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

Concert Review – Paganfest America Part V (The Opera House,Toronto, ON, 05/01/2014)

An awesome multicultural festival in the world’s most multicultural city.

paganfest_2014Let me start by asking a very simple question before I actually talk about the amazing festival that happened last night: who the hell had the brilliant idea of scheduling a festival at SIX O’CLOCK ON A THURSDAY, a  day and time where pretty much EVERYONE is still at work and there’s also a lot of traffic? Because of that, I guess many people that attended PAGANFEST AMERICA PART V yesterday at The Opera House, in Toronto, missed at least the opening act, American Folk Metal band Winterhymn, and maybe even some of the other bands. Fortunately I was able to get there before 7:30pm and could watch half of the concert from the following band and the rest of the festival, which is where this review starts!

VARG

01paganfest toronto_vargPeople dressed up accordingly (which means Viking, warrior and/or pagan costumes), corpsepainting, lots of good and cold beer, friends hugging each other and dancing together, metalheads screaming with their fists and horns in the air, and German Melodic Death Metal band Varg kickin’ ass on stage! The first impression from the festival was very positive, and knowing the Pagan Metal community in Toronto is so big was great for me. Not only that, getting in contact with Varg for the first time was also amazing as their music has that kind of energy I love, and although I don’t know German (they sing only in their mother tongue) it was easy to follow their message in each song. Highlights to the excellent song Guten Tag and to the girls the band called on stage to headbang like crazy, and I promise I’ll go after more of their material in the future.

Band members
Freki – vocals, guitars
Managarm – bass, backing vocals, guitars, lead guitars
Hati – guitars
Fenrier – drums

CHTHONIC

02paganfest toronto_chthonicA few microphone issues, a relatively short setlist and the absence of keyboardist CJ Kao didn’t prevent Taiwanese Orient Metal warriors Chthonic from delivering an unforgettable performance at The Opera House. “WE ARE CHTHONIC FROM TAIWAN!”, screamed an all fired-up Freddy Lim to the fans, who promptly responded screaming and raising their fists in the air. The band looked pretty excited to be back in Toronto for the first time since their tour with Arch Enemy in 2011, and their music sounded even more powerful and cohesive this time.

After the beautiful intro Arising Armament, our beloved Taiwanese icons Freddy, Jesse, Dani and, of course, the stunning Doris Yeh, kicked off their concert with the superb song Supreme Pain for the Tyrant, from their 2013 album Bú-Tik, and it was impossible not to scream at full force with them “Let me stand up like a Taiwanese! Only justice will bring you peace!”, lyrics that make total sense even for non-Taiwanese fans like myself. We’re all together in this war, right? By the way, almost the whole setlist was based on the Bú-Tik album, with the exception of the classics Oceanquake and Takao, which closed the show. Highlights to the great songs Sail Into the Sunset’s Fire and Defenders of Bú-Tik Palace, which sounded even more amazing live.

Last but not least, all band members are not only exceptional musicians, but also really good people. It’s easy to be mesmerized by Doris’ performance on stage, or by the unique sound of the erhu beautifully played by Freddy, but things get even better when you have a chance to interact with them offstage. Freddy, Doris and Jesse were extremely relaxed, happy and very, very considerate of all their fans, taking pictures, answering any questions and having a beer with everybody. At least for me, that explains a lot why they are so successful and becoming so important in the world of heavy music. All I can say is THANKS, CHTHONIC! It will always be my pleasure to “stand up like a Taiwanese” with you guys!

Setlist
1. Arising Armament (intro)
2. Supreme Pain for the Tyrant
3. Oceanquake
4. Next Republic
5. Sail Into the Sunset’s Fire
6. Defenders of Bú-Tik Palace
7. Takao 

Band members
Freddy Lim – vocals, erhu
Doris Yeh – bass, backing vocals
Jesse Liu – guitars, backing vocals
Dani Wang – drums
CJ Kao – keyboards*

* Missed the concert in Toronto due to personal issues.

TURISAS

03paganfest toronto_turisasIn my opinion, the show by Finnish Symphonic Power Metal band Turisas was the most anticipated concert of the night, and also the one where you could see the highest amount of smiles on the faces of the crowd. I don’t remember seeing so many people dancing and prancing like yesterday, especially when they played their cover version for the discotheque classic Rasputin, by Boney M., but they kicked ass during the whole gig, of course.

There were very few moments where either the songs were too long or too slow, but the fans didn’t care too much about that and enjoyed every single second of that “Viking fest”. Besides the awesome craziness of Rasputin, the most memorable songs were Battle Metal, Stand Up and Fight and We Ride Together. Did you notice all their best songs are related to battle, courage and loyalty? That’s what has always made Heavy Metal so powerful in regards to inspiring people to face their fears and challenges in life, and I’m sure all fans that are studying, working or doing anything else today are a lot happier and feeling better than during the previous weeks or even months.

The whole band was on fire, especially frontman Mathias “Warlord” Nygård and violinist Olli Vänskä, who didn’t stop banging their heads for a single moment. Those guys love what they do, and will keep on rockin’ for the rest of their lives without a shadow of a doubt.

Band members
Mathias Nygård – vocals
Jussi Wickström – guitar, backing vocal
Jesper Anastasiadis – bass guitar
Jaakko Jakku – drums, percussion
Olli Vänskä – violin, backing vocal

KORPIKLAANI

04paganfest toronto_korpiklaaniAfter Turisas were done, many people had to leave as it was getting really late and they probably had to get ready for a full day at work the next day. Unfortunately those who left missed all the dancing in between concerts when the DJ played some excellent old traditional Finnish songs, but the fans that could stay to the end of the festival were able to enjoy that and, of course, another “dance party” with Finnish Folk Metal band Korpiklaani and their music tailored for drinking beer and dancing with your friends.

It was my first Korpiklaani concert and I was impressed by frontman Jonne Järvelä’s charisma and bassist Jarkko Aaltonen’s technique. Jarkko is a beast with his bass, which could be easily appreciated in fun songs such as Tuonelan Tuvilla, Vodka and Ievan Polkka. How come this awesome bass player has never been mentioned in any lists of “top bassists” that I’ve seen? Or maybe I’m checking the wrong lists? Anyway, it was another great heavy music concert, which made every cent spent with the event ticket even worthier than before.

Band members
Jonne Järvelä – vocals
Kalle “Cane” Savijärvi – guitars
Matti “Matson” Johansson – drums
Jarkko Aaltonen – bass
Tuomas Rounakari – violin
Sami Perttula – accordion

And that was the end of a truly multicultural festival with bands from the United States, Germany, Taiwan and Finland, with fans from several different backgrounds speaking different languages, in the most multicultural city in the world. Honestly, I have no idea how it can get any better than this. Maybe Paganfest VI next year can answer that question, right? Well, until then, I’ll proudly wear my Chthonic’s NEXT REPUBLIC T-shirt on the streets to show everyone that it doesn’t matter if you’re Canadian, Brazilian, Taiwanese, German, Finnish or anything else: if you’re a headbanger, you’re definitely part of the unbreakable and unique republic of HEAVY METAL.

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