Lords of Chaos (film)

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Lords of Chaos
Lords of Chaos poster.jpg
UK theatrical release poster
Directed byJonas Åkerlund
Produced by
  • Kwesi Dickson
  • Danny Gabai
  • Jim Czarnecki
  • Erik Gordon
  • Jack Arbuthnott
  • Kō Mori
Screenplay by
  • Dennis Magnusson
  • Jonas Åkerlund
Based onLords of Chaos
by Michael Moynihan and Didrik Søderlind
Music bySigur Rós
CinematographyPär M. Ekberg
Edited byRickard Krantz
Distributed byArrow Films (United Kingdom)
Gunpowder & Sky (United States)
Release date
  • 23 January 2018 (2018-01-23) (Sundance)
  • 29 March 2019 (2019-03-29) (United Kingdom)
  • 8 February 2019 (2019-02-08) (United States)
Running time
118 minutes
  • United Kingdom[1]
  • Sweden
  • United States
Box office$343,402[2]

Lords of Chaos is a 2018 horror-thriller film[3] directed by Jonas Åkerlund and written by Dennis Magnusson and Åkerlund. Adapted from the 1998 book of the same name, the film is a historical fiction account of the early 1990s Norwegian black metal scene told from the perspective of Mayhem co-founder Euronymous. It stars Rory Culkin as Euronymous, Emory Cohen as Varg Vikernes, Jack Kilmer as Dead, and Sky Ferreira as Ann-Marit.

The film premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, was released in the United States on 8 February 2019 by Gunpowder & Sky, and was released in the United Kingdom on 29 March 2019 by Arrow Films. It received positive reviews from critics, but got a polarizing reception from audiences within the metal community.


In 1987, a young guitarist called Euronymous forms a black metal band called Mayhem, the first of the genre in their country of Norway, with Necrobutcher on bass, and Manheim on drums. Manheim leaves and is soon replaced by new drummer Hellhammer and they recruit a new vocalist from Sweden called Dead, who exhibits self-destructive behavior, during their live shows cutting himself and bleeding on the audience and throwing pig heads at the "posers". At a show filmed by their friend Metalion, the band meets a fan named Kristian, whom Euronymous initially looks down on.

While home alone, Dead uses his personal knife to cut his arms and throat, and then uses Euronymous' shotgun to shoot himself in the forehead, leaving behind a suicide note. Euronymous returns home and finds the body but instead of calling the police, he takes photos of the body and moves the knife and shotgun around. After Dead's body is taken to the morgue, Euronymous gives necklaces to the other band members which he claims are pieces of Dead's skull; this disgusts Necrobutcher, prompting him to leave the band.

Soon after, Euronymous starts his own black metal record label and opens a record shop called Helvete ("Hell"), which becomes a social hub for black-metallers like Metalion, Fenriz of Darkthrone, Faust of Emperor, and Kristian (who is now calling himself Varg Vikernes) of Burzum. They become known as the "Black Circle". After being mocked by Euronymous, Varg who is very anti-Christian burns down a local church. When challenged by Varg concerning his status as the leader of the Black Circle, Euronymous burns down a church with Faust and Varg accompanying.

Euronymous recruits Varg as bassist, a guitarist called Blackthorn and a Hungarian vocalist, Attila Csihar, to record Mayhem's first album, De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. A power dispute between Varg and Euronymous arises.

After a wave of church burnings begins, Faust brutally kills a gay man, leading police to link black-metallers to the crimes. Helvete is shut down and Varg is arrested as prime suspect after an interview with a Bergen newspaper in which he boasts of the crimes. He is soon released for lack of evidence. Varg tells Euronymous that he is leaving Mayhem and is starting his own record label. Euronymous reveals that the "skull piece" necklaces were fakes, and that he never intended anyone to follow through on his angry rhetoric, which infuriates Varg.

While packing away things in the shop, Euronymous angrily rants to a peer about wanting to kill Varg, but later calms down and sends him a contract to release their music rights to him. Varg, having heard that Euronymous was making death threats against him, travels to Oslo in the early morning of August 10 to confront him. Telling Euronymous he wants to sign the contract, he enters his apartment and, after a brief conversation, stabs him. Euronymous pleads for his life, but Varg follows him through the apartment to the stairwell outside and stabs him to death. The next day, the news of Euronymous' murder spreads throughout Norway and Varg is soon arrested. He is sent to prison for a maximum of 21 years, guilty of both the murder of Euronymous and the burning of several churches. In a voice-over, Euronymous tells the audience not to feel sorry for him, that he enjoyed his life and invented a new sub-genre of metal.



