Here's a movie that'll kill your Christmas spirit, though if you're a black metal fan, you wouldn't have any to begin with. After screening as part of last year's AFI Fest, the theatrical release of N.Y. filmmakers/musicians Aaron Aites and Audrey Ewell's Norwegian black metal documentary Until the Light Takes Us (Variance Films) is out today. Black metal spread across Scandinavia in the '80s, and while bands like Dimmu Borgir are enjoying commercial success today, the film chronicles the scene's headline-grabbing notoriety of the early '90s, which included suicide, murder, church burnings and hate crimes. Bored living in seemingly peaceful and problem-free country, black metal's early practitioners took an anti-corporate, anti-McDonald's and anti-Christian (read: neo-Nazi) stance. Then things got really ugly. As their interviews go, Aites and Ewell, who traveled to Norway to live with their subjects for several years, separate the men who sang about killing and the men who killed.
The film focuses on Varg “Count Grishnackh” Vikernes, singer of the one-man band Burzum, who served 16 years for arson and the murder of Mayhem guitarist Oystein “Euronymous” Aarseth. (Aarseth, if you recall, was no saint himself, famously using the suicide photo of Mayhem singer Dead on an album cover). Vikernes claimed self-defense. And as of last May, he's free man. The movie also follows Gylve “Fenriz” Nagell of Darkthrone, still going strong after more than 20 years, who bemoans all the sensationalism and black metal losing its credibility, especially as its become fodder for artists. In a laughable piece of performance art, Satyricon drummer Frost breathes fire and mutilates himself in a Milan gallery, while an earlier video clip of director and screenwriter Harmony Korine (in case you were wondering about his contribution to the documentary) doing what can be best described as an interpretative dance in Santa Monica's very own Patrick Painter gallery in 2000.
It's about to get worse. News is three L.A. producers are adapting Michael Moynihan and Didrik Soderlind's 1998 book Lords of Chaos: The Bloody Rise of the Satanic Metal Underground into a film, starring Twilight actor Jackson Rathbone as Vikernes. Think McDonald's will carry the merchandise?