• Follow us


‘Lords of Chaos’ Review: Black Metal Biopic Should Be Burned at the Cross

Nearly every travel guide of Norway bears at least a passing reference to the wave of church burnings that swept the country in the early Nineties. Frommer’s even names one of the arsonists, Varg Vikernes, adding that he was a Satanist who went to jail for murder. To many Norwegians, Vikernes is the country’s Charles Manson, the ultimate boogieman.

That’s because he was at the center of the nation’s most terrifying wave of homegrown terrorism, which filmmaker Jonas Åkerlund (Spun) has dramatized in his new movie, Lords of Chaos. It tells the story of the band Mayhem, the country’s most prominent and notorious purveyors of black metal — a subgenre that’s a distant cousin of devil-worshipping death metal and speed-racing thrash — and it focuses on the band’s most troubled period. Murder, suicide, cannibalism, general acts of morbidity (such as someone huffing a bag with a dead crow in it) and, of course, arson overshadowed the band’s music from 1987 to 1994. Their story inspired a couple of authors to co-write the true-crime book Lords of Chaos in the late Nineties, which loosely served as source material for the movie.

And Åkerlund, you would assume, has all the bona fides to tell the story right. He’s directed gnarly music videos for metal groups Candlemass, Metallica and Rammstein, as well as Prodigy’s forever-problematic “Smack My Bitch Up” clip. And he was a founding member of Bathory, a pioneering Swedish black-metal band that inspired Mayhem (though he left the group after a year). Somehow, though, he made a movie that, to paraphrase an album from the director’s former musical endeavor, has seriously missed the Black Mark.

The film focuses on guitarist Euronymous (Rory Culkin), as he assembles Mayhem and attempts to instill the values of devil worship in his bandmates. Along the way, he enlists the depressed, bird-corpse-sniffing Dead (Jack Kilmer) as the group’s singer and locks horns with the bloodthirsty Burzum frontman/future Mayhem bassist Varg Vikernes (Emory Cohen). Chances are good that if you’re reading this, you already know the rest of the story. If not, spoilers abound ahead: Along the way, Dead kills himself; Euronymous saves (and savors) pieces of the singer’s cranium; Vikernes and members of other bands torch churches; and the bassist ends up ruthlessly stabbing Euronymous to death. (Spin wrote a good overview of the whole scene in 1996.)

Related Reviews Sundance 2018: ‘Lords of Chaos’ Turns Mayhem’s Story Into Black Metal Tragedy Mayhem’s Long, Dark Road to Reviving a Black-Metal Classic

The film has also included the incident where Faust, a fellow arsonist and the drummer for black metallers Emperor, killed a gay man. And for some extra Hollywood glitz, Åkerlund has given Euronymous a girlfriend, played by Sky Ferreira. (The real-life Vikernes has said that his girlfriend at the time never met Euronymous and that he was never aware of his bandmate dating anyone; in an interview in the Lords of Chaos book, he alleged that Euronymous was gay, though his opinions are suspect since he, y’know, murdered the man.)

The film is sort of black metal’s answer to Bohemian Rhapsody, in the sense that Åkerlund and cowriter Dennis Magnusson took the tent poles of the story and filled in the gaps however they saw fit. They nailed the sound of the film, with a great soundtrack of black-metal legends (augmented, oddly, by a Sigur Rós score), as well as its look by meticulously replicating photos that headbangers have pored over for decades. But they colored the pictures in with their own guesses as to what actually happened. Although interviews with Mayhem still exist in zines from the time, not to mention the nonfiction chronicle that details the band’s rise and fall, the film has chosen its own voice for the characters — and it is decidedly Midwestern.

Aside from a few blatant chronological oversights (where are pre-Dead singers Messiah and Maniac?), one of the biggest problems is the dialogue. While it’s true the band members were in their early 20s at the time of the story and young men are prone to saying goofy things, it’s hard to imagine anyone proclaiming anything as corny as, “I created a whole new genre of music: True Norwegian Black Metal,” out loud. Nobody refers to this music as “True Norwegian Black Metal.” And it’s even worse coming through Culkin’s wimpy American accent. (Other than the setting, the film never really feels European — a death knell when you’re attempting to depict a regional scene its creators are intimately familiar with.)

