“LORD OF CHAOS”— The Early-‘90s Oslo Death Metal Scene

“Lords Of Chaos”

The Early-‘90s Oslo Death Metal Scene

Amos Lassen

“Lords of Chaos” gets off being salacious through church burnings and murders that brought bands like Darkthrone and Burzum to the attention of the world while treating the music itself dismissively and even with contempt. The movie is based on Michael Moynihan and Didrik Søderlind’s sensationalist cult book of the same title and centers on Mayhem founder, label owner, record-shop proprietor, and all-around scene guru Euronymous (Rory Culkin), who was stabbed to death by his friend and bandmate, Varg (Emory Cohen). Euronymous narrates the story of his own murder from beyond the grave. We see Euronymous as, more than anything, a marketing genius, whose fascination with evil and Satanism stemmed in large part from its branding potential. Even the horrific suicide of his band’s original lead singer, Dead (Jack Kilmer), serves as an opportunity to shine his own brutal image. Instead of immediately calling the police when he discovers the body, Euronymous runs out and buys a disposable camera, which he then uses to take grisly photos of his friend’s cratered head. Later, he even presents his bandmates with necklaces made from what he claims are fragments of their buddy’s skull.

It seems that “Lords of Chaos” attempts to deromanticize this most mythologized of scenes, to show that this “supposedly frightening cabal of vampiric Scandinavian Satan worshippers was really just a bunch of degenerate teenagers using their parents’ money to play-act at being evil bad asses.” There’s some truth in that observation, but director’s approach is too superficial to get any real insight. We see scene after directionless scene of guys sitting around talking about how evil they are.

This approach downplays the severity of the scene’s truly unsavory politics— racism, homophobia, misogyny, and anti-Christianity. “Lords of Chaos” simply reduces Norwegian black metal to the story of a bunch of wild and crazy young men doing stupid messed-up things.

The film follows Norwegian black metal hands and examines the bitter rivalry between two major players on the scene, which in 1993 led to the murder of musician Øystein Aarseth.

Jonas Åkerlund’s film is Nietzschean and about up turning society and social norms, promoting evil, inspiring fear and terror in the media and population. They saw themselves as the Übermenschen of rock and cultivated an underground and deviant form of self-expression, the delicious irony at the heart of the film is in how their repeated distaste for publicity and fame ultimately led to worldwide notoriety.

The film finds plenty of humor in the antics of Euronymous (Aarseth’s nom de guerre) and once-polite teenagers lashing out against bourgeois conformity

Quite basically this is ultimately a coming-of-age story, or rather coming-of-death, of a group of privileged boys.

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