As a result of a series of events that can only be explained as stranger than fiction, longtime Cannibal Corpse guitarist Pat O'Brien was arrested for burglary and assault Monday night, while his own home was in Northdale, Florida, went ablaze with "explosive ammunition" inside the house.
According to local news channel WFLA, O'Brien broke into a house in his neighborhood at around 6:57 pm on Monday. The home was occupied by two currently-unidentified people, and when he was asked to leave, O'Brien pushed one of the residents, a woman, to the ground, and ran to their backyard where he hid behind a fence. All this while, O'Brien's own home was engulfed by flames and after multiple local residents called 911, police turned up on the scene to find the distressed guitarist hiding behind the said fence.
When the police surrounded him, a deputy reportedly gave him orders to comply but O'Brien charged at the cops with a knife in hand and was tasered and arrested. The following day, on Tuesday afternoon, O'Brien appeared in court wearing an "anti-suicide vest", with his ankles chained together -- suggesting that he might still be in a state where he is a danger to himself and others -- and bail was set at $50,000. He was told by a judge that he would need to pass a drug test if he were to be bonded out of jail.
Although O'Brien does not have a history of drug abuse, reports are now surfacing that the guitarist might have been hallucinating at the time of his arrest. WFTS got a statement from the residents of the home that O'Brien broke into and although the witness would not go on camera, he said that O'Brien was probably hallucinating and spoke to him about "the rapture". He reportedly seemed paranoid and delusional too and claimed that "someone was after him." The homeowner added O'Brien seemed scared and at one point even hid in his closet.
Another report suggests that "there were military-style flamethrowers inside the home, making the fire much harder to battle for firefighters." It might be worth mentioning here that although it is legal to possess flamethrowers in Florida, both burglary and aggravated assault of an officer are felony charges. O'Brien could be facing up to thirty years in prison just on the charge of aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer with a deadly weapon. The burglary charge can see a fine up to $10,000 and a maximum of life in prison.
Tampa Bay Times indicates that the calls to 911 from neighbors noted there might have been a domestic dispute inside the house. When firefighters entered the home, they had to quickly evacuate after realizing it wasn't safe, as they had to duck for cover because explosions were still going off. It took firefighters over an hour to fight the blaze, and they stayed throughout the night to make sure it didn't spread to neighbors. The next morning, six houses surrounding O'Brien's home were evacuated because of "something that's inside the home." An investigation is being opened by The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the cause of the fire is yet to be determined.
What makes all of this so hard to wrap around one's head is the fact that the incident popped up out of literally nowhere, with no signs to foreshadow what occurred. Pat O'Brien is one of the most revered guitarists in the metal scene. He is a former member of the Seattle-based heavy metal band Nevermore and has been a mainstay with the Cannibal Corpse lineup since 1998, after he replaced Rob Barrett as lead guitarist.
Since his involvement in Cannibal Corpse, O'Brien has been credited on some of the band's more technically complicated songs and is known for his complex and iconic playing style. He has been featured on every Cannibal Corpse album from 'Gallery of Suicide' (1998) to their most recent effort - 2017's 'Red Before Black'.
Unlike their more extreme European black metal cousins, Cannibal Corpse has always been a relatively tame band, even though their subject, artwork and lyrics often touch upon the usual blood, guts and gore that one usually associates with the genre of death metal. Cannibal Corpse does not really have a reputation for inciting violence.
They never indulged in burning churches like Burzum, or indulged in exhibitionistic animal slaughter like Watain. At most, their albums and original artworks have been banned in countries like Russia and Germany for graphic imagery. They're also are one of the best selling death metal acts of all time with a career that spans three decades. Cannibal Corpse declined to comment on the issue when news publications reached out and is yet to issue a statement.
Meanwhile, on Monday Cannibal Corpse were announced as a support act on the next North American leg of Slayer’s farewell tour, alongside Lamb of God and Amon Amarth. Ironically, O'Brien had a brief stint as touring guitarist with Slayer, filling in for the now deceased Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman. Cannibal Corpse are also slated to co-headline the 2019 Decibel Magazine Tour with Morbid Angel. As of now, it still remains to be seen how the arrest will affect O’Brien’s status with the band, but more details should emerge soon along with a digestible explanation as to what caused this bizarre mess in the first place.