Black metal is a type of heavy metal music that should embody everything that is dark; it is extreme, it is evil and most importantly it conforms to the beliefs of Satanism. There should be nothing light about Black metal as it is fuelled by Hell and the need to destroy conventional thoughts about music. This type of music is smothered with a dark and disturbing past, one that seems fitting for the genre but resulted in chaos, ruined lives and eventually murder.
In 1987 Oslo, there nothing much to do for those of the younger generation. That is until Øystein Aarseth decides he wants to create the truest form of Norwegian black metal – he changes his name to Euronymous and starts making the darkest music with his band Mayhem. They soon begin to dominate the scene and gain a reputation that delves into the more disturbing side. When tragedy hits the band, it seems that everything could be over for Euronymous and Mayhem, that is until he crosses path with the quiet and weird Kristian Vikernes aka Varg, and everything changes.
For those of you who don’t know much about Norwegian black metal, this story about the creation of the genre and what happens between Euronymous and Varg, is all true. The knowledge of this tale was first given to me by listening to a three part episode from the guys over at The Last Podcast on the Left, who delve into the details and give a great history lesson. Director Jonas Akerlund happens to have been one of the members from Swedish black metal band, Bathory, and therefore gives as close to the truthful depiction as possible. From the details that are available, Lords of Chaos runs close to accuracy and keeps the tone in line with everything that Euronymous, Mayhem and the black metal scene stood for. Without giving any spoilers as that’s something that I don’t like to include in any of my reviews – it must be mentioned that the real Varg Vikernes detests this film and claims that it does not show the truth, but you’ll realise why this is something to smile about once you’ve watched it.
Rory Culkin stars as Euronymous in this, and perfectly gives the audience a taste of his life and how behind the exterior of being a badass black metal satanist, he was much like you and me yet he wanted to make hardcore music. Culkin shows how the young man cared for his friends and family deeply, battled internal conflicts of morals when it came to their publicity stunts and exhibited a passion for music. Then we have Emory Cohen as the outcast Varg, who is ruled by something deep and disturbing, that cannot be cast aside. Cohen portrays Varg as the obsessive young man that will not stop at anything to get what he wants, even if it means going against everything humanity deems as normal and committing horrific acts. Even though these two performances are central to the story, it must be mentioned that the acting from the following support cast is also outstanding and as well executed: Sky Ferreria as Ann-Marit, Jack Kilmer as Dead, Valter Skarsgard as Faust, Anthony De La Torre as HellHammer and Wilson Gonzalez Ochsenknecht as Blackthorn.
Tackling the subject matter that happened throughout this period is no easy task as there was racism, fascism, blasphemy, animal cruelty and violence. Frontman of Mayhem, Dead, was a man that suffered from extreme depression and a morbid fascination with everything representing mortality. He would partake in extreme mutilation of himself at many of Mayhem’s shows including cutting his wrists and throwing the blood all over the audience, something depicted in detail in Lords of Chaos. He also had a penchant for abusing and killing cats as he was plagued by a hatred towards them, and therefore the films also implies cruelty against animals. Another very strong point shown throughout the film is the church burnings that took place; these anti-religion protests from the scene were harrowing for many at the time as not only were they derogatory towards those who practiced faith, but also because they burnt down historical buildings. There are even more upsetting aspects throughout the entirety of the film, and may cause dismay amongst some viewers. Even though Lords of Chaos does exhibit these upsetting and disturbing acts, it manages to also provide a fun element, and shows that black metal wasn’t just about death but there were parties, drinking, friendships and a nostalgic youth that really brought the scene together at the time.
Lords of Chaos is a badass fucking movie. It gives any newcomer to the topic an accurate depiction of how black metal started, the key characters on the scene, and what happened between Euronymous and Varg. It is a whirlwind of emotions; the audience is rocked from feeling hardcore and cool to moved by the harrowing ending that came for those involved. Akerlund’s film is perhaps one of my new favourite movies ever; it made me laugh, it made me cry and it made me appreciate black metal forever. Hail Satan.
Verdict: 5 out of 5