Updated: Mar 6, 2019
Directed by: #JonasAskerlund
[Play Mayhem really loud in a dark room with a cape, or towel over your head while you read this for the full black metal effect]
Remember the 80’s, I don’t really because my mother had not birthed me into the world until the later part and so I was all small and stuff, but thanks to the internet I know it mainly involved bad hair, Walkmans and some kick ass #horror flicks.
But way away, far across some of the globe, there is a little country called Norway, a place that has the highest concentration of fjords, the world’s longest road tunnel, where the paper clip was invented and was awarded happiest place in the world in 2017, and while this all seems pretty chill and innocent, Norway in the 80’s was a different tale, well for the teens anyway.
Ergh being a teenager was lame and awesome all at the same time, you could eat more and not gain weight, you didn’t have to pay council tax, you could try and finger bang everyone and not feel like a pervert and sometimes just sometimes, you got involved in the black metal scene and started burning a bunch of churches and stabbing people...oh wait no, you didn’t do that? Must have just been the dark circle of Euonymus and his friends in little old Oslo.
So before we get into chatting film I’m gonna lay down a little background info on the black metal scene in Norway and the crimes that unfolded during this time, because I fucking love this stuff and am always looking for a platform to make you poor people hear my brain thoughts, Norwegian black metal is kind of my obsession, that and boobs, get ready for your free history/music lesson, but no boobs, this film lacked an abundance of boobs, I could deduct stars but no, I’m somewhat of a professional.
So back in the 80’s a bunch of sexy teens grew long black hair and started a band called Mayhem, this consisted of the members Euronymous, Necrobutcher and drummer Kjetil Manheim, and they smashed there instruments so hard core that they invented a sound called black metal, following on from this they painted their faces to look like corpses, had crazy stage shows involving self harm and pigs heads in generally caused a lot of trouble around town...the scamps.
As well as that Euronymous, who was the ringleader of the whole situation, owned a record store called ‘’Hell’’ [sigh...nerd] where all the cool kids [probably nerds] hung out and the posers were sent packing, and to add to Euro’s [ I’m gonna call him Euro cos it takes ages to type his long ass name] cool points he also had a record label too, where he decided to release an album by another long haired metal dude called Varg.
Now to not drone on for too long because I really should talk about the film, the whole thing becomes a pissing contest, each trying to out ‘’black metal’’ the other by doing evil things, Varg burns a church down, so then the others do it too, when the singer of Mayhem blows his head off, Euro takes photos and collects bits of the skull to make necklaces from, one of them [Faust] stabs a guy to death in the woods in a homosexual hate crime, more churches get burnt down and finally it all climaxes in the murder of Euronymous by Varg himself, oh yeah and they made some kick ass metal music which you can play at any occasion, parties, weddings, when you lose your virginity, you choose...got that, good, now we can move on.
Lords of Chaos covers just this, the story that orchestrated the reasons behind the murder of Euronymous, [played amazingly well by Rory Culkin, my fav of the Culkin brothers] how this contest to be the most black metal of the gang got insanely out of hand, from the birth of Mayhem, to his death at the hands of someone he thought was a friend, Euro tells his tale of the grim and bleak world of metal, mayhem and Norway in the 80’s.
So as I said, Euro forms his band Mayhem and they hire a beautiful blonde baby man to sing for them, he goes by the name Dead [bet he gets all the ladies with a conversation started such as that] and the band move into an old house to work full time on their music which Euro has termed ‘’black metal’’, I wonder if they created a chore wheel for the house, but in the shape of a pentagram, you know for lol’s.
Actor Jack Kilmer’s portrayal of Dead is flawless, he embodies the disconnection from reality that someone suffering from depression would feel, you sense him slipping deeper and deeper into his own hell, but at the same time still trying to reach out for help with his actions on stage, Kilmer shows both sides of the emotional struggle with a grace and crushing sadness in his eyes.
Instantly we can sense a real connection between Euro and Dead, not a lot is said on screen to guide us to this conclusion, they don’t watch chick flicks, paint their nails and talk about their feelings or anything but the moments they share they display a real depth, Dead, who is struggling with a deep depression seems to confide in his own way Euro, when he self harms on stage, it’s Euro who addresses Dead on a personal level, asking if he is ‘’ok’’, a small gesture but it’s a hell of a lot more than anyone else does, they simply see it as an act, a part of his metal persona.
In a sense they both suffer in silence, Euro cannot step up and voice his concerns about Dead, he must maintain his attitude of not giving a fuck about anything or anyone and as for Dead, he is simply trapped in a world where he antics go unnoticed and are even applauded and his depression is just seen as a really good gimmick, something that makes for great PR in regards to the bands reputation, already the concept of being ‘’black metal’’ is taking its toll.
