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Articles : Lords of Chaos (Movie Review)

By on March 6, 2019

First up, this is a ‘biopic’. The very term seems to trigger something in certain filmgoer’s brains, trigger a default ‘I’m going to hate on this movie’ position. These types of films must be taken and experienced for what they are: they have approximately two hours of screen time to encapsulate a number of years in a character, or characters’, lives. And in the case of Bohemian Rhapsody, more than a decade in the life of the great Freddie Merc. So yes, certain details will be skipped over, left out, dealt with too quickly and yes, just plain inaccurate, for the sake of expediency.

In the case of the crazy Norwegian black metal crew depicted in Lords of Chaos, the period is around six years, from 1987 to 1993. There will undoubtedly be people out there who are very intimate with the details of this story who will sit there viewing this film very cynically for reasons alluded to above. But who the hell cares. As a piece of work, it works, and works wonderfully.

The biggest surprise, for me anyway, was the overall tone of the movie. It was far lighter in tone than I was expecting (much, although not all, of which came from the narration of the main character Øystein “Euronymous” Aarseth), considering the sheer darkness and evil nature of the subject matter. I was expecting something extremely unsettling, something that made your flesh creep. This was just a touch disconcerting initially, however, once I was into the rhythm of the piece, it became apparent that this relative lightness of tone offset the madness of the acts and the time the film portrayed beautifully.

The film chronicles Euronymous’s invention of the ‘true Norwegian black metal sound’ and the formation of his band Mayhem, the arrival and subsequent violent suicide of the band’s first singer Dead, the appearance of the true madman of the piece Varg Vikernes, who makes his own music and winds up playing bass in Mayhem, the creation of Euronymous’s black metal record label, the church burnings, the stabbing murder of a gay man by one of the band’s other members, and finally the prolonged, harrowing slaying of Euronymous himself at the hands of Vikernes. It truly is a wild and frightening ride.

My only reservation was that most of the characters had American accents. That’s nothing against American accents, per se, it’s just a little inappropriate for actors depicting Norwegian black metallers. A little more effort could have been put into making it a little more authentic in this way.

One actually feels a little sorry for Euronymous in the end. If you believe the film’s narrative (and of course, yes there is always more sides to any story), he was somewhat of an unwilling participant in the church burnings, he didn’t actually murder anyone, and you get the feeling that he really did just want to write and play his music, and in the end, hang out with his new girlfriend. He probably didn’t deserve to be violently slaughtered the way he was.

All in all, this is an amazing story, a story well worth telling, and Lords of Chaos executes that telling very effectively in under two hours.

Director: Jonas Åkerlund
Starring: Rory Culkin, Emory Cohen, Jack Kilmer, Sky Ferreira
Year: 2019
Distributor: Arrow Films (UK)
Running Time: 118 minutes


Rod Whitfield is a Melbourne-based writer and retired musician who has been writing about music since 1995. He has worked for Team Rock, Beat Magazine,, Heavy Mag, Mixdown, The Metal Forge, Metal Obsession and many others. He has written and published his memoirs of his life and times in the music biz, and also writes books, screenplays, short stories, blogs and more.