Movie Review – Lords Of Chaos (2018)

Witness the birth of True Norwegian Black Metal and its most notorious practitioners in the vision of award-winning director Jonas Åkerlund, despite the annoying fact the entire movie is spoken in English.

“A teenager’s quest to launch Norwegian Black Metal in Oslo in the early 1990s results in a very violent outcome.”

That’s how the producers of the good movie Lords Of Chaos, which was screened at several film festivals in 2018 and released in theaters on February 8 and on demand on February 22 this year, are promoting their version of the birth of True Norwegian Black Metal and its most notorious practitioners, those being Kristian ‘Varg’ Vikernes (also known for his revolutionary one-man project Burzum), Pelle ‘Dead’ Ohlin and, above all, Øystein ‘Euronymous’ Aarseth, the founder of and central figure in the early Norwegian Black Metal scene, the co-founder of the Norwegian Black Metal band Mayhem, and the founder and owner of the Extreme Metal record label Deathlike Silence Productions and record shop Helvete. All of them were members of one of the most infamous bands of all time, Mayhem, being part of a militant cult-like group known as the “Black Metal Inner Circle”.

If you’re a longtime fan of True Norwegian Black Metal, there’s nothing new to you in the movie that you don’t already know, but it’s still interesting to see how director Jonas Åkerlund, a Swedish director and drummer known for music videos like Madonna’s Ray of Light, Rammstein’s Pussy and The Prodigy’s Smack My Bitch Up, and a member of Swedish Black Metal institution Bathory from 1983 to 1984, portrayed all the trademark chaos, rebelliousness and violence of the Norwegian scene in the 90’s. Featuring Rory Culkin (yes, he’s the younger brother of Macaulay Culkin) as Euronymous, who did a great job trying to humanize such distinct character of the Black Metal universe, Emory Cohen as the untamable Varg, Jack Kilmer as the disturbed Dead, Sky Ferreira as Euronymous’ girlfriend Ann-Marit, and Valter Skarsgård as Emperor’s drummer and convicted murderer Bård Guldvik ‘Faust’ Eithun, as well as Anthony De La Torre as Jan Axel ‘Hellhammer’ Blomberg and James Edwyn as Kjetil ‘Manheim’ (considered by many the true founders of Mayhem in 1984, when the band was still named Musta), Lords Of Chaos is far from being a masterpiece, but it’s still a very entertaining movie that provides (to a certain point, of course) a very good view of how Black Metal changed the lives of those reckless kids that had a fairly decent life in Norway.

Despite the real Varg being completely against Lords Of Chaos, even stating in a 2016 video that Mayhem, Burzum and Darkthrone all denied the movie rights to their music, the movie is indeed a compelling ride that transforms Mayhem’s iconic guitarist Euronymous into a normal person like any of us, focusing on his fears and personal strugles as a young guy living in Norway, having won the jury prize best film award at the Molins de Rei Horror Film Festival in 2018 and being nominated to several other awards worldwide. However, if there’s one thing that really bothered me throughout the entire movie was the fact that all actors in the film speak in English (and with their American accents) all the time, despite the movie being entirely shot is Oslo, the capital of the beautiful Norway. In my opinion, they could have selected a few good Norwegian actors and done the whole movie in Norwegian to give it a much more realistic vibe, as it was sometimes pretty inconsistent and cringeworthy (at least for me) watching people in Norway, with the TV, newspapers and everything else in Norwegian, speaking like if they were all born and raised in Los Angeles or New York. That small but important detail doesn’t necessarily ruin the movie, but whenever you watch it I’m sure you’ll also have that feel that you’re watching a “Black Metal edition” of Beverly Hills, 90210 being aired on a Tuesday at 3pm on a random public access TV channel. I understand the use of English was somewhat essential for reaching a broader audience and having better support to promote the movie, but I still think the Norwegian language would have made the entire movie a thousand times more entertaining.

