Lords of Chaos
Director: Jonas Åkerlund
Starring: Rory Culkin, Emory Cohen & Jack Kilmer
If you have even a passing knowledge of heavy metal, you have probably heard of the infamous origins of the black metal scene. Built on a foundation of bands such as Hellhammer, Celtic Frost, Venom and Bathory, black metal grew out of the cold realm of Norway, beginning with an infamous little band called Mayhem, spearheaded by the band’s creator Euronymous. Over a period of a few years, the members of this scene would gain infamy for church burnings and murder, culminating in the demise of the man behind it all in the first place.
Director Jonas Åkerlund’s, Lords of Chaos based off the book of the same name attempts to tell this story.
Opening with the narration of Rory Culkin you’re instantly introduced to the titular character of Euronymous without much fanfare, Åkerlund uses this moment to perfectly set the tone of the film with a humorous scene involving Euronymous and his sister. It’s relatable to anyone who has even vaguely started a band.
It’s here, the real problems with this film start to arise. Because whether it’s the fault of the material given to the actors or their own ability. Absolutely no one in this film has any chemistry.
Take Dead and Euronymous, their friendship is not defined, their lack of friendship is not defined and even seemingly important aspects of their characters, in particular Dead’s crippling depression are not defined. It’s in these moments, where the tone of the film hinders, rather than pushes the narrative forward. You just cannot take this film seriously, because it’s so utterly obsessed with making every aspect of it into a parody. So when the inevitable suicide and death starts, you just find it ridiculous, helped in no small part by Åkerlund’s camera work, which adds comedic elements to even the most brutal scenes.
This also applies to the friendship between Euronymous and Varg. Varg (played by Emory Cohen) is introduced as your atypical, weird loner type and makes several attempts to befriend Euronymous. However, much like the former friendship between Euronymous and Dead, their friendship lacks absolutely any chemistry. It’s a struggle to believe these two would even occupy the same room, let alone find any semblance of mutual ground to form even a basic friendship. Considering how integral their friendship is to the overall narrative, it’s confusing Åkerlund does not spend much time in exploring the inevitable rise and fall that leads to the inevitable conclusion of this narrative.
One positive is that the church burning scenes are pretty. That’s it.
Outside of this, the church burning scenes feel like they are only there because they have to be. There’s very little context or even reasoning given beyond vague things said about what the motivation is behind the burning down of the churches.
It says absolutely nothing of the cringe inducing dialogue that will have you wishing you could throw away your metal card. Whether it’s the characters just constantly saying “I WANT THIS MUSIC TO BE EVIL AND SATANIC” or even just random scenes where the characters headbang endlessly for no other reason than to add more comedic value. You quickly begin to realise this film was never meant for people who like heavy metal. If anything this film was meant for people who don’t understand the genre at all. I’m well aware, Åkerlund was once in Bathory. So it makes it even more confusing, that he would fill this film with so many eye rolling cliches. The type of stuff, that panders to all of those people who already think that all heavy metal listeners do, is sit around in forests, praising the glory of Satan.
If that’s not enough, female characters in this film is another point of contention. One has to wonder, why they were even included at all. When every single character introduced, is nothing more than a pair of tits to ogle over and further the male fantasy of being in a rock band. This also applies to the love interest of Euronymous (played by Sky Ferreira) who feels like a late inclusion to make Euronymous a more relatable character, but since she’s nothing more than just “female” you will struggle to even remember her name.
Ultimately, Lords of Chaos is a disappointing film filled with so many cliches, whether it’s in the dialogue or in the scenes it shows on the screen. You will get second hand embarrassment, wondering if you’re really like the cardboard cutout versions of metalheads being portrayed on screen. The film is so obsessed with being a parody of heavy metal and black metal culture, you will soon realise, it had absolutely nothing new or interesting to say about one of the most infamous periods in heavy music.
Do yourself a favour, put this movie on a funeral pyre and burn it to ashes.
Review by: Kaydan Howison @Unicorn_Christ