A teenager’s quest to launch Norwegian Black Metal in Oslo in the early 1990s results in a very violent outcome.
Several years ago a friend and I found ourselves going down a Wikipedia wormhole into the Norwegian black metal scene in the 1990s, not because either of us were particular fans of that kind of music, but because the story surrounding the scene’s formation is bizarre and filled with incident. It’s no surprise that someone’s taken that material and made a film out of it, and ‘Lords of Chaos’ is the result, a reasonably entertaining retelling of how a music scene spiralled out of control into violence and murder.
The film’s story is told by a young guitarist who goes by the name of Euronymous (Rory Culkin), who became one of the founders of the scene in Norway when he started the band ‘Mayhem’ with his friend called Necrobutcher (yes, all the names are like this). They gather a following through their chaotic live shows which straddle the line between musicianship, performance art and sheer destruction and brutality. This is taken to a new level when a band member called ‘Dead’ commits suicide and the band use actual photos of the body for their next album, generating more infamy and allowing Euronymous to start a record label called Helvete (Hell in Norwegian, because of course it is) which allows him to meet more budding artists. The film attempts to portray the escalation in irrational and criminal behaviour as Euronymous and other scene members progress from minor criminality to church burnings and eventually murder, and it’s grimly compelling watching all of this play out. Director Jonas Åkerlund gives us all the details but he never gets under the skin of his characters to explain what led them to this point or what drew them to this scene, albeit perhaps no one could truly explain the bizarre behaviour on display.
’Lords of Chaos’ is a suitably grisly movie based on a music scene and the immature people involved in it who allowed their enthusiasm to manifest in deadly ways, encouraged by their peers. In many respects it reminded me of the superior film ‘Alpha Dog’ in its portrayal of callous youth, where a situation continues to intensify with no voice of reason to stop things before its too late. Regardless of whether you choose to watch the film, the back story on Wikipedia provides some oddly fascinating reading material.
Directed By: Jonas Åkerlund
Starring: Rory Culkin, Emory Cohen, Anthony De La Torre, Sky Ferreira, Jack Kilmer, Valter Skarsgård, Sam Coleman, Jonathan Barnwell, Wilson Gonzalez Ochsenknecht and Lucian Charles Collier