And then there’s scene where Dead looks in the mirror and declares, “We are Lords of Chaos” — a downright bizarre titular line considering the title of the book, which is far more wide-ranging than simply the story of Mayhem. It refers to the name a group of eight teens in Florida who bestowed that name upon themselves in 1996, five years after Dead’s suicide. For anyone who’s read the book (not the best source material, mind you, considering the credence it gives to neo-Nazis, which the authors didn’t counterbalance until a later revised edition) — don’t expect a Godfather-worthy adaptation.

But perhaps the film’s worst sin is its tone. At times it’s an explosion of fun, such as when the band plays a concert adorned with pig’s heads and splatters blood on the audience. Others times, it’s outright dismal — a dour slog that fails to capture the rebellious energy of the music or the scene. Åkerlund never seems to make up his mind about whether these were a bunch of dumb kids running amok or if you should actually care about them. It’s never clear if the audience coming to the story for the first time is supposed to think their actions are awesome or shameful — though the “cool” burning-church animation in the end credits suggests the former, we guess? (Here’s the place to point out the film was produced by Vice.)

Although it makes the case that Euronymous let things get out of hand in his brinksmanship game with Vikernes, you somehow don’t feel deeply about him when he dies. Åkerlund attempts to make Hollywood heroes and villains out of real-life people, and it doesn’t really work. The inherent problem with Lords of Chaos is there’s no real “Hollywood” way of telling the band’s story. Some of the band members were murderers, some were arsonists, some claimed to be cannibals — it’s shocking, yes, but there’s so much more to it than sensationalism. All this was going on at a time when the biggest thing in metal was Metallica’s “Enter Sandman.” How could such a starkly underground scene develop within the same genre? The film doesn’t just diminish the impact and importance of the music — it doesn’t seem to care about the music aspect at all.

It would be a more affecting movie if you saw more of what happened after the murders and arsons. Vikernes was put on trial and began espousing neo-Nazi rhetoric. He escaped in 2003, yet was nevertheless released on probation in 2009. Meanwhile, Mayhem’s drummer, Hellhammer, pushed to release the band’s genre-redefining full-length, De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, which featured Vikernes’ playing on it — much to the chagrin of Euronymous’ family — in 1994. The band reformed (without the ex-convict bassist); they continue to be a concert draw. And then there are the families of the victims, still grieving after decades and who never get a voice in films like this.

Since the film was announced, Åkerlund has faced criticism for wanting to dramatize this story. “I will do everything I can to stop this film,” Mayhem’s founding bassist, Necrobutcher, told Rolling Stone in 2015. “Tell the Swedes and the Hollywood people to go fuck themselves.” The filmmaker later said he’d since gotten the band’s support for the film (the band Malparidos re-recorded their songs for the picture) and that he’d been in touch with Euronymous’ parents and Dead’s family. “I’ve been trying to treat it with respect as much as I can, especially because people have lost family members,” he said. (Incidentally, Mayhem singer Attila Csihar is thanked in the movie; his son, Arion, plays him in a recording-studio scene.)

But Åkerlund presents it all with an underlying antipathy toward the subject matter. It’s not fun. It’s not sad. A lot of the time, it’s not even all that interesting. But the slow pace and dead space gives you time to think about what the story truly means — or, for that matter, about how else you could have spent the cash on what it costs to go to the movies. After all, $25 pays for a lot of matches and gasoline.

In This Article: Heavy Metal

Want more Rolling Stone? Sign up for our newsletter.

Show Comments Read More

Leave A Comment

More News

Rolling Stone Latest Movies

Albert Finney, Oscar-Nominated British Actor, Dead at 82 2019-02-08 11:10:12Four-time Best Actor nominee starred in films like Tom Jones, Under the Volcano and Erin Brockovich

Watch Chucky Come to Life in ‘Child’s Play’ 2019-02-08 10:00:59Murderous doll returns in horror classic remake

‘Everybody Knows’ Review: Two Movie Stars, A Master 2019-02-08 08:23:35Iranian director Asghar Farhadi's mystery about a missing woman — starring Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem — ends up slowly going nowhere

