Aaron Aites and Audrey Ewell
The 2010 documentary film Lemmy, focusing on the life and times of Motorhead frontman Lemmy Kilmeister, was an extended study in perpetual adolescence and obsessive fandom that characterizes all levels of the culture of rock music. Reknown rockers like Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters and Nirvana) and.... uhm... some Metallica guys... hang on Lemmy’s every word, just happy to bask in his aura, while their hero regales them with his own boring fan-stories of having met Little Richard and whoever else. Lemmy was largely composed of talking head interviews with rock stars who profess their undying love, interspersed with scenes of the object of everyone’s affection showing off his toy collection and his hi-scores at some bar-top video-game. Right after watching Lemmy, I watched Until the Light Takes Us, a documentary film about the Norwegian black metal scene that formed in Oslo during the late-1980s and early 1990s that turned out to be quite a palette-cleanser to the two-hour rock-star geek convention I had just finished watching.
Since the punk documentary American Hardcore came out, based on a Feral House book title of the same name, I have heard that a documentary version of the Feral House book Lords of Chaos was also in production. Until the Light Takes Us is unaffiliated with Lords of Chaos, it is a documentary directed by Aaron Aites, former songwriter and member of the indie rock band, Iran, and Audrey Ewell, a filmmaker who is currently working on a documentary about the %99/Occupy movement (according to her twitter page). The documentary looks into the events that made the Norweigian black metal scene so notable (the burning of medieval churches, the intense personalities, the gloomy record store, the suicides and murders) but also into the legacy of these matters.
Aites and Ewell’s documentary profiles the history of the black metal scene as something that formed from an intense opposition to everything in waking life. The musicians hated mainstream society, Christianity, and in the case of Dead (the original lead singer of the original black metal band, Mayhem), life itself. Tabloid newspapers and books like Lords of Chaos have covered the events that made this scene world famous, Dead’s suicide captured on camera, to be used as an album cover, the group’s relentless destruction of medieval Christian churces as a symbolic gesture towards reclaiming a pagan spiritual heritage, and Varg Vikernes murder of Mayhem lead guitarist Euronymous, are all discussed at length in this documentary. Fenriz of Darkthrone and Vikirnes (formerly of Emperor, presently of Burzurm) are the two main interview subjects although a number of other individuals are interviewed as well in order to investigate the attitudes and actions of the “Inner Circle” (the name these individuals gave to their little social scene). Vikirnes discussion of the murder is especially interesting, as he switches between two voices, one of an individual killing another in self-defense, and the second voice is of a killer for whom scenes of extreme violence are no big deal.
|Dead: Mayhem's suicidal frontman.|
|Varg Vikernes smiling in court.|
The legacy of this scene is also covered, as, for example, the Norweigan artist Bjarne Melgaard is made an interview subject, and his visual work, assemblage paintings with black metal themes, and some kind of black metal performance piece, is featured prominently, (Fenriz seems to hate it).
Additionally, the store run by Euronymous, Helvete, where metal records and evil music was sold, and a centre for the black metal scene, is shown where it currently stands as a bright boutique of some sort. These aspects of the film suggest that while the legacy of this tiny scene has greatly expanded beyond its origins in an Oslo shop basement, its original scene and the authentically dark pathos that made it so noteworthy is long gone.
PS, the film is viewable in its entirety on Vimeo here.