Starring: Rory Culkin, Emory Cohen, Jack Kilmer
Directed by: Jonas Akerlund (“Horsemen”)
Written by: Dennis Magnusson (“King of Devil’s Island”) and Jonas Akerlund (debut)
For metal fans across the world, the stories about Norwegian black metal culture are infamous. Church burnings, murder, violence…and that’s not even scratching the surface of the famously abrasive music. Based on stories from the book of the same name “Lords of Chaos,” centers on the story of the band Mayhem, and how they lived up to their name.
In 1980’s Norway, a guitarist going by the name of Euronymous (Rory Culkin) forms a new sub-genre of metal dubbed Black Metal. With a focus on intensity, violence, and church burnings, Euronymous and new bandmade Varg (Emory Cohen) at first try to push the popularity of the band until they eventually disagree on just how far to take it all.
In terms of black metal folklore, “Lords of Chaos” strives for authenticity and manages to get it. Stories that have been circled around for years are told with graphic detail, something that director Jonas Akerlund does not shy from.
With as much graphic violence as there is in the film, its biggest flaw is its internal tug of war for tone. Akerlund alternates between treating his subjects as extremely violent and dangerous individuals and as Beavis and Butthead style idiots. As a result, they danger and severity of their crimes is severely undercut by the notion that they are harmless posers trying to make a name for themselves.
The tone struggle ultimately can’t be overcome, especially considering how grating and intensified the rest of the film is. It may accurately tell the story of a bizarre and wild corner of music history, but “Lords of Chaos” doesn’t ever seem to hit the right notes.