I don’t know if there will ever be any movie or documentary that does justice to the bizarre upbringing of the music genre of black metal. Granted, its Scandinavian roots aren’t exactly wholesome or pleasant. After seeing Jonas Akerlund’s “Lords of Chaos,” I can only affirm my distaste for the pitifully juvenile beginnings of a genre that I genuinely do care for, but ultimately could care less about its scope, image, or intents.
I had been trying to evade seeing “Lords of Chaos” since it was released last year. The hosts of The Last Podcast on the Left had lauded it critically laughable (if that), so from trailer to inevitable inception, I had wanted nothing to do with it. My roommate, the diverse movie collector he is, gave me his copy of the movie last week because he got it for a couple dollars at the Family Video down the road. It felt like time had caught up to me, or rather, the dark winter setting of our exchange begged for me to finally watch it.
I don’t want to discuss what’s factually inaccurate, because that doesn’t seem like a sufficient testament to how poorly put together “Lords of Chaos” is. Instead, it’s important to yield my suspension of disbelief against the tone of the movie, which mostly feels like a college student’s excessively long biopic based on their black metal fanaticism. Since the film seems unaware of its subject matter, it also prompts its audience to believe we should care about its main characters (real people, obviously), let alone justify their despicable actions.
As a movie, “Lords of Chaos” is painfully low-budget and is so tonally all over the place that it doesn’t know what it wants to be. The church burnings in the film are the biggest point of tension, yet they feel totally overshadowed by terrible acting and a lack of connection to the characters. Granted, we shouldn’t care about them, which I echo from black metal’s homophobic and racist tendencies.
“Lords of Chaos” is bloated with the weight of its constituents and its fanbase, yet doing “justice” to the true events and murders in Norway at the time only solidifies that we need to acknowledge them as terrible truths, rather than just “cool” or “brutal” subject matter. Black metal’s past is certainly important for its cult fanaticism, but “Lords of Chaos” acts playful around its content, swapping out the thematic and moral questions it could have posed for a conflated horror movie scenario. I might not be Christian, and I might love black metal, but those two things together do not mean I need a music biopic about the fledgling years of a genre that is better just listened to than anything else.