Lords of Chaos is based on the 1998 book of the same name. Originally, Japanese director Sion Sono was set to direct a film based on the book, with Jackson Rathbone starring as Varg Vikernes.[7][8] It would have been Sono's first English-language film. The screenplay was written by Hans Fjellestad (who was earlier reported to be the film's director as well[9]), Ryan Page, Adam Parfrey (the book's publisher), and Sono.[10][11][12] In July 2009, Sono stated that filming (in Norway) would begin in August or September and end in December.[7][13] The film was set to be released in 2010.[10] It was later announced that Rathbone would no longer be playing Vikernes due to scheduling conflicts.[14]

In May 2015, it was announced that former Bathory drummer and film director Jonas Åkerlund would direct the film.[15][16] The film was set to shoot in the fall of 2015 in Norway, but for unknown reasons, filming did not begin until 2016.[17] The film was shot in Oslo, Norway, with live performance scenes shot in Budapest, Hungary. The live sequences shoot also included filming for the Metallica music video "ManUNkind", starring the cast of the film.[18]

Vikernes, who had already expressed criticisms against the book, stated in a video uploaded to his YouTube channel in 2016 that when approached by the filmmakers, he, along with Mayhem and Darkthrone, denied the rights for their music to be used in the film.[19] In a 2018 interview, Åkerlund said that they had in fact secured the rights to Mayhem's music.[20]

Historical accuracy[edit]

Åkerlund described the film as "about truth and lies". In an interview for Dazed Digital, it was reported that Åkerlund consulted "original band merch ... was granted access to key police reports as well as detailed photos of Euronymous’s record store Helvete, and the house the band camped out in. ... Åkerlund even used real locations for exterior shots of, among others, Euronymous’s flat and a rebuilt church that Vikernes burnt down in Holmenkollen."[21]

Culkin said that he prepared for his role by consulting several associates of Euronymous: "They almost always compared him to a mythological creature: one person said he was kind of like a gnome and another said he was like an evil elf. Because he was small dude but confident in himself and he has this clan around him, people really embellished and lionised him."[21]

In one scene from the film, Dead anachronistically declares, "We are Lords of Chaos."[22] The name actually originates from the unrelated American criminal group whose name was adopted for the book Lords of Chaos. The book's scope was not focused solely on the Norwegian black metal scene.[22]

Jack Kilmer's performance as the band's frontman Dead has received praise for being the most accurate portrayal in the film, with the exception of one scene where he has a cat hanging from his room. The real Dead never killed any cats but did chase them off for fun. Some criticisms were made[who?] that the Live in Jessheim scene jumps to Dead's suicide, given a whole year had passed in between both events and Dead and Euronymous' subsequent falling out and animosity was never portrayed apart from one scene in which Euronymous mockingly waves a shotgun in front of Dead and suggests he shoots himself. The time Varg claims Dead stabbed Euronymous was never portrayed in the film.

Release and reception[edit]

The first screening on Lords of Chaos was held during 2018 Sundance Film Festival on 23 January 2018 in Park City, Utah.[23] In October 2018, a first-quarter 2019 release window for the US was announced, with Arrow Films securing the rights for distribution in the UK.[24] It was released in the US on 8 February 2019 by Gunpowder & Sky. In the UK, it was released on 29 March 2019.[25]

Reactions from the depicted[edit]

Attila Csihar, in a January 2019 interview, stated that the official opinion of the current Mayhem members regarding the film and its creators is a "big fuck you". He pointed out that the film was based on a book and only focused on Mayhem during the 1990s, not the whole black metal scene at the time. He confirmed that some Tormentor songs appear in the film and that he himself is played by his son, Arion Csihar.[26] Attila himself was present during the shooting of the church burning scenes.[27][better source needed] In a later interview in May 2019, he offered a more nuanced critique of the film, saying that while the film is based on reality, he disagrees with how the story was presented, and that the characters were portrayed as "idiots".[28]

Vikernes harshly criticised the film as "made-up crap", objecting to being portrayed by a Jewish actor and to plot elements, calling the depiction "character murder".[29][30]

