It’s been a week since the first full trailer for Jonas Akerlund’s Lords of Chaos dropped, and as you might have noticed, it’s been radio silence from us. There’s two distinct reasons for this. Firstly, I forgot to write something up. My bad. The second, and more important reason is, I had a sneaking suspicion the trailer might be divisive and I wanted to see how it was received. To say my suspicions have been confirmed would be something of an understatement.
The trailer itself is a layered one, at times promising standard rock n’ roll biopic fare, but it doesn’t take a lot of digging to realize there’s something much more sinister in there. Shots of burning churches, a man in corpse paint carving his arms open on stage, and talk of a brutal murder all promise much more mayhem (pun intended) than the relatively tame trailer delivers. In fact, for those who already know the true story from which the film is based, the tone may be a little bit off putting. But there’s a pretty clear promise of a dark, brutal movie laying under the fun and rebellious surface.
The horror and film communities at large have seemed pretty receptive to Lords of Chaos. You don’t have to look far to find excitement for the project, with many praising the cinematography and overall ominous atmosphere of the trailer. The black metal community, on the other hand, has been far less accepting. Before I go any further, it bears mentioning that I’m a big fan of black metal. I’ve been involved with “the scene” in varying degrees since I was thirteen years old. I’ve seen Mayhem, I went to school in corpse paint as a kid, I even played in a black metal band once (we were terrible). So, despite a lot of what I’m about to say, it’s important to note that I love the music.
The black metal scene has always been one that’s based in elitism and exclusivity. The “Trve Kvlt” mentality, as it’s known, has always been “you’re not one of us, and not good enough to ever be”, with a particular distaste for “posers” and “false metal”. It’s safe to say they’re not fans of outsiders. Even other subgenres of extreme metal, such as death metal and grindcore, have been the target of hate from Trve Kvlt Blacksters for years. So, despite writer/director Akerlund being a founding member of seminal black metal band Bathory, it’s not exactly surprising that the scene isn’t welcoming the film with open arms.
Black metal boards and YouTube comments have been flooded with reactions ranging from the mildly disappointed to flat out anti-Semitic (keep it classy, Trve Kvlt) since the trailer’s release. While some concerns are understandable; for example, if the movie will be factually accurate, other complaints have ranged from the posters on walls to the fact that it features a Jewish lead. That’s all to say it’s clear that most people aren’t too concerned about the quality of the film, but that their exclusive subculture is getting some outside attention. The black metal scene didn’t welcome the book, from which the movie is based, for the same reason. Many will also point out that of all the bands featured in Lords of Chaos, only Mayhem gave permission for their music to be used. But this seems to have a lot more to do with them not wanting the attention of “posers” and “tourists” than it does with them taking issue with the accuracy or quality of the movie.
The root of all the hate for the movie is not really about the film itself, but about you. It’s a bunch of nerds who don’t want the veil on their little corner of the world pulled back for you to see. They’re worried that the movie will portray the characters as the giant dorks that they really were for all the world to see. They’re worried that you’ll judge them. Most of all, perhaps, they’re worried you might actually like it and join the ranks of the dreaded black metal posers. “Trve Kvlt” black metalers aren’t just people who really like the music, they’re people who don’t think your “normal” brain could ever possibly comprehend them or the things they enjoy.
That’s not to say that all in the community feel the same way about it though. Erik Danielsson, frontman of black metal band WATAIN (who fucking rule), recently said in an interview with Metal Wani “I’m not worried in the slightest. I mean, that damage, as far as I’m concerned, with black metal getting too much attention from mainstream media, that happened fifteen years ago already” and he’s not alone in that sentiment. The overall vibe from prominent musicians in the scene seems to range from “it might be a fun movie” to “I don’t give a shit either way”. Danielsson, who has seen the film, seems to fall with the former as he also said of Lords of Chaos “I think [people] are going to walk away thinking that they’ve seen a pretty intense fucking movie”, which is a glowing recommendation for an already promising movie in my book.
Ultimately, the backlash over the Lords of Chaos trailer is not surprising or new. Every time a movie comes out based on something with a strong following, there are bound to be detractors. And with as elitist and self-aggrandizing as black metal purists can be, it was to be expected. It’s important to know where the detractors come from and on what grounds they’re detracting, though. And in this case, it ranges from knit picking to flat out bigotry. So don’t let what you may see floating around online keep you from what is shaping up to be a brutally entertaining movie. Take it from me, a black metal poser.
Lords of Chaos hits theaters on February 8th, with a home release to follow on the 22nd from Gun Powder and Sky and Vice Films.
A teenager’s quest to launch Norwegian Black Metal in Oslo in the 1980s results in a very violent outcome.Lords of Chaos tells the true story of True Norwegian Black Metal and its most notorious practitioners – a group of young men with a flair for publicity, church-burning and murder: MAYHEM.