Black Metal Gets Murdered… ‘Lords Of Chaos’ (2019) Film Review

Lords Of Chaos has been a hot commodity in many underground film circles on social media since its release. When I go on Facebook and scroll my news feed, I can’t escape the mention or discussion of it by many. Some disregard it, some praise it, some find it entertaining and fascinating, and others shun it. Whatever your opinion is on Lords Of Chaos, if you’ve listened to black metal or followed its history, it’s near impossible to have gone without hearing about the morbid tales of the black metal inner circle: the church burnings, the murder of Euronymous by Varg, and the suicide of Mayhem’s original, mentally unstable vocalist, Dead.

Like many, I was skeptical when I watched a couple of teaser trailers that made the material out to be a dark comedy, and in some aspects, even goofy. The first time I watched Lords Of Chaos, the film grew on me like black mold. I never finished it the first time because it was late and I was tired, but instead of picking up where I left off, I started it from the beginning and finally finished it. I have gathered two basic points from the film’s viewing – it’s entertaining and it’s well made. Some who have followed the actual events and read up on the story disagree about how the characters were portrayed. They believe the film should have been conveyed in a much more serious light. They laugh that the little brother of Home Alone’s Macaulay Culkin plays Euronymous, and they can’t believe Varg was portrayed the way he was.

None have been more vocal than Varg Vikernes himself. Speaking out on his own YouTube channel with various rants and statements, he’s claiming falsehood to the movie. I’ve been hearing varying stories that bands like Darkthrone and Mayhem didn’t want their music in the film. At the same time, I have also heard the opposite, that Mayhem agreed to cooperate with the movie.

However, my views on Lords Of Chaos are simple. It is not going to paint a 100% actual picture of a true event, because in any movie, there will always be an air of fiction. I will simply state some of my personal likes and dislikes about the film.

I don’t consider myself a die hard black metal fan, but I do enjoy it and have been listening to metal – especially death metal – for a good 20+ years. Most of my first exposure to black metal would be probably from Osmose Productions with bands such as Immortal, Impaled Nazarene and Marduk, and even material on Necropolis Records and Unisound Records. I was never fully aware in the early ’90s of the events occurring in Norway. Lords Of Chaos tells the story of Euronymous, his band Mayhem, his relationship with Varg Vikerness, Varg’s breakout black metal project, Burzum, the black metal inner circle and the forming of Deathlike Silence Productions at Euronymous’s Helvete underground record shop.

All the names in the infamous scene are here, including convicted murderer, Faust, of Emperor and Snorre’s character from Thorns. Even Fenriz from Darkthrone is represented in minimal form. Rory Culkin pulls out a good performance as Euronymous, a role that would be doomed no matter who stepped into those shoes. Emory Cohen is perhaps the most innovative character in scope, going from awkward outsider poser to innovative and feared Count Grishnackh, the inventor of a new style of raw black metal. For me, the best character in the film was Dead (Jack Kilmer), an obviously broken individual whose depression ruled every move of his existence until it consumed him.

Even writing this review, I am thinking about the fascinating, intricate details Lords Of Chaos did get right. When the intro to the movie says it’s based on truth and lies, you know it is going into the subject matter with a rather tongue-in-cheek method. That being said, one of the biggest errors in Lords of Chaos is not having any Norwegian actors – or, at least, American actors with bad Norwegian accents, just to say, “Hey, we did it half assed, but at least we tried.” It’s been said that Varg was actually in a black metal band called Old Funeral before he met up with Mayhem. so he was not so foreign to the subject matter as he was portrayed in the film. It was said he had no real interest in black metal and considered himself more of a viking with strong fascist and political views. This was touched upon in the movie. There was no mention in the movie of Emperor, we just saw Faust hanging out and living with Euronymous in the shop up Faust was convicted of murder.

In the movie, it seemed Dead and Euronymous had a close relationship and understanding, while in reality, Dead began to annoy Euronymous, and he wanted Dead to kill himself. The murder of Euronymous was handled in a fashion not told from Varg’s perspective of self-defense, and I might catch shit for this, but anyone who believes this is a fucking moron, as the 16 stab wounds in the back speak for themselves.

The violence portrayed in the film is extremely graphic, realistic and unnerving. Dead’s suicide is chilling to behold, and those special effects were jaw dropping. The stabbing involving Faust in the park is probably one of the most realistic I’ve seen on film. It’s uncomfortable and relentless and exactly how I would imagine someone getting stabbed in real life would react. Euronymous’ death was done in an almost sympathetic and heart-wrenching fashion. I’m sure the guy was no saint, but what was carried out here was a cold-blooded and purely evil execution of passion, paranoia and turmoil, and honestly, quite cowardly. I’m not sure if that was the intent, but that is what I felt was conveyed. The church burnings were not played up at all and were also done with this casual, nonchalant attitude, which was laughable yet shocking at the same time.

In the end, Lords Of Chaos is a unique and original film. I respect what Jonas Akerlund was trying to do here. He tried to add some dark humor and not make the story all gloom and doom. Plus, he obviously struck a nerve in some regard by pissing people off, which speaks volumes and tells me some of the shit in Lords Of Chaos is true. The material did hit home with particular individuals… maybe in some regards, a little too close to home.

About Richard Taylor

Avid gore/horror/underground/brutal death metal/comic fiend. Got into the good stuff in the nineties by tape trading the likes of Violent Shit, Cannibal Holocaust, Cannibal Apocalypse, The Beyond, Guinea Pig series, Men Behind The Sun etc. Have written for a bunch of sites some now defunct and some still going such as Violent Maniacs Cage, ZFE Films With Attitude, Mortado's Pages Of Filth, Severed Cinema, Goregasmic Cinema, Extreme Horror Cinema and Twisted Minds.

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