Apart from that language issue, Lords Of Chaos is extremely well produced, presenting a fantastic photography, including some stunning scenes from Norway’s unique nature and landscapes and, of course, strong colors and imagery to represent the main characters’ depression, madness and fears, and the story flows smoothly with very few plot holes (and historical inaccuracies) until the end. Furthermore, it’s nice to see how human all those musicians were, despite the fact many of their fans like to idolize them (as we pretty much do with any member of our favorite bands no matter which type of music they play). For instance, in one of the first scenes of the movie, we can see Euronymous, Dead and the others partying outdoors like any regular teenager, listening to some ass-kicking, old school metal hymns, having a lot of beer and trying to impress the girls around them. No murder, no arson, nor anything like that, only kids enjoying life and trying to find their place in society. As simple as that, just like many, many Black Metal bands reviewed here at The Headbanging Moose who focus on their music rather than on violent or illegal activities.

In addition, although Jonas Åkerlund stated in a 2018 interview that he used little Black Metal in the movie in part because “it’s kind of painful to listen to black metal music if you’re not used to it or don’t love it,” there’s still a lot of good Black Metal and other types of extreme and not-so-extreme music played throughout the entire movie. While watching it, get ready to bang your head and raise your horns to classics such as Funeral Fog by Mayhem, Inri and Satanic Lust by Sarcofago, Fast as a Shark by Accept, Stand up and Shout by Dio, Born for Burning, Sacrifice and The Return of Darkness and Evil by Bathory, Outbreak of Evil by Sodom, Serpent Eye by Cathedral, and Exhume To Consume by Carcass, among several others. Not only that, there are obviously some very entertaining scenes where both Mayhem and Burzum are either rehearsing, recording in the studio or playing live, which by the way is one of my favorite musical moments of the movie, with Mayhem’s chaotic sound mixed with the bloody and demented performance by their frontman Dead being the undisputed depiction of True Norwegian Black Metal.

Anyway, the main topic presented during the whole movie is obviously the extremely delicate relationships between Euronymous and Dead during what can be considered the first phase of Mayhem (until the always perturbed Dead loses it and commits suicide by blowing his brains out with a shotgun, with Euronymous taking a picture of his deceased friend and turning it into the disturbing cover art of their 1995 bootleg live album Dawn of the Black Hearts), and especially between Euronymous and the one who would become his arch nemesis in the end, the beyond controversial Varg. I mean, Dead was absolutely nuts from the very beginning, and apparently he’s always been like that due to a very tough childhood where he was bullied and beaten all the time at school, and Euronymous was just a regular musician until turning into a Black Metal beast with excellent sales, marketing and promotion skills, but the transformation of Varg from a chubby guy who liked Scorpions into a total lunatc who would reach the point of burning churches in the name of Black Metal is simply fantastic. For instance, pay good attention to the whole scene where Varg invites the press to his “lair” and tells them his name is “Count Grishnackh”, among other ridiculous comments and statements he makes. That’s hilarious and could have easily been included in any American teen movie.

And Jonas Åkerlund keeps humanizing all characters the entire movie, showing how Euronymous got some money from his father to open Helvete and start his record label, how Varg got money from his mother to help record a Mayhem album (and kept asking Euronymous for that money to pay his mom back), and how Faust couldn’t stop watching horror movies, which was one of the reasons why he got so interested in killing someone, or as he said, in piercing a knife through someone’s body like in the movies. And unless you come from a different dimension and knows absolutely nothing about True Norwegian Black Metal, you’ll be relatively shocked with how things turn at the end of the movie when Varg, feeling betrayed by his former friend Euronymous, who according to Varg himself turned his back not only to him but to the “Black Metal Inner Circle” and to the entire scene to focus on his musical career and on his girlfriend, decides to put an end to their relationship for good (or I should say not good at all). Let’s say Euronymous was what Dani Filth, from Cradle Of Filth, and Nergal, from Behemoth, are nowadays, an excellent performer and musician with a normal life backstage, which somehow sparks a lot of rage from the ones who consider themselves “true Black Metal fans”, got it?