Necrobutcher has provided ambivalent reactions after viewing the film: he praised the production values and the wardrobe accuracy, but noted that the movie was "sad" and "not a good movie",[31][32] and that viewing the murder scenes had an emotional effect on him.[33] He also addressed Mayhem's initial negative reaction to the announcement of the film, and explained that their intense negative reaction was largely because the band has only been approached after production on the film has started,[31][32] and that he gave permission to use Mayhem's music in the film after seeing a rough cut.[33] Ultimately he noted that the film had very little impact on the band.[31][32]

Critical reception[edit]

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, Lords of Chaos holds an approval rating of 72% based on 76 reviews, and an average rating of 6.6/10. It states that the general consensus among critics was that "Lords of Chaos presents a grimly compelling dramatization of a real-life music scene whose aggressively nihilistic aesthetic spilled over into fatal acts of violence."[34] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 48 out of 100, based on 17 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[35]

In his review for The Hollywood Reporter Justin Lowe praised Lords of Chaos as a "vibrant biopic" that "provokes both awe and repulsion".[36] Amy Nicholson of Variety wrote that "Despite Åkerlund’s refusal to lionize these immature kids, Lords of Chaos is tremendous fun. ... he can also get great performances out of a young cast".[37] Indiewire's Michael Nordine awarded the film a B rating and wrote "Lords of Chaos is frequently unpleasant but oddly compelling — not least because Åkerlund ensures that the film never takes itself as seriously as its subjects did."[38]

Conversely, The A.V. Club's Katie Rife decried that "Åkerlund's understanding [of the Norwegian black metal scene] is more like contempt".[39] Kory Grow of Rolling Stone wrote: "perhaps the film's worst sin is its tone ... It’s not fun. It’s not sad. A lot of the time, it’s not even all that interesting."[22] Robert Ham of Consequence of Sound wrote that "Instead of courting [the black metal] audience, or trying to find some middle ground where [Åkerlund] celebrates the music while rightfully disparaging the actions of some of its worst figureheads, he punches down with a smirk and dismisses the birth of a genre as the product of misspent youth."[40]

