From 1983-84, the director Jonas Åkerlund was a drummer for the Swedish band Bathory, which would later inspire the Norwegian black metal movement. He stated in a 2018 interview that when that culture developed in the '90s and became "too serious", he left the music scene and moved on to film-making. He was always the man for the job of adapting the 1997 book of the same title. People may forget Metallica’s 'Man UNkind' music video was his, with the same cast, as a preface for covering Mayhem’s story and especially Euronymous’ downfall.
You could have done this film one of two ways: showing the scene, or from the scene. The former means making it into a dramatic story that helps the film play to a general audience. The secondary would include making a gritty, darker film told from the perspective of the people in the scene. Åkerlund has shown his roots and maturity by doing the former and adding a sense of humour into the mix. The film has proved to be very unpopular with people who wanted it to be more the latter persuasion.
Key players denied access to music rights, some of which has been contradicted since, and it appears it’s Varg Vikernes who has been the most vocal in protest. In fact, it is Mayhem’s music played in the film, but a decision was made to feature less black metal music and instead have a soundtrack by Sigur Ros. This will give an idea of who will like this film and who will not. ‘Trve’ fans will hate it, and those who have a keen interest but also like a variety of music may give it a go with a more open mind.
It’s important to remember these were all young men, still in their teens at the start of the story. All the foibles and insecurities are there to be seen, and as things developed and eventually got way out of hand we witness how they weren’t prepared to deal with the actions they took as the need to one-up each other escalated. To be a witness there at the time, you would recall these people as they are portrayed here - all that darkness inside, all that interest in evil, horror films, drugs, booze and girls. There was a need to experiment, to explore, see how far things can go, touch on taboos, play with fire and see how much trouble you could get into. Some got lost along the way. The music had to be heavy, loud…and blackened.
You get the blood, you get the church burnings, you get the leather and spikes. The most affecting scene features a chillingly realistic suicide. You might suppose in the end there was only one way a guy named ‘Dead’ would wind up.
It would have been a better film to have gone a more visceral and personal route, but it is enjoyable nonetheless. Also, look out for the Jason Arnopp cameo, played by (drum roll, please) Arnopp himself.
'Lords of Chaos' lands in UK cinemas on 29th March 2019