‘Based on truth, lies, and what actually happened. This is my story … and it does not end well!’
And so begins Lords Of Chaos (2018) with a foreboding warning from central character Øystein Aarseth aka Euronymous (Played by Macauley’s younger brother Rory Culkin), the guitarist and song writer of the band Mayhem, and the self proclaimed creator of True Norwegian Black Metal, a dark subculture that rose from the murky depths of a rebellious Scandinavian underground music scene, in the late 1980s.
The story charts the origins and rise of what would come to be known as the Second Wave of Black Metal, and was inspired by the book of the same name, directed by acclaimed music video creator Jonas Åkerlund, himself a former drummer for Bathory, one of the early pioneers of the Black Metal sound in Scandinavia, and themselves a major influence of the bands depicted in this unique movie, which is part musical biopic, part horror and part true crime drama.
Euronymous and Mayhem would become the epicentre of the scene which along with his Deathlike Silence record label and Helvete record shop in the heart of Oslo, would influence and inspire a generation of notorious bands around them including Emperor, Darkthrone and Immortal. The movie also strongly depicts the relationship between Euronymous and that of Kristian aka Varg Vikernes (played by Emory Cohen), a talented musician but also a deeply flawed individual, who would himself would create the infamous one man music project Burzum. And we see the power struggle between the two, as jealousy and literal back stabbing (more on that to come) started to out shadow the music.
In the early days of Mayhem, the film depicts their relationship with Swedish vocalist Pelle ‘Dead’ Ohlin (played by Jack Kilmer), who joins the band just as they were starting to gain local notoriety. The members of Mayhem lived together in a cabin in the woods, but Dead’s literal obsession with death was even too morbid for Euronymous, who’s own relationship with the subject appears more for image and show, as he looks to accelerate his music career. It is Dead’s influence that saw them develop the look of wearing corpse paint, and although they’re not the first musicians to use such makeup, it is a style which would become synonymous with the Black Metal scene.
The movie shows flashes of the teenagers living a slightly normal existence with laughter, excessive drinking and socialising with girls at a party they host at their home, however in the morning the depressive and macabre nature of Dead is shown again as he silently walks out into the woodland and buries his clothes. We learn he does this to give his stage clothing an authentic corpse look.
This is a man who also inhales the stench of roadkill prior to going on stage, and an early Mayhem concert is dipicted, beautifully shot first in deep blue and then blood red lighting, which is cut with actual concert footage as Dead deep cuts his arms on stage, splattering blood out into the adoring crowd.
He is not in a good way after the show, shown as suffering for his art, pale and shaking in a food takeaway as they wind down post show. It’s here we also first meet Kristian shown as he congratulates the band on the show, only to be mocked by Euronymous who is largely depicted as somewhat of a self centred asshole throughout the film.
The next scene is one of the most brutal and harrowing ever shown in a movie. Dead sits alone in his room, takes a knife and slices open his wrists. There is an eerie silence with the scene cut without soundtrack, so you really hear the squelch as the knife is pushed in, and the rush of blood pouring onto the floor. He sits with his eyes closed waiting for death which doesn’t come quick enough, so in another shocking act he takes the knife and cuts his own throat, turning his white T shirt to a deep blood red.
The eerie silence is broken as the phone rings and we hear Euronymous’s tongue in cheek answer phone message ‘You’ve reached the Prince of Darkness … I can’t come to the phone right now as I’m too busy sacrificing little children to Satan … hahahaha’ showing the opposing side of the two characters personalities, and the relationship with darkness they are portraying to others. In the throes of his death Dead then sits on his bed, picks up a shotgun, places it against his forehead and blows his brains across the wall.
Without a doubt this one of the most realistic and disturbing suicide scenes ever shot on film. The camera pans across the room and closes in on his suicide note, ‘Excuse all the blood … Let the party begin! Dead’. Euronymous returns home to discover the gruesome scene, but rather than calling police he drives to a local store, purchases a disposal camera and returns to document the aftermath of the suicide. Infamously using the experience as a way of achieving further publicity for Mayhem, and again showing his clear distain for anything other than furthering his own interests.
It is said that Euronymous would keep parts of his friends shattered skull, making necklaces for his band members and this is shown in the scene that follows. However Bass player Necrobutcher is appalled by the mindset of Euronymous, and is subsequently fired from Mayhem as they debate his logic. The camera lingers on the face of Euronymous for a moment … deep in thought as he clearly questions himself.
Following Dead’s suicide we move forward to a scene in Euronymous’s record shop Helvete, which has a dungeon basement which has become a sanctuary for his inner circle and has ‘Black Metal’ scrawled on the wall. He monologues ‘Everything that happened made me immune to reality, I had no more limitations, I could do whatever the fuck I wanted, nothing could stop me’ … and the scene ominously cuts to Varg, packing a bag with a Burzum demo tape in his apartment and then driving through to mountains to Oslo.
He arrives at the record shop, picking out a Scorpions vinyl and asks Euronymous ‘Why do you sell this shit … I thought this place was true metal?’ He replies ‘It is. I have music you can’t find anywhere else in the world. Just not on display for posers’. It’s a significant second exchange between the two characters with Varg aiming to exert dominance following his humiliation in their earlier scene, and with Euronymous retorting and strutting his peacock feathers in the process.
