Lords of Chaos – Review

Lords of Chaos

Directed by Jonas Akerlund

Review by Kenneth Gallant

Lords

Films that strive to bring the truth about a particular point in time often fail miserably. It’s so hard to bring an accurate portrayal to the big screen; let alone have it interesting enough to people flocking to the cinema to see it.

The Lords of Chaos intends to give you the straight dope, illuminating the uninitiated into the dark realm of Norwegian Black Metal; and thanks to the bleak story culled from the book “The Lords of Chaos” – we get a truncated version that unfortunately falls short. I think true black metal fans will be sorely disappointed. My wife for example, was upset that mostly American actors were used in vital roles, but this is an Americanized take on it after all.

The majority of the story darts from scene to scene and struggles to give you a very coherent point of view of the events that took place in Oslow during the late 80’s to early 90’s. What you end up getting is a bevy of violent outbursts; coupled with goofy-teenage angst moments for the most part, with some actual facts sprinkled in for good measure.

We learn that Dead (Per Ohlin) shows up seemingly out of the blue from Sweden to be the band’s lead singer. He’s obsessed with death and is bent on suicidal urgings. He ultimately commits suicide by the most gruesome way possible by cutting his wrists, throat and topping it off by blowing his head off with a shotgun. Yet we never really get to know anything about him.

Worse yet, his death scene are used to exploit Mayhem’s image courtesy of the band’s leader Euronymous (real name Oystein Aarseth). The much maligned leader of the outfit comes across like a carnival barker wannabe in many of the scenes, despite struggling to pawn himself off as practitioner of Theistic Satanism. Played by Rory Culkin, Euronymous is meant to be the lightning rod to inventing “Norwegian Black Metal” and gathering like-minded metalheads into the inner black circle.

Changing his name to Euronymous (derived from a Greek mythological spirit) and forming Mayhem in 1984 proved to be a stroke of genius. He gained instant notoriety, opened a record shop called Helvete (meaning hell in Norwegian) and started an underground record label (Deathlike Silence Productions). He was able to become the figurehead of the scene and helped bring black metal bands and friends together.

The trouble here is that it’s all just snippets in the film and Rory is adequate at best in the role. He doesn’t appear to be a confident individual with a disdain for individualism, much like the true Euronymous was known to be. You just waited for the veneer to drop and thanks to the other important piece to the puzzle: in walks Varg Vikernes to throw a monkey wrench into the plans.

Varg is washed-over mostly as a petty and jealous thug who schemes his way into the inner circle with plans to eventually overtake Euronymous’s position. Varg (whose real name is Kristian) desperately wants to be accepted into the inner circle, so he arranges a number of church burnings to impress everyone; including Euronymous. He also reinvents himself as Count Grishnackh, but it comes across as a pretentious move.

For me, the bulk of the film sags into an overly-angsty disposition between both Varg and Euronymous. You watch each musician trying to one-up each other constantly and bickering over band royalties (from Varg’s band Burzum), to fighting over a girl and going public about the church burnings. I found it took away from the creative process of recording the full length Mayhem album that we get bits and pieces of in the background.

It was also impossible to pinpoint the impact of black metal outside of Norway. It felt very isolated and relegated to being an underground movement; with many musicians like Necrobutcher, Hellhammer and Attila Csihar hardly getting a mention at all. For example, Faust was in other bands like Emperor and Thorns, but here all you know is that he stabbed a gay man to death in the park. The context of many of the players in the scene just feels like placeholders to give the film a dash of some life.

But I don’t think the film is a total lost cause. The ferocity of Euronymous’s death scene is filmed with such goriness; it’s just so hard to watch all the way through. You feel for him here as you watch how pathetic he becomes while pleading for his life. At this stage Varg is remorseless; allowing his murderous rage to carry out a pointless murder based on hearsay from others who overheard Euronymous boasting about killing him. It’s like a lifted plot from the black comedy Heathers, but director Akerlund deftly handles this with some uncompromising dark flair.

Lords of Chaos valiantly tries to get it right, but like most films based on true events the facts get fudged in favor of over-glorified story elements. The cheesy horror-satanic imagery and teen angst plotline take center stage here, often making the black metal genre appear silly. That’s one of the big drawbacks for me as I feel the genre is creatively significant for the time, upending thrash and death to bring something new to metal.

I just wish we got more of it here. The film is finishing up a limited theatrical run in North America and is heading to VOD on February 22nd.

 

 

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Archer Nation Review

Archer Nation

Beneath The Dream

EMP Records: Released February 15, 2019

Written by Tim Duran

10 out of 10

Archer Natiob Beneath

It’s a special kind of feeling when a band like Archer Nation comes around.  I knew of them way back when they were just “Archer”. Three young lads playing insane thrash from their record “Culling the Weak”.

