, Slayer did. There's a bazillion bands that has done cover albums. I actually just sang on a DevilDriver outlaw country album. It's fun. It's bottom line, it's fun. It's a lot less pressure on you as a musician to write these songs, you don't have to question it. The music is good and you already know it's good because you're a fan of the song.

So it was a lot of fun and that was the primary reason because it's fun. Music should be fun and the choice of the songs was pretty democratic. Everybody suggested songs. But it's generally coming from the punk rock side of things. We wanted to show that sort of influence in our music and there's a lot of that DNA in us as musicians. If you listen to the covers and then listen to the originals, it becomes pretty evident.

The choice of the songs, those are all songs that were important to us and still are but particularly we try to think of it as songs that were super important to us at the time when we were Burn the Priest. Some of that stuff was coming out right around then or right before then and some of it stuff that I've just been listening to since high school as well as some of the other guys. We not only wanted to turn people on to some cool bands that we thought but also pay respect to the people who did them originally. And have some fun at the same time.

Touring with Slayer was significant in establishing Lamb of God on an international level. Now you're going to be supporting them on their final North American tour. How do you think that finality of the last Slayer tour will affect you?

I don't think it'll affect me. I think it will affect Slayer and the people that never got to see them. People ask me a lot: what do you think about this is the end of Slayer? I'm like, man, they started their first tour in a Camaro 30 years ago and they've been going hard ever since. Some people are saying, "I can't believe they're stopping doing this!" I'm thinking, "Man they've been doing it 30 years. They've been through a lot and they've maintained their identity as Slayer the whole fucking time."

If they, for whatever reason, and I do not speak for Slayer, they're, like we've been doing this 30 years it's time for us to put this band down and go onto, do other things, they decided to do that for themselves. I think it's great that they're doing it on their own terms rather than someone is unable to play or someone has a severe illness which renders them unable to tour or a family problem. I think Slayer is deciding to do this on their own terms they will go out with their heads high and with an impeccable catalog.

For me, how will it affect me? It won't. I'm gonna have a great time touring with them and I'm sure we'll remain friends with them after the tour is over because - I mean, I don't really want to hang out with Slayer. I don't think or look at them like, "Oh my god it's Slayer!" I'm like, "Oh there's Kerry, there's my buddy." [laughs] Talking to Tom, my friend. So for me, I don’t know. It's been doing their thing. Of course, it's a big honor to be included in that final aspect of their career as one of the supporting bands. It's a huge honor. But as far as it affecting me, it won't.

Randy, you're a vocalist in a metal band but that's just one of the voices you use to communicate. How much overlap is there between that and what you express through writing, photography and any other creative pursuits?

Really, not much. People are always - they tend to ask that question a lot about - how does your career as a metal artist shape you as a photographer and my answer is, it doesn't. It's two completely different ways of expressing myself. When I write lyrics for my band, I'm writing from a very subjective viewpoint. I'm trying to push some sort of narrative or something I believe it across in song in an artful manner. It's something that is inside my head that I've created or something that I want to express. With photography, I'm mostly a street photographer.

I go out and look for things that I find beautiful in the world around me. It's a way for me to be more objective and kind of take note more of what's going on around me rather than what's happening inside me internally. With my writing, there's not much similarity at all either in my approach to lyric writing. Writing prose for me is a lot harder because generally I write in a longer form and it does not take me that long to write a set of lyrics to a song. It took me a year to write my last book. So, I have a really different mindset between my creative pursuits and music and in photographer and in prose writing. I don't really find any overlap between any of them.

Through the maturity that comes with life experiences and creative growth as musicians, how do you anticipate Lamb of God might sound in the coming years of your career?

I have zero idea [laughs]. I'm always surprised we make it through every single day. We're an insane band. At this point in my career, I've been in the band 23 years. They've been around for, I don’t know, 24 years. So for me, every time we go on a cool tour or make a new record, or do something cool like we just did now, I'm always like, "Wow that's really cool. I can't believe we got to do that." I try not to think too far into the future because I don't have a crystal ball. I'd rather stay in the present moment because that's all that really exists and enjoy what it has to offer. As far as emotional maturity, man, its something I'm struggling with. Very kind of you to assume I have that, [laughs].

Thanks to Randy Blythe for the interview, Grab your copy of Burn the Priest's 'Legion XX' (out May 18) here and follow Lamb of God on Facebook to stay up to date with everything they're doing. Find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie’s weekend show at this location.

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