‘Lords of Chaos’ Review: Black Metal Biopic Should 2019-02-07 18:04:25Jonas Åkerlund's look at the fast rise and bloody fall of Mayhem should be the real deal — so why does it hit all the wrong notes

‘What Men Want’ Review: Toothless Retread Flips the 2019-02-07 16:16:50Taraji P. Henson comes out swinging in this female-centric update of the 2000 Mel Gibson rom-com 'What Women Want,' but the cliché-ridden fil

Watch Chilling New Trailer for Stephen King’s ‘Pet 2019-02-07 14:30:24In this new trailer, we catch a glimpse of the demonic girl that emerges from the pet cemetery to haunt her family

Woody Allen Sues Amazon Over Axed Movie Deal 2019-02-07 14:11:46Filmmaker claims internet giant terminated his contract over "25-year old, baseless allegation" of sexual abuse

‘Cold Pursuit’ Review: Call It ‘Taken’ on Ice 2019-02-07 08:38:06Liam Neeson's snowbound thriller is pure revenge-movie escapism — if you can get past the bad press

A Candid Conversation With Richard E. Grant 2019-02-06 16:53:55The Oscar nominee opens up about his extraordinary (and highly volatile) childhood, having a nervous breakdown and where his Barbara Streisand fandom

‘The Lego Movie 2’ Review: Everything Is Still 2019-02-06 14:53:38The sequel to the 2014 animated hit brings back the whole brick-by-brick gang to slightly diminishing returns

Oscars Won’t Have a Host for First Time 2019-02-05 21:01:43Producers hope lack of MC will keep show's runtime at three hours

Watch Hugh Jackman, Zach Galifianakis Lend Voices to 2019-02-05 16:29:28Pair portray legendary explorer, solitary Sasquatch in forthcoming animated film


BLACK LIGHTNING: Season 2, Episode 13: Pillar of 2019-02-08 11:00:20  Black Lightning Pillar of Fire Trailer The CW‘s Black Lightning: Season 2, Episode 13: The Book of Secrets: Chapter Three: Pillar of Fire

US (2019) Movie Trailer 2: Lupita Nyong’o Protects 2019-02-08 10:00:01  Us Trailer 2 Universal Pictures has released the second movie trailer for Us (2019). The first movie trailer Jordan Peele‘s Us can be vie

THE SUN IS ALSO A STAR (2019) Movie 2019-02-08 09:00:37  The Sun Is Also a Star Trailer Ry Russo-Young‘s The Sun Is Also a Star (2019) movie trailer stars Charles Melton, Yara Shahidi, John Legu

L.A.’S FINEST (2019) TV Show Trailer: Jessica Alba 2019-02-08 08:00:45  L.A.’s Finest Trailer Spectrum‘s L.A.’s Finest (2019) TV show trailer stars Jessica Alba, Gabrielle Union, Sophie Reynolds, J

PET SEMATARY (2019) Movie Trailer 2: Jason Clarke 2019-02-08 07:00:46  Pet Sematary Trailer 2 Paramount Pictures has released the second movie trailer for Pet Sematary (2019). The first movie trailer for Pet Semata

SHAFT (2019) Movie Trailer: Three Generations of Shafts 2019-02-07 21:39:17  Shaft Trailer Tim Story‘s Shaft (2019) movie trailer stars Samuel L. Jackson, Jessie T. Usher, Richard Roundtree, Regina Hall, and Alexan

DUMBO (2019) Movie Trailer 3: A Flying Elephant 2019-02-07 13:48:29  Dumbo Trailer 3 The third movie trailer for Dumbo (2019) has been released by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. The first two movie trailers

Film Casting: KENSUKE’S KINGDOM; NEWS OF THE WORLD; 2019-02-07 07:00:56  Kensuke’s Kingdom, News of the World, Avatar 2-3, and more Film Casting News Kensuke’s Kingdom, News of the World, Avatar 2-3, and

THE FLASH: Season 5, Episode 14: Cause and 2019-02-06 09:00:03  The Flash Cause and XS Trailer The CW‘s The Flash: Season 5, Episode 14: Cause and XS TV show trailer has been released and Grant Gustin

