LORDS OF CHAOS (2018) **** Norway/Sweden/USA 118mins Jonas Åkerlund
This is the well publicized story of Norwegian Black Metal band Mayhem. Their rise to “fame” in the late 80’s/early 90’s with their dark live shows, singer Dead self harming on stage and throwing real pigs heads into the crowd through to his bloody suicide. On discovery of his friends body at the house they shared, guitarist and founder of the band, Euronymous photographed the corpse and used one of the images as the cover of their first album. He also claimed to have kept fragments of Deads skull for the remaining band members to wear as pendants.
Euronymous, with the help of his parents, starts up his own record store and label at the same time recruiting a fan who wrote and performed his own material under the band name Burzum. Varg “The Count” Vikernes joined Mayhem on bass and very quickly a dangerous rivalry sparked up between him and Euronymous. In a bid to “out metal” each other and rebel against Christianity which they blamed for stifling their art and poisoning society Varg, encouraged by Euronymous, burned down a church which again (using the newspaper picture of the burning church) became a triumphant promotional piece on the cover of their next album. All did not end well for Euronymous as running his mouth off to his friends when he and Varg had an argument mainly because Varg went to the press about the church burnings ended up with him being stabbed to death and Varg being convicted of his murder. It also turned out that another close friend of the band and part of The Black Circle had been involved in an altercation resulting in a man being stabbed to death around the same time of the church burnings. This is a tale of troubled souls who’s love of Black Metal brought them together yet circumstances spiralled out of their control and made it less about the music and more about who could be the most extreme and get away with it… or not as the case may be. With really stunning yet bleak scenery and some truly disturbing visuals this is not for the feint of heart. It contains some very graphic depictions of suicide and mental torment which they do not gloss over or glorify in the slightest. You can almost feel the knife sinking into your flesh on every strike during the murder scenes with the emotion from all involved being very real. The obsession, passion and belief in their actions as characters is incredibly effective and topped off effortlessly by the on going narration of a dead man. The cast are all fantastic with Rory Culkin as Euronymous, Emory Cohen as Varg, Jack Kilmer as Dead and Valter Skarsgård as Faust to name a few. They all put tremendous effort into their characters and it really shows. One thing that is a little bit of a peeve to me is the fact that the cast are all American with not a word of Norwegian spoken throughout. Another thing lacking is the presence of Black Metal in the soundtrack, yes there is some but not very much. There are tracks from Carcass, Cathedral, Bathory and, of course some early Mayhem tracks (even though Varg was rumoured to have banned the movie from using any Mayhem, Burzum or Darkthrone tracks they still featured a couple!!) but they are not a massive feature in the movie. I have read that in an interview Akerlund said he choose not to feature a lot of Black Metal as “it’s quite difficult to listen to if you’re not used to it or don’t love it” which is a fair point. This does not mean that the soundtrack is disappointing though, far from it. It is engaging and effective throughout with some fabulous tracks from Tangerine Dream and Sigur Rós. For hard-core fans of Black Metal and (not surprisingly) Varg himself this movie has not been received well at all. Many calls to boycott this have been aggressively voiced as they were when the book this movie was adapted from Lords Of Chaos: The Blood Rise Of The Satanic Metal Underground came out in 1997. The movie states right from the start that it is based on truth and lies and I’m sure there is no doubt that parts of this have been stretched, embellished and sexed up for ratings. It is a known fact that the character of Ann-Marit as Euronymous’ girlfriend was made up for the movie and they probably didn’t burn down as many churches as they showed but the crux of the story is what was already reported to the general public or at least Metal fans in general all those years ago. Varg is angry at the way his character is portrayed as a “power hungry lunatic” which he believes is a deliberate misrepresentation of his personality (his words) adding that he has never been a vegan or a fan of The Scorpions but he is tee total. Truth is no one comes off looking good in this. There is no good guy, just a bunch of kids that lost sight of the music they loved and ended up spontaneously combusting in a huge cloud of blood soaked lies and endless posturing. This movie says it like it is to be fair. It’s a dark, disturbing, bleak biopic that highlights a lot of things that were wrong with scene at the time. In the early 90’s I was pretty young and only just really discovering proper metal. I couldn’t get into Black Metal back then but I do remember reading about Mayhem, that interview in Kerrang! Magazine and being fascinated by it yet not really understanding the story and seeing Lords Of Chaos has sparked that interest in me again. As soon as I had seen it I was researching all I could to find about it and I feel like they did a good job of telling a story that no one is ever going to admit the real truth about. Only those involved truly known what happened and the reasons behind it so for those of us on the outside that want a bit more knowledge on the subject I highly recommend you give this a watch.
Review by Sarah Budd