There are many interviews and videos online where Jonas Åkerlund, Rory Culkin and Emory Cohen discuss Lords Of Chaos, like this one with BUILD Series NYC, and you can also find more information about the movie directly from their Facebook page, Twitter and Intagram. However, I highly recommend you avoid all that before watching Lords Of Chaos (don’t even watch the trailer below), as a few of those interviews and videos might “ruin” some important parts of the movie for you. Put differently, turn off the lights and light up some candles, turn off your smart phone, put on your most diabolical metal shirt, grab a beer or some red wine, and dive deep into the beautiful but somber Norway together with Euronymous, Dead and Varg, and become a “lord of chaos” yourself. You’re going to love this movie or completely hate it, but at least give it a try and then see what you think about it.

Best moments of the movie: Every scene where Euronymous interacts with either Dead or Varg is excellent. Rory Culkin, Emory Cohen and Jack Kilmer do a pretty solid job playing those three iconic characters.

Worst moments of the movie: As aforementioned, the fact that all dialogues are spoken in English and not in Norwegian, despite the entire movie being set in the beautiful Norway and based on Norwegian characters.

Released in 2018 Gunpowder & Sky/Arrow Films

Directed by Jonas Åkerlund

Cast
Rory Culkin – Øystein ‘Euronymous’ Aarseth
Emory Cohen – Kristian ‘Varg’ Vikernes
Jack Kilmer – Pelle ‘Dead’ Ohlin
Sky Ferreira – Ann-Marit
Valter Skarsgård – Bård Guldvik ‘Faust’ Eithun
Anthony De La Torre – Jan Axel ‘Hellhammer’ Blomberg
Jonathan Barnwell – Jørn ‘Necrobutcher’ Stubberud
Full cast & crew

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Metal Chick of the Month – Vanja Slajh

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I shall devour your flesh!

As we kicked off 2014 with a true badass bassist, and as the year was so awesome for The Headbanging Moose, let’s keep up with the “tradition” and start 2015 with another Heavy Metal babe that kicks some serious ass with her 4-string weapon. The chosen one this time is the enigmatic Swiss brunette Vanja Slajh (or also Vanja Šlajh), bassist for Zurich-based Gothic Doom Metal band Triptykon.

Although we can find pretty much any information about anything in the world on the Internet, it was a hard task collecting personal and professional details about Vanja’s life, showing how introverted she might be and how she has managed to remain as underground as possible even after joining Triptykon and gaining some considerable fame.

All that could be found on the Internet about the personal life of this stunning woman was the year she was born, which was 1984, and that she is from the beautiful country of Switzerland, but nothing else in regards to her favorite artists, bands, food, drinks, movies or hobbies. Not even her official Twitter account has any details about her life or projects, and basically all interviews related to Triptykon are done by the band’s founder Tom G. Warrior, who’s also the mastermind behind Swiss Extreme Metal bands Hellhammer and Celtic Frost. In case you love some mystery in a woman, you’ll probably fall in love for Vanja, as it seems her life is full of secrets that she’s not willing to share with almost anyone in this world. In an era where our lives are 100% exposed on all types of social media like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram, Finding people who can have non-overexposed private lives is truly fantastic, and Vanja is one of those “heroes”.

So let’s talk about the known facts about her, all related to her career as a Heavy Metal bass player. Despite the fact that no one knows exactly when she started playing bass nor who her biggest influences in music were, before joining Triptykon she was part of a Swiss Black Metal project named Freitod, but the band has never really released anything. Besides, no one is really sure when she became the bassist for Freitod nor when she left the band (those Black Metal bands are way too obscure sometimes).