The New York Times' Manohla Dargis criticised the film for "never establish[ing] a coherent or interesting point of view. The tone unproductively veers from the goofy to the creepy, which creates a sense that [Åkerlund] was still figuring it out in the editing."[41] Robert Abele of The Los Angeles Times summarized that "Ultimately it all adds up to a hodgepodge of styles and attitudes with hardly any insight into what made this corrosive clique so magnetic to its adherents."[42]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Lords of Chaos (2019)". BFI.
  2. ^ "Lords of Chaos (2019) - Financial Information". The Numbers. Retrieved 30 December 2020.
  3. ^ Bradshaw, Peter (28 March 2019). "Lords of Chaos review – distressingly violent black-metal horror" – via www.theguardian.com.
  4. ^ This is how the character is credited in the film. It doesn't matter that Varg no longer uses the "Kristian" name. This is how it's credited in the film.
  5. ^ Although Dead's real first name was "Per" the film credit uses his nickname "Pelle" and the name "Per" is not mentioned once in the film only "Pelle" and "Dead" therefore "Pelle" is the correct term for the cast listing.
  6. ^ Credited as "Varg's Driver" for legal reasons and not named at any point in the film. The correct credit is Varg's Driver which should be listed on here not "Blackthorn".
  7. ^ a b Shackleton, Liz (19 May 2009). "Japan's Sion Sono summons Lords of Chaos for English debut". Screen Daily. Retrieved 1 December 2009.
  8. ^ "BURZUM Mastermind To Be Portrayed By 'Twilight' Heartthrob In 'Lords Of Chaos' Movie". Blabbermouth.net. 21 May 2009. Archived from the original on 17 December 2009. Retrieved 1 December 2009.
  9. ^ "Lords of Chaos Movie to Go into Production in May". Blabbermouth.net. 11 April 2006. Archived from the original on 30 September 2007. Retrieved 11 August 2007.
  10. ^ a b Official site Archived 11 December 2004 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ O'Hara, Helen (27 May 2009). "Twilight's Rathbone Is Lord Of Chaos". Empire. Retrieved 1 December 2009.
  12. ^ Ouellette, Kevin (2 March 2009). "Sion Sono shooting 'Lords of Chaos' in Norway this spring". Nippon Cinema. Retrieved 1 December 2009.
  13. ^ Hoenigman, David F. (28 July 2009). "Channeling Chaos – An Interview with Sion Sono". 3:AM Magazine. Retrieved 1 December 2009.
  14. ^ Bezer, Terry (7 January 2010). "Twilight Man Drops Out Of 'Lords Of Chaos' Movie". Metal Hammer. Archived from the original on 19 January 2010.
  15. ^ Barraclough, Leo (4 May 2015). "Cannes: Jonas Akerlund to Direct 'Lords of Chaos' for Ridley Scott's Scott Free, RSA, Vice". Variety. Retrieved 23 January 2018.
  16. ^ Childers, Chad (4 May 2015). "Jonas Akerlund to Direct Film Based on Mayhem's Euronymous". Loudwire. Retrieved 23 January 2018.
  17. ^ "'Lords Of Chaos' Norwegian Black-Metal Movie Shooting In Oslo: First Look". Blabbermouth.net. 18 November 2016. Retrieved 23 January 2018.
  18. ^ Reed, Ryan (16 November 2016). "Watch Metallica's Bloody, Black Metal-Channeling 'ManUNkind' Video". Rolling Stone.
  19. ^ ThuleanPerspective (20 December 2016). About the 'Lords of Chaos' movie. YouTube. Retrieved 22 January 2018.
  20. ^ "Jonas Akerlund on Black Metal, Mayhem and the Making of 'Lords of Chaos'". Rolling Stone. 31 January 2018. Retrieved 31 March 2018.
  21. ^ a b Dazed (1 August 2018). "Norwegian black metal is back in this must-see new movie". Dazed. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
  22. ^ a b c "'Lords of Chaos' Review: Black Metal Biopic Should Be Burned at the Cross". Rolling Stone. 7 February 2019. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
  23. ^ "lords-of-chaos". Sundance Film Festival. Retrieved 22 January 2018.
  24. ^ "Arrow Nabs 'Lords of Chaos' for U.K., Black Metal Movie Set for Early 2019 U.S. Release". Variety. Retrieved 12 October 2018.
  25. ^ Lanigan, Roisin (12 February 2019). "Church groups want 'Lords of Chaos' movie to be banned". i-D. Retrieved 15 February 2019.
  26. ^ Headcrusher Underground (24 January 2019). Tormentor - V. Rattle Inc. olvasótalálkozó 2019.01.05. Jelen bár (english subtitle). Retrieved 24 January 2019.
  27. ^ "Attila with director Jonas Åkerlund". Instagram.com. 7 March 2019. Retrieved 7 March 2019.
  28. ^ "Csihar Attila: Nem örülünk, hogy a mi nevünkhöz fűződnek a templomégetések". 15 May 2019.
  29. ^ Kaufman, Spencer (29 January 2019). "Varg Vikernes slams Lords of Chaos movie, questions why he's portrayed by "fat Jewish actor"". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved 23 March 2019.
  30. ^ "Varg Vikernes Reacts to 'Lords of Chaos' Movie & Being Portrayed By 'Fat Jewish Actor'". www.ultimate-guitar.com. 26 January 2019. Retrieved 23 March 2019.
  31. ^ a b c "Mayhem's Necrobutcher Reviews Lords of Chaos". MetalSucks. 31 October 2019.
  32. ^ a b c "Mayhem React to Lords of Chaos Movie" – via www.youtube.com.
  33. ^ a b "MAYHEM's NECROBUTCHER Says He Felt 'Sick' Watching EURONYMOUS Murder Scene In 'Lords Of Chaos' Movie". BLABBERMOUTH.NET. 17 December 2019.
  34. ^ "Lords of Chaos (2019) – Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 30 December 2020.
  35. ^ "Lords of Chaos reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 30 December 2020.
  36. ^ "'Lords of Chaos': Film Review - Sundance 2018". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
  37. ^ Nicholson, Amy (27 January 2018). "Film Review: 'Lords of Chaos'". Variety.com. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
  38. ^ Nordine, Michael (7 February 2019). "'Lords of Chaos' Review: This Black Metal Drama Is Fittingly Grim and True". Indiewire.com. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
  39. ^ Rife, Katie. "The fresh, the stale, and the outrageously bloody all faced off at Fantastic Fest 2018". Film. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
  40. ^ "Film Review: Lords of Chaos Forces Too Much Light Into the Birth of Black Metal". Consequenceofsound.net. 7 February 2019. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
  41. ^ Dargis, Manohla (6 February 2019). "'Lords of Chaos' Review: Where Anomie and Speed Metal Meet Doom". Nytimes.com. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
  42. ^ Abele, Robert. "Review: 'Lords of Chaos' skims the surface of bloody killings, Satanic rituals and black metal". Latimes.com. Retrieved 19 March 2019.

External links[edit]