Black Metal has always been synonymous with Norway and with its anti-establishment take on things combined with the demonization of Christianity, it has never ceased to be one of the more fascinating and obscure constituents of the partisan metal cosmos, which reached its peak during the late 1980ies.
The genesis of the movement can be boiled down to a core of disenfranchised Norwegians who made headlines with not only their musical emissions but particularly via their less savoury acts like church-burnings and murder, a group of people whose stories director Jonas Åkerlund focuses on with his drama.
Åkerlund, known for producing videos for a range of artists ranging from Madonna to Rammstein, zeros in on the aversions, animosity, inter band rivalries and relationships of the individuals who founded the band that became known as Mayhem.
Given Åkerlund’s pedigree and involvement in the black metal scene, i.e. being the drummer for the pioneering constantly envelope pushing cult outfit Bathory, he has the ability to strike the balance between an insider’s view and a more objective portrayal of the matter and he manages to go a bit further than what had been previously reported through mainstream media.
Based on Michael Moynihan and Didrik Soderlind’s non-fiction book Lords of Chaos, Åkerlund has infused Lords of Chaos with ample irony and humour to make it more than a mere glorification of the ascent of suburban teenagers to become and transform into world renowned anti-heroes.
The focus is firmly on the twisted relationships between band members Euronymous, Dead and Varg, the emergence of the band Mayhem and the transition to what to this day still operates under the banner of Burzum under the guidance of Varg.
The “interesting”, in the best way possible, choice of Sigur Ros to provide the soundtrack creates an interesting counterpoint to the subject matter and adds another dimension apart from the shock value the mainstream audience would expect.
In essence, the merit of Åkerlund’s work lies in not merely showcasing the horror movie elements and revelling in the violent acts that lie within the story but the portrayal of extreme angst, personal demons rather than the ones informing the lyrics, the ominous atmosphere and underlying factors that caused what ultimately eventuated, i.e. murder and mayhem.