Fast forward to now, these same three lads are still playing their thrash metal music with songs from their new record, “Beneath the Dream” on EMP Records.  And oh, what sounds, what joyous noise, what healing power of heavy metal these three hold in the palms of their hands.  Here, Archer Nation gleans from their influences from, Megadeth, Dream Theater, Motörhead,  jazz, blues, angst, frustration, and sarcasm, and deal them out equally between eight lovely, heavy, aggressive tunes.  The theme I get from listening to this CD; is “nightmares”. It’s like a Freddy Krueger lullaby.

As I let the thrash bounce around in my grey matter, the music sets me free as that dude from “Shawshank Redemption. That is why it is my honor and my great pleasure to tell you about Archer Nation and the little CD they like to call, “Beneath the Dream”.

Fronted by the melodious blonde bomber, Dylan Rose (no relation) who also commandeth the six stringed beasts to do his bidding. Keyhan(the blur)  Moini bashes on the barrels, and the hair mask himself, David De Silva, beating the bass into submission. Together, this power trio from Santa Cruz, California will refresh your love for pure THRASH. For us old dudes, it’s a rebirth of the kings.

(Spoiler Alert……NO SLOW, SAPPY LOVE SONG BALLADS!!)

Kicking things in the teeth is the opening song, “I Am the Dawn”.  The riffs abound right out of the gate as the story unfolds to what I believe to be someone going out of their mind with self deceit. (A nightmare in its own rite). The main guitar riff sets the pace for the delivery of insanity, like being trapped in a straight jacket.

“Division” starts with a nifty triplet drum intro before the band slams into the main riff.  This is a heavy set of lyrics that talk about how messed up people are as we give into the propaganda force fed to us by main stream media. Hating each other for our own political opinions and focusing on either side’s bad points, becoming more and more divided as a country. The funny part is that there’s one thing we agree on. When our freedoms are taken away, we all of a sudden care about the outcome.  “No matter who you choose, the people always lose/ either side it’s all the same”.

Starting off with some floaty, clean arpeggio on guitar, “Beneath the Dream” comes descending like a creeping death. Musically, it has the atmosphere of a dream going bad, the vocals ebb and flow over the verses, and it has one of most intense guitar solos I’ve heard in a long time. The song is heavy without being hard and fast. The tempo is in the middle, but it’s driving and airy.

“Acedia” is another set of vocals that describe the nightmare of false religions. I can relate to this song in a lot of ways. The anger in this song parallels the feelings I used to have. The rhythms here are fierce, the axe work is as angry as the lyrics, Dylan sings through gritted teeth, and the arrangement is above perfect.

“Not My Own” is a song that is borderline depression and just continuing with how things are going. Being stuck in a dank place, dreaming of something better, some sort of escape, wondering if this is all there is to life. It’s all a bad dream that’s lived out, day by day. The tune is sullen like lyrics and the music revolves around the confusion.

When I first heard this next song, “Matricide”, I thought it meant “death by sleep in bed”. Then I looked it up. Boy was I shocked. I had no idea there was a word for a son or daughter to kill his/her mother.  To me, I think the lyrics are how we’re killing the earth. We have wars, divisions, the cutting down of rain forests, poison in the waters, and so on. We are the ones killing “mother earth” and we will continue to kill her because it’s what we do the best. And that also is living out a nightmare.

“Shackled” is about one who seems the only way to live is to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders.  This is one the more hard core thrash songs on here. The music translates the feelings of exhaustion and self failure. Every beat seems to weigh down on your soul. The crushing rhythms are like giant hail stones. The vocals are sung contrary to the rhythm, adding a maddening intensity.

The last song almost had me fooled into believing it was an instrumental. The intro is jazzy until it breaks into a hard rock feel.  Although “Severed” would make an awesome instrumental as a whole, the song in its entirety is flawless. It defines the feeling of utter failure and dealing with destroying everything good in your life. The helplessness of enduring such a fate is translated ideally in the music as one who has seen firsthand the demise and aftermath of self destruction.

To sum up this record in a word would be “Aggressive”. Okay, second word, “Powerful”, “Relatable”, to mention a third. These three young men have grasped on to the true meaning of metal and put together another arrangement of pure Thrash.

Downside is that it took almost three years to get the second release out. That’s about it for the downside.

Upside is that there are eight wonderfully written woeful tunes to bang your head to. Its blues in thrash form. Meaning it’s not supposed to make you feel good, it’s supposed to make you feel.  Although the lyrics speak of nightmarish things, the music sees you through. Before writing anything down for this, I spent the last two weeks listening to the disc over and over. The first spin wasn’t enough. Every song spoke to me in some way. Songs from “Culling the Weak” were the same way for me. I encourage you to find both of these records and put them in heavy rotation to whatever you’re listening to.

In a great big nut shell, I give the new release, “Beneath the Dream” by Archer Nation, a big, fat 10!