Review: 'Lords of Chaos' brutally violent, darkly comic

Rory Culkin stars in this story of True Norwegian Black Metal, which is truly not for the faint of heart

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic
Rory Culkin and Anthony De La Torre in "Lords of Chaos."

True Norwegian Black Metal is a strand of metal so dark that when its creator was stabbed to death by one of his bandmates, it didn't fall far outside his band's philosophies.   

The darkly comic and repulsively gruesome "Lords of Chaos" tells the caustic story of that genre, its myths, and the dangers of living your gimmick.  

Rory Culkin is slyly charismatic as Øystein "Euronymous" Aarseth, the founder of the bludgeoning, evil music he proudly dubs True Norwegian Black Metal. Euronymous brags he was brought to this world to cause suffering, chaos and death, but the movie wisely paints him as a guy getting swallowed inside his own black cloud of hype.

"Brooklyn's" Emory Cohen is frightening as Varg Vikernes, a bullied fan who works his way into Euronymous' inner circle and ups the ante on the scene's reality quotient. Euroynmous talks about burning down churches, Varg puts match to gasoline. And things go haywire from there. 

Co-writer and director Jonas Åkerlund, known for his music videos for Madonna ("Ray of Light") and the Prodigy ("Smack My Bitch Up"), views these black-clad bad boys as victims of their own marketing. Euronymous is a cult leader inspiring his followers to cause havoc, but when they really do, he's caught between being proud and terrified of his own power of influence. 

Åkerlund stages the film's violence with an unsettling, unflinching reality, to drive home the difference between entertainment and the real world. It's dark stuff, often uncomfortably so. Which is true to the music, although here it's presented as a warning sign rather than a celebration.

'Lords of Chaos'


Rated R: for strong brutal violence, disturbing behavior, grisly images, strong sexuality, nudity, and pervasive language

Running time: 114 minutes