Thursday, June 16, 2011


Aaron Aites and Audrey Ewell, 2009

Disclaimer: If you don't like metal, this is probably not going to be of much interest to you.

Black metal documentaries and books tend to leave a really bad taste in my mouth. I honestly don't think it is that difficult of a subject to capture, but I because it is a relatively obscure subgenre, it tends to attract non-academics with poor scholarship and worse journalistic practices, or fans with all the knowledge and interest, but no perspective or writing/filmmaking talents.

Until the Light Takes Us has all the same problems as Lords of Chaos without the ability to provide a lengthy context. I think the film fails for seasoned fans -- I certainly didn't learn anything new -- and for beginners, because if you don't already know a little about Norwegian black metal, you'll be totally lost. When I finished watching it I was on the fence, but felt entertained. Now that I'm thinking about it critically, I hate almost everything about it.

I'm going to do something I never do and make a list of why this documentary is garbage, instead of wasting my time writing a real review:
1. It's 20 years late and rehashes information found in other books, documentaries, interviews, blogs, etc. Yes, everyone remotely into metal now knows that they burned a bunch of churches, Faust killed a gay man, and Varg was imprisoned for killing Euronymous.
2. The editing is shitty and the film is totally unfocused.
3. It wastes the two interesting, charismatic central figures, Varg from Burzum and Fenriz from Darkthrone.
4. It either doesn't ask any good questions or asks them in the wrong ways, completely failing to challenge any of the interview subjects. For instance, Varg basically repeats everything he has already said elsewhere. They don't bother to dig deeper.
5. Harmony Korine, really? Why the fuck would you include this? I actually had to leave the room I got so angry.
6. At least half an hour is wasted on Bjarne Melgaard, a talentless hack who decided to form an art exhibit around black metal. He blew up a bunch of pictures from the scene, made some shitty paintings that any 4 year old could have done and voila. This alone is enough to make me hate this documentary.
7. It provides no context whatsoever. The bands aren't introduced and the fact that there is a black metal scene outside Norway is never even mentioned.
8. A lot of the music featured in the film is metal, but otherwise not related to Norwegian black metal from the late '80s or early '90s. Boards of Canada, really?

I don't want to write anymore about this. The best thing about Until the Light Takes Us is Fenriz, who is the only person that genuinely cares and isn't a complete asshole. Give me two hours of interviews with Gylve (Fenriz) and we're good. I'm reviewing the single disc DVD. It is also available in blu-ray and as a special edition two disc. I'd actually be interested to see the second disc, which includes a black metal short film, whatever that means, lots of outtakes and a 45-minute class on the history of metal with Fenriz. Hopefully he's drunk. Either way, he's amazing. Unlike this garbage film.

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