Finally, in 2008, Tom G. Warrior invited Vanja to be the bassist for Triptykon, and as he has mentioned several times during his interviews, she was the only person he had in mind for the 4-string position with the band. Some people say Vanja was the chosen one because after the two met when he was going to do some production for her previous band, Freitod, they suddenly became really good friends. I believe friendship among band members is valid, and of course essential for the survival of any band, but in my opinion her skills as a musician and her onstage performance were what actually influenced Tom in his decision.

So far she has recorded with the band the full-length album Eparistera Daimones, the EP Shatter, and more recently the amazing album Melana Chasmata. The lyrical themes changed slightly from what she used to play with Freitod, now more focused on feelings such as despair, pain and depression, as you can see in the lyrics for their single Breathing (“Every breath I take / Leaves me parched for air / Every hand I touch / Causes skin to tear / Every flame approached / Blinds my eyes / Every word I write / Leaves me drained”), taken from their most recent album.

However, it’s that dark, low and thunderous sound this gothic girl can extract from her instrument that really stands out when she’s playing, which can be easily noted in the aforementioned song Breathing, and in the songs Crucifixus and Shatter, from their Shatter EP, the later having one of the most powerful and bestial bass lines I’ve ever heard in my life. How can she play those notes? And before you ask, although she’s recorded some vocals for their latest album, it’s not her voice in Shatter, but of singer Simone Vollenweider.

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If you want to enjoy the thrilling live performance of this Goddess of Metal with Triptykon, I believe the best video available online is their masterful performance at Wacken Open Air in 2011. But in case you don’t have enough time or patience to watch the entire concert online, or if you’re a depressed person and don’t want to feel even more depressed with Triptykon’s dark music, you should at least check out one of the songs from that concert, their version for Celtic Frost’s classic and probably biggest masterpiece Procreation (Of The Wicked). To be honest, I have no idea how watching the stunning Vanja and her wicked bass kicking fuckin’ ass on stage can be depressing by any means, but that depends on each person’s perception of reality, right?

Besides Vanja’s unique technique as a bassist, one of the main reasons for this raven-haired woman being able to produce such low notes (as if her bass guitar was going to explode) is her excellent partnership with Ibanez guitars. I read somewhere that she uses the Ibanez Iceman Series Electric Basses (more specifically the Ibanez ICB300EX-BK Iceman Bass) because “she just fell in love with it”. What a lucky bass guitar!

One last detail about Triptykon’s awesome bassist is that she was featured in a special issue (#94) of Decibel Magazine in August 2012, called Women in Metal “Queens of Noise”, but unfortunately I couldn’t check what’s actually inside the magazine. Not sure if there was any kind of interview with her or just some pictures, which doesn’t bother me at all. As long as she keeps shaking the earth with her blustering bass, I’m pretty sure no one will care if she doesn’t give any interviews in her entire life. Well, at least not in English, because there’s one available in her mother tongue during Rock Hard Festival 2014, Swiss German, where I could at least enjoy her beauty, voice and smile as I don’t speak that language at all. If you speak Swiss German or regular German, enjoy it!

Vanja Slajh’s Official Twitter
Triptykon’s Official Facebook page
Triptykon’s Official YouTube channel

Album Review – Triptykon / Melana Chasmata (2014)

Gothic, Black and especially Doom Metal as grandiose as they can be.

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Triptykon-Melana-ChasmataOne of the most expected albums of 2014 from one of today’s darkest and heaviest bands has finally arrived: Melana Chasmata, or Μελανά Χασματα (in the Greek alphabet), which can be translated as “black, deep depressions”, from Swiss Gothic/Doom Metal band Triptykon, has everything it takes to be one of the most acclaimed albums of the year, and undoubtedly the best in terms of extreme music.

This Zurich-based Doom Metal “dream team” founded by Heavy Metal icon Tom G. Warrior (Hellhammer, Celtic Frost) is as cohesive and effective as possible, and of course, totally wicked. There isn’t a single song on this album that can be considered filler or commercial: quite the contrary, Triptykon offer us a masterpiece of darkness, with lots of melancholy, pain and hopelessness, perfect for people who hate all those disposable pop songs made for that annoying and fake sense of “collective joy”.

