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  Lords of Chaos Blue MetalBuy this film here.
Year: 2018
Director: Jonas Åkerlund
Stars: Rory Culkin, Emory Cohen, Jack Kilmer, Sky Ferreira, Valter Skarsgård, Anthony De La Torre, Jonathan Barnwell, Sam Coleman, Wilson Gonzalez, Lucian Charles Collier, Andrew Lavelle, James Edwyn, Gustaf Hammarsten, Jon Øigarden, Arion Csihar
Genre: Horror, Biopic, Music
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Back in 1987, Norway was a land of privilege, stability and a strangely high suicide rate, and one teenager, Øystein, calling himself Euronymous (Rory Culkin), wanted to shake things up, in particular the country's metal music scene. Death metal was a popular subgenre that many Scandinavian bands had embraced, but it was not grim enough for some and he wanted to take it to whole new depths, so came up with a new sound: black metal. This was as much a way of life as it was a type of music, where the most depressing and depraved elements of existence were invoked as a method of coming across as badass as possible. It was all very insular until his band Mayhem began to gain traction...

Lords of Chaos was drawn from actual events, but the fans of the scene depicted were not happy that director Jonas Åkerlund played around with the facts and in some cases invented different versions of what happened to make what at the beginning claimed to be truth, lies and possibly stuff in between as well. So at least the subterfuge was up front in the material, but it did leave the film annoying the very audience who would have made it a cult movie among those who were the true aficionados of that self-same scene. But perhaps that was the idea, for the overall impression was that this did not respect the genre and lifestyle anywhere near as much as they would have liked.

Indeed, there were parts of this which looked as if Åkerlund (formerly of the scene as a drummer) was parodying the black metalheads, almost in a Spinal Tap with Satanism manner, though then again there were aspects which took things very seriously - they simply didn't take the music seriously. If the director was trying to make himself a hate figure, then he was doing a very good job, yet there was also a sense that he was bringing with him an understanding of what attracted these young men to such an abyss of loathing, when in reality most of them were merely capable of frightening little old church ladies (there were quite a few of those peppered around the movie, all twittering and being scandalised as a result).

The first act took a look at Euronymous and his friendship with a Swedish chap calling himself Dead (Jack Kilmer); he became the lead singer of Mayhem but his obsession with death lead him to be actually dead when his self-harming was taken to fatal, shotgun-led extremes. Euronymous found the body, and before he reported it, he fetched a camera and took photographs of the corpse for his own amusement, something the film indicates was not badass, but pretty pathetic. The entire worship of the darkest elements of society was more portrayed as a bunch of young men preoccupied with death when they had barely even lived, and it took no pleasure in it, not even the points that prompted the audience to laugh at them. Yet neither did it blame anyone else for their poor choices.

We do not get a strong sense of the community outside of the black metal one, which feeds on itself in self-absorbed fashion, fixated on such topics as anything anti-Christian, nationalism with a focus on some imagined golden age, and violence - which includes a love of horror movies. Åkerlund adopted that as an approach, delivering horror trappings to a tale that really was pretty horrific as new boy on the scene Varg (Emory Cohen) tries to muscle in and command respect by taking things far further than Euronymous is stupid enough to do. He joins the band, and finds his new pal taking credits for his most nihilistic ideas, but that does not stop him starting a campaign of church-burning as one of their hangers-on wonders what it would be like to stab someone to death. You can see where this is going even if you were not aware of the facts of the tragedy, and there was a certain sympathy for the misguided, though not their constant harping on about negativity and violence. If it did not please the fans, little wonder - was it supposed to? Music by Sigur Rós.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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