Lords of Chaos Review

Lords of Chaos is a 2019 horror, drama biopic. Directed by Jonas Akerlund, Lords of Chaos is the story of the rise of the black metal music scene in 1990’s Norway. The film made it’s debut at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival and is based on the real life events of the band, Mayhem. Lords of Chaos is now available in select theaters and on demand.

Lords of Chaos – Synopsis

“Based on truth and lies”, Lords of Chaos begins with the formation of the band Mayhem. Band leader Euronymous (Rory Culkin) escapes his traditional family upbringing by creating “true” Norwegian Black Metal. Along with fellow band members and followers, Euronymous creates his own inner circle. “The Black Circle” looked to create chaos and anarchy in the streets of Oslo.

Euronymous is soon upstage in his antics by new inner circle member Varg (Emory Cohen). Varg begins burning churches around Norway, something Euronymous has always deemed the purpose of the metal scene. The two begin a rivalry that leads to a path of violence and destruction.

Lords of Chaos – What I Liked

Lords of Chaos is the black metal version of Bohemian Rhapsody. The pitfalls of fame and fortune have been explored in film since the dawn of cinema. Lords of Chaos takes these ideas that have been presented before, and gives each of them the middle finger. This movie is a no holds barred look behind the curtain of the Norwegian Black Metal scene of the early 1990’s.

Director Jonas Akerlund delivers this real life story with a gritty, yet humorous voice. The onstage antics may have been over the top for these men, but their real life was not much different that yours or mine. They dealt with everyday struggles of conformity, love, and jealousy. Akerlund gives these characters relatability, even though the majority of the audience has never been in a black metal band.

Rory Culkin is a true stand out in Lords of Chaos. His performance is filled with heart, despair, and genuine vulnerability. I am unsure if his real life counterpart could been seen in that same light, as films usually take liberties with real life events. Culkin delivers his best performance to date, and proves once again that he is one of the most underrated actors in all of Hollywood.

These members of the black metal scene are often vilified for their actions (in many cases they should be). But the film is not afraid to show these characters as actual human beings. Simple scenes such as showing these characters eating gyros, or interacting with the press show their humanity. Films often times forget to portray their characters with a sense of relatability. The film delivers in this aspect.

Lords of Chaos – What Could Have Been Improved

Any biopic based on a band often times forgets that there are more than one or two members to said band. Take Bohemian Rhapsody for example. That film looked to portray the entire Queen story, but the majority of the film was told through the eyes of Freddie Mercury. Lords of Chaos struggles with a similar dilemma.

Often times it wishes to focus on the story of Euronymous, but the film will take a detour and focus on a supporting character whom we have barely known. This isn’t always a bad thing to focus on the secondary characters. But when you set up plot threads with these characters that are never further explored, it leaves something missing from the overall story.

The final misstep this movie takes is falling back on the love story trope. In almost every musical biopic their is love interest involved. In some cases, Walk The Line, this is necessary to the overall story. The story being told in Lords of Chaos did not need the love story angle. It added nothing to the story being presented other than to push the run time.

Lords of Chaos – Final Thoughts

This film will not be for everyone, and it knows that. It never tries to alienate the audience, rather it is unafraid to tell the story it wants to tell. Backed by a stellar cast and great visual effects, Lords of Chaos delivers with the story it set out to tell. Much like the music it is based on, Lords of Chaos is unabashed in it’s depiction of death, violence, and anarchy.

Overall Score 3.5/5


About the Author
Casey Kelderman found a love for film at a very early age. One of his earliest memories of watching movies was the original Star Wars trilogy on VHS. Casey graduated from The University of Sioux Falls in 2017. At USF Casey produced weekly movie reviews and hosted a radio show. He graduated with a degree in Media Studies. Skills he learned in college have allowed him to help create Back Lot 605. He has produced and directed 4 short films. His favorite films include Halloween, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and Die Hard.
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