At first glance, you might think this is some kind of sequel to Deathgasm, but sorry, it’s not. But it easily could have been. We are in the 80’s, in the cold and conservative Nordic land of Norway where La Det Swinge by Bobbysocks is the most metal you can hear on the radio. We are introduced to the teenager Øystein “Euronymous” Aarseth who starts the small and obscure extreme metal band called Mayhem, together with Jørn “Necrobutcher” Stubberud, and eventually get their permanent drummer Jan Axel “Hellhammer” Blomberg. They get a vocalist from Sweden who calls himself Dead, a severely depressed, twisted and suicidal skinny guy who mostly spends his time collecting dead animals, chasing cats with a shotgun and keeps fantasizing about death. Dead immediately shows up to take his stage name quite literally, by almost cutting himself to death while screaming Freezing Moon on stage wearing corpse-makeup and dirty clothes that have been a whole night underground to get the right smell of decay. However, it doesn’t take long before Dead takes his persona too literal by killing himself, blowing his brains to pieces with a shotgun. Upon finding him, Euronymous takes a picture of his body in which he used as the cover of one of their bootlegs. A disgraceful act that Necrobutcher didn’t want to be a part of, and then quits.
Now without a bass player and vocalist, Mayhem is in limbo. Euronymous starts his own record label Death Like Silence Productions and the record shop Helvete in Oslo, a hangout place in the black metal-circle where he more or less becomes an evil incarnate-cult leader, where everyone else are just posers. And in comes Varg Vikernes, a lonely, angry, insecure young man from Bergen with his one-man-band Burzum, who also speaks English. And yeah, we’re still in Norway where everyone speaks fluently English, but read Norwegian newspapers. Anyway, he’s really hungry and desperate for recognition, status and respect in the extreme metal circle. And he want’s it now! And to show how extreme and Dr. Prime Evil he is, he removes his Scorpions patch from his jacket, since that’s not “true metal” according to Euronymous, and sets fire to a church or two. Impressed by Varg’s actions and his commitment to practice what he preaches, Euronymous signs him on his record label. Varg also appears to play bass, and becomes a session-player on the recording of the De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas record. But it shows that the relatively tiny black metal circle isn’t big enough for the two of them. The more respect Varg gets after the church burnings, the more Euronymous fades into the shadows, which makes their relationship crack and escalates into a huge battle between two poisonous, fragile and fucked-up egos. And as Euronymous tells the audience in the short voice-over prologue at the beginning, it doesn’t end well.
Ignoring all the inaccuracy and how Euronymous is painted as a saint with angel wings and Varg as the most evil creature in the universe, Lords of Chaos was better than I expected. I didn’t know what to expect, really, but at least I got entertained during the two hours it lasted, and that’s good enough for me. The most known segments, that has already been covered in books and documentaries, is included here. Everything from the small-legendary concert where the corpse-paint and pig heads got introduced, the homicide on the gay man in the Olympic Park, church burnings, up to the brutal climax. There’s a lot of shit to cover, but I wish the film focused more on Mayhem as a band and their struggle to survive on their chaotic zero-budget tours around Europe on Interrail which ends in them getting handcuffed by the Police. I didn’t get the Home Alone vibes from Rory Culkin as I expected, and there is some level of energy and enthusiasm behind his big, crazy eyes. He appears more like a younger Fenriz from Darkthrone. Emory Cohen, however, does a rather sloppy and lazy performance in which I can’t tell if it’s just bad acting or if he is in a role he really didn’t want to play. I just don’t buy him as Varg for a single second he’s on screen. But awesome that at least they got Attilla’s son, Arion, playing a thirty-year younger version of his dad.
The film has a great look with great use of the Norwegian landscapes, and the set of the Helvete record shop was spot on. And of course the churches that were built to be burned down was a stunning and beautiful sight to watch. And if there’s not any plans of a biopic GG Allin in the dark horizon, this will be the bloodiest and most graphic in the genre, as far as I know.
And if you haven’t already, also watch the documentaries Once Upon a Time in Norway (2007), Pure Fucking Mayhem (2008), Until the Light Takes Us (2008) and Satan Rides the Media (1998)
Director: Jonas Åkerlund
Country & year: UK | Sweden | Norway, 2018
Actors: Rory Culkin, Emory Cohen, Jack Kilmer, Sky Ferreira, Valter Skarsgård, Anthony De La Torre, Jonathan Barnwell, Sam Coleman, Wilson Gonzalez, Lucian Charles Collier, Andrew Lavelle, James Edwyn, Gustaf Hammarsten, Jon Øigarden, Arion Csihar