THE PROFESSOR AND THE MADMAN (2019) Movie Trailer: 2019-02-06 08:00:31  The Professor and the Madman Trailer Farhad Safinia‘s The Professor and the Madman (2019) movie trailer stars Mel Gibson, Sean Penn, Nata

TV Review: OUTLANDER: Season 4, Episode 13: Man 2019-02-06 07:00:32  Outlander Man of Worth Review Starz’s Outlander: Season 4, Episode 13: Man of Worth features many previous wrongs being set right, s

THE PASSAGE: Season 1, Episode 5: How You 2019-02-05 10:00:47  The Passage How You Gonna Outrun The End of The World? Trailer & Episode 6 Plot Synopsis Fox‘s The Passage: Season 1, Episode 5: How

NYT > Movies

‘Berlin, I Love You’ Review: Many Stories, Not 2019-02-07 07:00:01The once-divided nature of Berlin isn’t given much consideration in this film, part of the Cities of Love series.

Critic’s Pick: ‘One Million American Dreams’ Review: Stories 2019-02-07 07:00:00This haunting documentary guides viewers through heartbreaking tales of the lost souls buried on Hart Island.

‘The Gospel of Eureka’ Review: Christianity and Queerness 2019-02-07 07:00:00This cheerful documentary from Michael Palmieri and Donal Mosher refuses to grapple with its glaring contradictions.

‘Untogether’ Review: Adrift in Los Angeles, Looking for 2019-02-07 07:00:00Jemima Kirke and Lola Kirke play damaged siblings in this exasperatingly affected romantic drama from Emma Forrest.

‘The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the 2019-02-07 07:00:00The movie’s plot is as absurdly sensational as its title: The government taps Sam Elliott, an aging Nazi hunter, to kill a yeti.

‘Under the Eiffel Tower’ Review: In Whine, Truth 2019-02-07 07:00:00Full of midlife-crisis clichés, the film is yet another ode to the restorative magic of wine country sunshine.

Critic’s Pick: ‘The 2019 Oscar Nominated Short Films’ 2019-02-06 21:30:51This year’s Oscar-nominated shorts will make you cry, laugh, cry, think, cry, wonder, and cry some more. Have we mentioned they might also make

Just Who Has Seen ‘Roma’? Netflix Offers Clues 2019-02-06 19:14:36The company has given Alfonso Cuarón’s film a significant theatrical release, but the industry has its doubts about the streaming service

‘The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part’ Review: 2019-02-06 18:42:34This franchise’s latest is a busy, noisy clutter of action sequences, pop-cultural allusions, life lessons and cute critters.

‘Lords of Chaos’ Review: Where Anomie and Speed 2019-02-06 16:14:02Inspired by a sordid, true story, this English-language movie tracks a group of Norwegian death-metal musicians whose lives go murderously wrong.

Critic’s Notebook: Blackness, Gayness, Representation: Marlon Riggs Unpacks 2019-02-06 15:24:24He saw the past, present and future at once, and his timeless, masterful works are now the subject of a film series in Brooklyn.

The Carpetbagger: The Path to Oscar Victory for 2019-02-06 14:53:52In a wide-open year, how can each of the eight contenders win? We show you.

Movie News

Avatar Begins Shooting Live-Action Scenes This Spring in 2019-02-07 17:15:49While James Cameron has completed much of the motion capture for his Avatar sequels, the live-action filming still needs to take place.

First Look at Cynthia Erivo as Harriet Tubman 2019-02-07 16:11:57Cynthia Erivo is Harriet Tubman in the new Focus Features biopic Harriet, which tells the story of the legendary figure who freed dozens of slaves.

Justice League Vs. the Fatal Five Trailer Reveals 2019-02-07 15:37:06Warner Bros. has released a trailer for their latest DC animated feature Justice League vs. The Fatal Five ahead of its home video release next month.

Woody Allen Sues Amazon for $68 Million Over 2019-02-07 14:09:03Annie Hall director Woody Allen's four-picture deal with Amazon was terminated, resulting in this massive lawsuit.

Every Character Confirmed & Rumored for Avengers: Endgame 2019-02-07 13:43:45Avengers: Endgame will have more characters than any other MCU movie in history.

