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Lambesis appeared with his hair pulled back in a ponytail at the preliminary hearing on Sept. 16, 2013.
The embattled frontman of a Christian metal band sentenced to prison for plotting to have his wife killed recently confessed that he and other band members had become atheists, but continued to pose as Christians so they could keep selling records, according to a report by The Christian Post.
Tim Lambesis, 33, lead singer and founder of the band As I Lay Dying, was sentenced to six years behind bars on May 16 for his role in a murder-for-hire plot involving his estranged then-wife, Meggan Lambesis. Lambesis tried to hire a hitman in an attempt to have his wife murdered.
Lambesis’ arrest, case, trial and conviction took many of his faithful fans by surprise. Many took to social media to express their disbelief over the allegations and, ultimately, the singer’s sentencing.
But according to the Christian Post's report, those fans may have had more faith in Lambesis than he did in the Christian religion, citing what Lambesis said during an extensive interview with Alternative Press conducted shortly before his sentencing.
In that interview, Lambesis talked about a YouTube video he made about a month before his arrest in which he addressed fans who felt his new side project, “Pyrithion” was “satanic.”
Lambesis admitted that at the time, he never really gave a straight answer as to whether he was still Christian. He said he was afraid of revealing his true beliefs about God, or lack thereof, because he didn’t want to impact his band’s record sales, so he chose to say “I’m not a satanist” instead.
“As far as the [YouTube] video I did explaining 'Pyrithion''s lyrics… I was trying to put out a fire. I was afraid it would affect As I Lay Dying sales, which would affect my overall income. I was trying to put out the fire by saying the easiest thing, 'I'm not a satanist!'" he explained in the Alternative Press interview.
"Truthfully, I was an atheist. The 'strategy' I had at the time was cowardly. Two of the songs on that record were about coming to grips with the idea that life has no purpose, no meaning. These were negative themes I wasn't 'allowed' to deal with in As I Lay Dying songs. I thought making As I Lay Dying darker would be bad for my career. That was my thinking," he continued.
Lambesis went on to say that many of the Christian bands he had toured with over the years had a similar stance and weren’t exactly devout Christians either. He said a few of his fellow As I Lay Dying band members were also no longer Christian.
After a while, the charade became awkward, he said, like the time when an interviewer at a Christian festival asked one of the band members to share his testimony, but he froze on the spot.
“We laughed about it afterward, but we were only laughing because it was so awkward," said Lambesis in the interview.
"When kids would want to pray with us after shows, I'd be like, 'Um, go ahead and pray!' I would just let them pray. I'd say 'Amen.' If praying while I have my hand on their shoulder makes them feel better, I didn't want to take that away from them. When they would specifically ask me to pray for something, I'd say, 'I don't really like to pray out loud, but I'll take that with me to the bus," the singer added.
Lambesis’ shocking fall from grace began when he was arrested in May 2013 in connection with the murder-for-hire plot.
Until that point, he had enjoyed a successful and lucrative musical career with his San Diego-based heavy metal band, which formed more than a decade ago and released eight albums, including the 2007 Grammy-nominated "An Ocean Between Us."
Beside the many albums, the band was also a mainstay of the San Diego Music Awards (SDMA), nominated in 2012 for Best Hard Rock Album for "Decas" and winning for Best Hard Rock the year before that. In 2005, 2007 and 2008, the band took home the SDMA statuettes for Artist of the Year. The band was slated to go on a cross-country tour with the Massachusetts metal band Killswitch Engage until Lambesis’ arrest last year.
When news of his arrest broke, it perplexed members of the San Diego music community, including SoundDiego contributor Tim Pyles of FM 94/9.
"He’s not the idealistic young Christian kid he once was, apparently," Pyles said last spring. "Because that’s what [As I Lay Dying] are: a straight-edged Christian metal band. He was a nice guy.”
At his sentencing last month, the courtroom was wrought with drama as character witnesses, including his ex-wife took to the stand to ask a judge to hand down the maximum sentence.
"My name used to be Meggan Lambesis. And up until two years ago, my heart was entirely devoted to him," said Meggan, who now goes by Meggan Murphy.
"I trusted him with everything, including my life," she added. "When the one person who you've been most vulnerable with and the most intimate with, who you've entrusted with every aspect of your life, who has not only desired but planned your murder -- you're left feeling completely exposed and unprotected. Who can I trust now? How can I feel safe?
Murphy said the ordeal will haunt her for the rest of her life, leaving her always looking over her shoulder. She said many of his fans had sent her threatening messages on social media since his arrest.
"The question of who Tim talked to or will talk to will forever haunt me,” she said in that San Diego courtroom. “The scariest thing is Tim's notoriety. He has followers that will do anything for him. It's terrifying to think there are people out there motivated to kill me on his behalf."