I’m not a fan of Norwegian Black Metal or even its more accessible forebears. But Lords of Chaos is the Raging Bull of Norwegian Black Metal movies.
An opening title card informs us the film is based on ”truth, lies, and what actually happened.” In the early 90s in picturesque Oslo, Euronymous, played by Rory Culkin, forms a heavy metal band named Mayhem.
Determined to one-up other metal acts, Euronymous conjures a new sub-genre: Norwegian Black Metal, an aggressive, dissonant speed-metal cousin draped in Satanic imagery.
The group finds success. But before they can release an album, their frontman kills himself. This plays out in a riveting but hard-to-watch sequence. Undaunted, Euronymous appropriates the corpse photo for the group’s first album cover.
Euronymous continues spinning the Black Metal mythology, mixing Satanism, Odinism, and anarchy. His expanding entourage buys in, committing church burnings and worse. As Euronymous says at the film’s opening, “This is my story. It doesn’t end well.”
The film held me rapt. The measured, Goodfellas-style narration propels the story along while grounding it Euronymous’s experience. Nobody affects a Norwegian accent, but Rory Culkin and Emory Cohen convince in their parts.
It works on multiple levels. It’s a harrowing, cautionary tale of dangers of fame-at-all costs. It’s the story of one man stoking and exploiting a marginalized group’s rage and insecurities.
It’s brilliant. But I wish it hadn’t nicked Wanted’s closing line.