Sadly Dead blows his brains out in a scene that can only be described as painfully realistic, certain scenes in films have been imprinted into my mind simply because they display such realism, such core human emotions that you cannot separate fiction from fact, the scene in Chumbscrubber where Dean trashes his room after finally accepting his friends suicide, the horrific rape scene in Megan is missing or when Michael Fassbender cries in a crowded bar watching his sister sing a Frank Sinatra song in Shame...and now to add to the list, Dead committing suicide in Lords of Chaos.
Legend has it that Euro, who found Dead, didn’t think to do anything but take a photograph of his dead friend on discovering the body, as well as keep parts of his skull and eat some of his brain, and while we know the photography to be true because they became the front cover of Mayhem’s next album, the brain eating and skull fragments remain simply part of the legend, as well as that we will never truly know the emotional response that Euro showed at the suicide of his friend.
This scene is made even more moving by the attention to detail employed by the director, clothing and positioning of Dead is taken directly from the photographs of the actual suicide, a bold and important move, one which allows us black metal know it all’s to really applaud the film as well as giving those new to the tale a real shock when they Google the image for themselves later.
With Dead...well dead, we move into what I like to think of as the second part of the film, the first is Euro playing the strong dictating and controlling leader, the true and most evil of the black metal circle, and the second part is his fall from grace, as the one and only Varg Vikernes steps up to centre stage.
Instant problem...the actor, Emory Cohen, who plays Varg, while delivering an excellent portrayal looks little like the real life Varg, he is far more heavy set and stocky than Varg was during this time, and while this seems silly, it’s hard to believe him within the role when all you can think is ‘’fat Varg, fat Varg, fat Varg!!!’’ these men where slender, waify looking fella’s with long and beautiful hair [ how did they have such amazing hair in the 80’s?] and Cohen looks like he has been at the gym bench pressing mega weights all weekend, Varg had no time for that! He had to paint his fingernails black and set fire to churches... maybe he should of hit the gym, would of kept him out of trouble, or maybe his cape would of got snagged on the equipment, #black metal problems.
Varg quickly up’s the stakes in the scene, burning churches, creating some truly bleak music all by is lonesome, fucking loads of bitches, hiding the T.V remote, in general being a total metal menace! putting poor old Euro to shame, making people question his dedication to the black circle, was Varg overthrowing the black metal king? Maybe, maybe not but he sure as hell wanted to take the movement further, even going to the press about the church burnings, fame became very real for Varg, but put the rest of the clan in jeopardy.
We sense the ever growing tension throughout the film, sly glances, the challenging attitudes both display, this is developed over the course of the movie, but never said out loud until it’s too late, playing with the audience, making us choose sides.
Euronymous, sensing a war was coming packs up all the evil from his record store, cuts off his hair [the main source of his evil] signs all the rights to Varg’s music back to him from his record label, again another source of his evil, and retires to his home away from the city, but Varg, who clearly does not get a what a nice gesture is, decided that this contract, returning his music to him, is some kind of threat and drives out to Euros home, ending his life with a fatal stab would direct to the skull...that probably was where a lot of the evil was kept too.
The second half is more than just a fall from grace on Euronymous part, it shows how much of a show he put on and how much Varg believed the hype, for all along, even at the start when he influenced Dead and began the movement, Euronymous never really did anything wrong, he actually stabilised the situation a lot, he had a head for business and marketing and saw a way for them to make money, to make a name for themselves, to get their band famous, and all the talk about burning churches and murder was just that...talk, all the themes of death and destruction was just that...a theme.
The film focuses at this time on Euro standing in the background, watching the chaos around him, this is displayed in scenes where at church burnings he stands alone as Varg lights yet another match, we feel his disconnection to the movement growing stronger and stronger.
Lords of Chaos is not just the tale of the black metal scene but a study of what influence and peer pressure can do, the tale of a man who was all talk and costume, smoke and mirrors and what became of his peers, we see him as the influencer, wearing his mask of evil at the start with Dead, to his fall from the top, living in the shadow of someone who truly was evil.
This film is visually pleasing, gory but with an amazing application of realism, dream sequences that stimulate and terrorize you, and a dedicated research team who were able to recreate the scene and its members with care and thought.
Lords of Chaos is an interesting, stimulation and enjoyable watch, and although based on actual events, it’s important to remember that it has been hammed up in places like all films based on fact have been, for the film even states in its advertising, based on fact and lies, for really no one but those involved in the scene at the time know the truth behind all the tales and myths created.
I feared and was excited when I heard about this film, there were so many ways they could of screwed it up, and at the start I thought it was heading that way [the film faced many problems with getting the rights to using the music of the bands from that time], but I was gratefully surprised, this is a must watch to any fans of the scene, to any fans of #musicfilms, or anyone who just loves a good old descent into anarchy, but for those of you who are truly interested in the black metal scene grab a copy of the book which the movie is based on [Lords of Chaos by Michael Moynihan], light some black candles, blast your Burzum CD and sink into the underground of pentagrams, skulls and some questionable 80’s crop tops and try to figure out the truth from the myths yourself.