Tom & Co. open the album with a pure Black Metal track called Tree Of Suffocating Souls, with a fuckin’ heavy instrumental, especially bass and drums, which sound simply amazing together. Moreover, the lyrics are also very intelligent and controversial, making the whole song even better. And what can I say about the Gothic/Doom Metal work-of-art Boleskine House? Its low resonant bass and the female vocals give me the shivers, and make me want to literally feel this song at a Triptykon concert. It’s a flawless brilliant composition, the best song of the album, and the lyrics are those things we feel grateful for being able to enjoy (“Your eyes that once / Have gazed the waves / Have long been closed / Become enslaved / Within these walls”).

Altar Of Deceit continues with the greatness in Melana Chasmata with its dark intro, Tony Iommi-ish demonic riffs, desperate vocals, and a very nice solo at the end, while Breathing, another extremely dark track with a depressive and at the same time beautiful intro, suddenly accelerates to an awesome mix of Death and Black Metal and ends in a very good “old school Slayer” way. What else do we need in a song, right?

The following two tracks are the epitome of evil: Aurorae is a dreary song, tailored for people who enjoy “suffering” alone while savoring the most obscure tunes a band can produce, and its guitar solo gives it an extra touch of fineness; and Demon Pact sounds like if its riffs, vocals, drums, bass and everything else were actually recorded in hell. Based on the name of the song I wasn’t expecting anything less evil, making it one of my favorite tracks by far.

triptykonIn The Sleep Of Death, a very atmospheric and eerie low-paced song, has some more desperate vocals, followed by the longest track of the album, Black Snow, a lesson in Doom Metal with over 12 minutes of obscurity and awesomeness. Tom proves here he’s the beast incarnate, and it’s impossible not to scream together with him “Black snow! Black snow!”. And to close this stunning album in a majestic way, we have Waiting, with its delicate rhythm and mesmerizing female vocals. It’s a very gothic and beautiful song, and I’m sure lots of fans will consider it one of the highlights of the whole album.

The album art, once again created by Swiss surrealist artist H. R. Giger, who has already worked with music icons such as Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Carcass, Celtic Frost and Danzig, perfectly represents all the density in the music in Melana Chasmata. Besides that, one thing I need to say is that, although all musicians are amazing and Tom G. Warrior is a genius, the badass bass lines are my favorite part of all songs. Vanja Slajh is a Doom Metal Goddess, no doubt about that.

Tom always says that only Death is real. However, he forgot to say the same about his band Triptykon, and now about Melana Chasmata, an album we’re more than glad it’s a reality. Eparistera Daimones was already a great album, but this time Triptykon took Doom Metal to such a level of grandiosity it’s hard to find words to describe it. When music is able to reach our souls like what’s found in Melana Chasmata, we know there’s something special about it. And if Triptykon go to your town for a live performance, don’t miss it by any chance: it’s going to be a unique and thrilling experience that very few bands can provide you nowadays.

Best moments of the album: Boleskine House, Breathing, Aurorae, Demon Pact and Black Snow. As a matter of fact, I should say that the whole album is amazing.

Worst moments of the album: It’s difficult to find a weak song in Melana Chasmata, but if I really had to choose one I would say In The Sleep Of Death.

Released in 2014 Prowling Death Records/Century Media Records

Track listing
1. Tree Of Suffocating Souls 7:55
2. Boleskine House 7:12
3. Altar Of Deceit 7:32
4. Breathing 5:50
5. Aurorae 6:17
6. Demon Pact 6:07
7. In The Sleep Of Death 8:10
8. Black Snow 12:24
9. Waiting 5:55

Band members
Tom G. Warrior – guitar, vocals
V. Santura – guitar, vocals
Vanja Slajh – bass, vocals
Norman Lonhard – drums, percussion