Varg is depicted as as awkward character who will struggle to fit in and accepted into the scene he clearly craves notoriety in. He is deadly serious at all times, doesn’t drink alcohol and he doesn’t eat meat ‘like Hitler?’ asks Euronymous. He is invited into the basement of the record shop but clearly isn’t impressed with the drunken ‘cartoon-satanist’ antics he witnesses. Euronymous listens to Varg’s demo tape and is impressed and wants to sign Burzum for his record label. However he does not have the money to release the album, but Varg can self finance, and Burzum heads into the recording studio where his talent sees him welcomed into the inner circle, with Euronymous ultimately looking to takes credit for the release.
Varg’s record is delivered and he realises in order to sell to more than a few customers the shop will generate, they need a marketing plan. We cut to a scene of him visiting a church and setting fire to the building. Euronymous sees the news of the church burning and his mind is blown. But he is ashamed as the act has made him look ‘a fucking boy scout’ in comparison. He is starting to feel his power slipping, but again tries to take the adulation by proclaiming himself the inspiration for Varg’s act of arson.
Euronymous becomes jealous as Varg’s musical creativity explodes and starts to become the most prominent character in the Black Metal scene. To try and regain some control he appoints Varg, now also going by the name of Count Grishnakh, as the Bass player for Mayhem. To celebrate Varg invites Euronymous to burn a church with him. Euronymous is clearly out of his depth but cannot lose face, so he joins him. There share a moment as the the church burns, and they desecrate graves together in an almost ‘tender’ act of friendship … but this is the last they’ll share together,
We also see an important side plot scene in the film when Emperor drummer Faust, one of Euronymous closest friends, murders a gay man by repeatedly stabbing him after being propositioned in a park. The scene sits oddly in the narrative, however it shows how far and out of control these boys had become in their obsession with darkness. It’s a second shocking scene in the movie which kind of comes out of nowhere, much like Dead’s earlier suicide. Euronymous wants to celebrate the murder by burning down a church, and you realise this group are beyond redemption at this point.
The imagery of the burning church is shot spectacularly and as the group visit a bar after, Euronymous once agains takes credit for the murder by claiming he put the idea into the head of Faust. Privately however Euronymous admits he is out his depth and deeply paranoid his world is going to unravel around him ‘All this evil and dark stuff was supposed to be fun’!? He is plagued by nightmarish visions of Dead and there is an intriguing and well shot horror montage scene as he is stalked through the woods by his former singer. He decides to lay low and concentrate on planning the release of Mayhem’s debut full length album, the legendary Black Metal album ‘De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas’
It’s now 1993 and Mayhem with Varg are in the studio. Euronymous plans to use a picture of the largest cathedral in Norway on the album cover. Varg wants them to blow the cathedral up together together in the ultimate rebellious act, but Euronymous does not. He is accused of wanting to be a ‘stupid ass celebratory rock star’ while Varg is clearly still dedicated to their cause, and wanting to take their acts of religious terrorism to the extreme. He is a cold and calculated character, shown as utterly despicable and as far the mental battle between the two is concerned, Varg has clearly ‘won’ at this point in the story.
Looking to further now follow his own path, against Euronymous’s wishes Varg invites a journalist to his apartment and conducts an interview to talk about the black circle, and their link to the church burnings across Norway. Their movement has now gained mainstream notoriety which see’s Euronymous close down his record shop, which was being financed by his parents, as they no longer wish to support his business.
He tells Faust ‘I’m going to fucking kill Varg. I’m going to paralyse that fucking idiot, drag him to the forest, tie him to a tree, torture him to death and make a fucking snuff film out of the whole thing … He fucked it up for all of us!’ Word gets back to Varg that Euronymous had said he was going to kill him, and decides to severe all ties by visiting him at his home. The suspense builds as we see Varg journey through the night while Euronymous works on his Mayhem album press release.
Varg arrives and Euronymous reluctantly lets him in. Varg is full of nervous energy and after a short verbal confrontation he pulls out a knife and stabs him in the belly. Euronymous pleads for his life and asks him to leave, stating they can make a thing out of it if they say he tried to kill him ‘It will make us look really evil’. Varg pounces and stabs him in the back. The fight spills out into the hallway, Varg kicks him down the stairs and continues the knife attack. He stabs him dozens more times in the back and then delivers the final killer blow, sticking the blade into his skull.
‘And there you have it, my story … I told you it was going to end badly!’ The movie finishes with a lingering shot on a shrine for Euronymous and his closing monologue, ‘Stop with this sentimental shit, there’s nothing sad about my death or my life. I’m Euronymous, founder of Mayhem the most infamous black metal band in the world. I had my own record store and my own record label, I created a whole new musical genre. True Norwegian black metal, and I created mayhem. What the fuck have you done lately?’
Lords Of Chaos is without a doubt one of the darkest and most bleak movies you will ever see. It does not hold back on showing realistic gratuitous violence which comes in hard on three distinct memorable occasions. It’s thoroughly morbid and difficult to watch at times, even more so knowing that it is based on the true events of this truly unique sub-culture, that would go on to inspire a musical movement that has grown and spread across the world over the last 30 years. Varg Vikernes ultimately ended up in prison for the murder of Euronymous, whilst also being found guilty of multiple church burnings.
He continued to make music while incarcerated and released further albums with Burzum recorded purely on synthesisers, due to the fact he had no access to a guitar whilst inside. To this day he sticks by a story of self defence regarding the killing of his one time friend, and now lives life as a free man having raised a family living on a farm in France. He still releases music, is active on social media, and remains a highly controversial character. KZ
Word by Abstrakt_Soul
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