Lords of Chaos

Lords of Chaos ★★

Director Jonas Akerlund is a Swedish film director, screenwriter, and drummer who's most interesting film here on LB is the truly bonkers, Polar, starring Mads Mikkelsen. I really need to rewatch that one, but after looking at his filmography, I was struck by the poster for Double Duchess: Seeing Double, which features a lovely naked Fergie! Unfortunately the only other film from him that I've seen was Horsemen, which was utter shit, and if I'd known that beforehand I may not have purchased Lords of Chaos, a film I'd been intrigued to see since it was released back in 2018. My Arrow Films Blu Ray has been sitting for a few months, and following Calamity Jane, I reckoned a change of pace might keep things interesting before delving into more Spaghetti Western "Mayhem."

Sometimes it's a news story that draws you into a film, rather than the subject matter, and that's definitely the case with Lords of Chaos. I remembered the furore that followed the Fantoft Stave Church burning in April of 1992, and how the authorities suspected Satanists had been responsible for it. Nearly 50 other arson attacks followed, and it was one of those bizarre stories that would pop up every now and again here in the UK as the real reasoning behind them baffled Norwegian Police.

I'd heard of Mayhem, I'd heard of Burzum too, but it was a little too dark for me. The whole culture however fascinated me, these guys were out there, or at least what we heard in whispers about them was? I'm not sure everyone believed everything we heard about them either, some of it was distasteful, the neo-Nazi ideology that Kristian "Varg" Vikernes apparently embraced, the hatred for organised religion too, but surely not everything we read was true? Well here in Akerlund's film, which I may add, has been discredited by almost everyone portrayed within it, is a mixture of truth and lies? It is gruesome too, there are questionable scenes depicting suicide, homophobic murder, and various other unsavoury behaviour, but again, how much of Akerlund's film is based on fact? What really was the dynamic between Euronymous and Varg, who influenced who, and how much did either of them truly embrace the underground Satanism, ethnic paganism, and the hatred of Christianity. The corpse paint, the black and white make-up, the bullet belts and spiked wristbands, as well as the stage props of animal heads on spikes, pentagrams, and self-mutilation that some artists indulged in were common, but as Rory Culkin's Euronymous expressed to Emory Cohen's Varg in one scene here, most of his angry rhetoric was bullshit looking for publicity for the band. It's their power struggle that fans the flames, literally, as churches burn, and things start to truly escalate, and it is a "black mark" on metal as well as music in general.

This film is a tough watch, it's dirty, dark and depressing, despite featuring a mesmeric performance from Rory Culkin. His turn is the highlight of a film that is soulless, showing the murkier side of music and musicians and how darkness can corrupt when taken to extremes. I don't believe Akerlund really explains what drove these protagonists, and as a fellow member of a Black Metal band (Bathory) you'd think that if anyone did understand what made them tick, it would be him? A missed opportunity to tell a coherent story of a moment in music that shocked the world, this truly is a mixture of truth and lies?

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