Shazam! Features a Superman Cameo That's Not Henry 2019-02-07 13:17:22It appears that there might be some pretty big changed to the DC Universe in David Sandberg's upcoming Shazam!

LEGO Movie 2 Acknowledges LEGO Batman Movie, But 2019-02-07 12:59:13The LEGO Movie 2 has chosen to ignore the box office disater that was Ninjago, but it still takes place mostly in the same universe.

Official Endgame Synopsis Teases Big Consequences for the 2019-02-07 12:47:38The official synopsis for Avengers: Endgame has been released and it teases some pretty big implications for the future of the MCU.

Oreo the Raccoon, Real-Life Guardians Inspiration for Rocket, 2019-02-07 12:35:39Oreo was the model for Rocket in all of the Guardian of the Galaxy movies and even walked down the red carpet with James Gunn.

Can LEGO Movie 2 & What Men Want 2019-02-07 12:09:38The LEGO Movie 2, What Men Want, Cold Pursuit and The Prodigy all open at the box office this weekend.

Deadpool Joins Avengers: Endgame in Ryan Reynolds Approved 2019-02-07 11:23:54The Merc with a Mouth actually looks pretty good in the latest Avengers: Endgame suits as seen in new fan art.

Why The Rock Said No to Hosting the 2019-02-07 10:55:59Dwayne Johnson says he was the first choice to host the Oscars this year, but had to turn the offer down.


Don’t Wear Earbuds in New What We Do 2019-02-08 11:51:49The series will debut this March on FX The post Don’t Wear Earbuds in New What We Do in the Shadows Promo appeared first on ComingSoon.net.

Sam Elliott & Aiden Turner on The Man 2019-02-08 11:50:01The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot is in theaters and on VOD and Digital HD today! The post Sam Elliott & Aiden Turner on The Man Who

Supernatural Episode 14.13 Recap: 300 Episodes of the 2019-02-08 11:46:17The series will return after a short hiatus on March 7 The post Supernatural Episode 14.13 Recap: 300 Episodes of the Winchester Legacy appeared first

Amazon Rounds Out Cast for Jordan Peele’s The 2019-02-08 11:44:44The series will also star Logan Lerman and Al Pacino The post Amazon Rounds Out Cast for Jordan Peele’s The Hunt appeared first on ComingSoon.ne

EC Comics and Hivemind Team Up for New 2019-02-08 11:28:15EC Comics and Hivemind team up for new film & TV partnership Hivemind today announced a new partnership with William M. Gaines […

Aaron Taylor-Johnson and More Join Kingsman Prequel 2019-02-08 10:46:35The film's expected to hit theaters later this year The post Aaron Taylor-Johnson and More Join Kingsman Prequel appeared first on ComingSoon.net.

Rachel Skarsten Cast as Lead Antagonist in The 2019-02-08 10:38:46The series stars Ruby Rose as the titular hero The post Rachel Skarsten Cast as Lead Antagonist in The CW’s Batwoman appeared first on ComingSoo

Captain Marvel Hot Toy Figure Revealed! 2019-02-08 10:15:25Go binary with the regular and deluxe editions! The post Captain Marvel Hot Toy Figure Revealed! appeared first on ComingSoon.net.

Julian McMahon Cast in Dick Wolf’s FBI: Most 2019-02-08 10:11:31The new series has already been given the green light, and will "air as an episode of FBI in the spring." The post Julian McMahon Cast in Dick Wolf&

Justified Creator Gears Up for Sci-Fi Series Talent 2019-02-08 09:43:33Fox has already given the project a straight-to-series order. The post Justified Creator Gears Up for Sci-Fi Series Talent at FOX appeared first on Co

Oreo the Raccoon, Inspiration for Guardians of the 2019-02-08 09:34:43The raccoon previously attended the London premiere of the first film The post Oreo the Raccoon, Inspiration for Guardians of the Galaxy’s Rocke

Aquaman Blu-ray Swims Home this March! 2019-02-08 09:24:18Bring home the billion dollar movie! The post Aquaman Blu-ray Swims Home this March! appeared first on ComingSoon.net.

Disclaimer and Notice:WorldProNews.com is not responsible of these news or any information published on this website.