A teenager’s quest to launch Norwegian Black Metal in Oslo in the early 1990s results in a very violent outcome.

Euronymous (Rory Culkin) has some issues. Angry and frustrated as many 90’s Norweigian youths were at the time, He decided to turn to music. More to the point, Black Metal. In fact, he decided to create the ultimate Norwegian Black Metal band that would create a wave of anarchy and subsequent revolution. Based on the book of the same name, Lords of Chaos is a wickedly funny, bitterly dark, look at nascent masculinity striking out against the otherwise placid existence in suburban Norway.

The movement has its followers and Euronymous recruits other angry musicians to join his crusade. Not the least of which is Death (Jack Kilmer) and Varg (Emory Cohen) who begin to easily surpass their leader’s appetite for anarchy. That’s when the church burnings begin. That and the suicides and murders. Alas.

Jonas Åkerlund has created a nasty, gnarly death metal version of Fight Club that is as savage as it is hilarious. Tracing the story of the Black Metal Band Mayhem, and their crime spree that counted historic churches as collateral, we follow a primal, painfully masculine theme. There is also the shrewd choice to place the film in Norway but not demand arbitrary Norwegian accents from American actors. This is a very subtle directorial choice but one that effectively makes the film non-pretentious and immediately approachable.

Hats off here to Culkin who delivers a particularly solid performance as the angsty ringleader Euronymous. Notice through the film his subtle changes as his creation of anger and madness slips from his fingers and begins to turn on him. Very nice work indeed. Then there is Cohen’s work as Varg that is at once pitiful and frightening.

Honestly, I laughed as much as I gasped watching Lords of Chaos. The film is expertly written, beautifully acted, and nicely executed. This is not a movie for everyone. However, it is a film for the darker souls who are willing to consider the futile actions of an angry few for their merits.  Åkerlund does not apologize or justify the actions of his characters but in exploring them we explore the frightening possibility that we might somehow understand them.

Lords of Chaos
Runtime: 1hr. 58Mins.
Directed By:
Jonas Åkerlund
Written By:
Dennis Magnusson & Jonas Åkerlund