As I Lay Dying plays comeback show and explains reunion with singer after he solicited murder of his wife


What led to the members of the Christian metalcore band As I Lay Dying reuniting on stage Saturday with their lead vocalist, Tim Lambesis, who served two years in prison after pleading guilty to charges he had solicited the murder of his wife?

Lambesis instigated the discussions that ultimately resulted in the reactivation of the five-man group, which performed Saturday in San Diego — the band’s hometown — for the first time anywhere since 2013. Their comeback show at the intimate, all-ages Soma Sidestage began with “Meaning in Tragedy” and concluded with “Confined.” Both song titles took on an added sense of irony that may or may not have been intentional.

“I want to start really with a simple theme for tonight, and that’s gratitude,” Lambesis told the sold-out Soma audience early in the evening.

“We’re so very, very thankful to be up here. We’re not only thankful for you guys, we’re thankful for each other, we’re thankful for the relationships that we’ve rebuilt and we’re very, very excited about. Thank you for the opportunity to play music together again.”

Lambesis repeated similar sentiments later at the sold-out show and thanked “friends and family for their incredible support.” Shortly before the concert’s final song, he added: “I don’t know if it feels this way for you, but it’s a very historic night for us.”

In his introduction to the “A Greater Foundation,” the tenth selection in As I Lay Dying’s 14-song set, Lambesis said: “I also know the story of a lot of my friends, myself included. We’ve all made some great mistakes in our lives. And if you’re sincere about wanting to make up for what you’ve done — and if you’re sincere about trying to move forward in a positive way — this next song is for you.”

Earlier Saturday, As I Lay Dying released a nearly 32-minute-long video that partly explained the other four band members’ decision to re-team with Lambesis. Despite its length, the sometimes highly emotional video is — by the band’s own admission — incomplete at best.

“We’re not going to address every question right now,” Lambesis says near the conclusion of the video, which has received nearly 7,000 “likes” and 145 “dislikes” on YouTube.

“And for my personal life, it’s like, you know, I haven’t been involved in interviews, or social media and that kind of stuff, (and) it’s like, well, I’m not going to rush to handle this all today... If I’m genuinely confident in the person I’ve become, I’ve just got to be myself over a long period of time. And, you know, like, two years from now, maybe there’s a portion of people who (will) say: ‘You know what? OK, I’ve seen it consistently now over time.’

“And there will definitely be a portion of people who (say): ‘It doesn’t matter’ — it could be, like (in) 20 years — ‘I’m not going to ever give this guy a chance.’ And that’s fine I’m just going to have to accept that... It’s like (bassist) Josh (Gilbert) said — we don’t have a P.R. person or a grand plan, we’re just going to do it, and make the best of it.”

Lambesis was sentenced to six years in prison in 2014, after pleading guilty to soliciting a hit man to murder his wife, from whom he is now divorced. The hit man turned out to be an undercover cop. After serving about 30 months, Lambesis was released from prison in late 2016 and issued an online apology.

But the video As I Lay Dying posted online over the weekend marks the first time he and his now-reunited band mates have publicly discussed Lambesis’ actions together and the subsequent fallout.

“There was such an unbelievable sense of relief after my sentencing of, like, ‘defense’ is no longer in my vocabulary,” Lambesis says in the video, as his four band mates look on somberly. “I don’t defend what I did, because there’s no defense for it. I’m not gonna try to defend what I did, because it’s ridiculous. All I can do is make amends where possible, express my remorse and just put my energy into something positive.”

According to Lambesis, his discussions with As I Lay Dying’s other members — who had held him at more than arm’s length after his prison sentence — predated by nearly two years his late 2017 apology on Facebook to his now ex-wife, his children and the band’s fans.

“There’s the obvious wrongdoings that I made and there’s the little ways that they sort of spread out beyond that and hurt people in so many ways that, like, I really wasn’t entirely aware until I got home (from prison),” Lambesis said in the video. “And those conversations kicked off and I was sort of better able to understand what they’d been through and I think more sincerely apologize because of that.”

As I Lay Dying guitarist Nick Hipa acknowledged in the video that he had repeatedly rejected Lambesis’ attempts to sit down and talk. He and the other members of the band had regrouped in 2013 as Wovenwar and brought another singer on board.

“Whatever shred of empathy I had for him turned into blind hatred,” Hipa recalled. “I was like: ‘This dude went too far down that dark road and he’s never coming back. He almost fooled me once, and he’ll never fool me again…

“When we met up, it wasn’t very positive at first. I said (to Lambesis): ‘Look, I’ve seen you say you’re sorry, you’ve said it how many times, but when has it ever been real?’ … And it was nothing but genuine remorse on his end and taking responsibility for everything that he’s done. I was watching, (and with) every question I had for him, I was staring straight into his soul, looking for any hint of in-authenticity. (It was) like I knew this was a trick. And when I didn’t see it, when I finally let my guard down, (the person) who was standing in front of me was someone genuinely contrite and remorseful (that he) could never take back what he did (and) the fact he made victims of all the people close to him.

“That’s what it took. It took all of those years, him facing punishment, the consequences for his actions, living in the ruin that he made for himself, and also acknowledging that it would never end. What he did was very public, and it can never be forgotten, and it shouldn’t. But that’s part of what he has to endure for the rest of his life…

“When I saw who he was, and who he had genuinely become, I let go of that. I wanted to let go of it, because I had never handled it and that pain and that hope and that helplessness, I let it become my life for worse in the form of hatred. I used that as my strength for all those years, but it devastated me on the inside.”

While Lambesis’ court trial and the time he served are referred to in the video, there is no mention of the crime that landed him behind bars or his now divorced wife and their three children.

“There’s a lot of awareness of things that happened very recently in music and stuff. And then last year there’s an awareness of the public apology in my expression of remorse,” Lambesis says in the video, referring to his previous online mea culpa.

“But behind all that there was the individual conversations we had and it was for me, expressing more remorse publicly. It’s one like one thing and that’ll be shown very slowly over time, people have to kind of get to know and see if they can trust that I was sincere or not.”

Twitter @georgevarga


5:12 a.m., June 19: The title of the As I Lay Dying song “Confined” was incorrectly identified as “Confinement” in the original version of this article.