Lords of Chaos
R0 - Australia - Umbrella Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (15th July 2019).
The Film

"Lords of Chaos" (2018)

Chronicling the early years of Norwegian black metal band Mayhem, the young group that started making heavy dark and fast had a wildly insane first few years of its inception. With its anarchistic views, spotlight on darkness and against the norm, the band was not about playing to the conventions of music, living beyond their imagery. Øystein (played by Rory Culkin), goes by the stage name of "Euronymous" sets the foundation of the band's style and attitude. Other members come and go due to distrust or conflict of ideas, but one member that shaped the band's image even further was their vocalist "Dead" (played by Jack Kilmer) whose powerful vocals and dangerous stage antics of cutting his wrists would also be the first major casualty with his suicide. The band eventually moved on, reshaped and revamped, but one hardcore fan and eventual bass player for the band Kristian (played by Emory Choen") who goes by the stage name "Varg" would take the band into the further depths, eventually going head to head with Øystein as who was the true leader of the band and the movement.

Mayhem's origins and the time up to their first album is a story that seems too bizarre to be true. At first it seems like a standard story of misguided youth and their music to accompany their movement against convention, but add suicide, murder, and church arson into the story, the story goes beyond the expected for the people that don't know the real story. Formed in 1984, the band's debut album "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas" was released a decade later in 1994, delayed for some months after its planned release due to some significant incidents. The first was the murder of band leader Euronymous by the bandmember Varg in August 1993. Another was the arrest of Varg for the murder as well as his involvement in various church arson cases. There was also the objection of Øystein's family over the use of Varg's parts being left on the completed album. In 1998 the book chronicling Mayhem's rise entitled "Lords of Chaos" written by Michael Moynihan and Didrik Søderlind was released. The book was a force of controversy for the surviving figures as well as a mixed reaction from the public. A decade later in 2008, the documentary film "Until the Light Takes Us" was released which told the story of Norwegian black metal and Mayhem, told through various interviews and archival footage. It took another decade later for the book and the story of Mayhem to be brought to the screen in a biopic with "Lords of Chaos".

Originally the film was planned to be shot in 2009 by Japanese filmmaker Sion Sono as his first film to be shot outside Japan and in the English language but the project fell apart in the pre-production stage. In 2015 it was stated the project was rebooted with music video director Jonas Åkerlund in the director's chair. With experience in a metal band during his youth in Sweden and experience in music videos for nearly thirty years, plus with films such as "Spun" (2002) under his resume, the fit seemed quite right at place, though there was backlash from the start from the real life members depicted.

From the time of Mayhem's inception to the events at the end of the film was almost an entire decade from 1984 to 1993, and cramming everything about the band and the music's genre would not easily fit a feature film's runtime. Events happen quite quickly with the band mucking around playing in their parents' basement to suddenly having live shows. The violent suicide of their lead singer happened three years after joining the band but in the film it only feels like a matter of a short period. There are no year markers nor are there hints to exactly when each event occurs. In some ways the condensed feeling pays off rather well as the audience is not constantly thinking of time and place and events in between. The pacing never feels quite rushed, and audiences should not feel at all "lost" in the fold, whether fans or not. Considering the darkness involved in the subject matter and the music, there are quite a number of comical moments throughout, though expectedly in an extremely dark manner. As for the violence it is quite graphic, from the lengthy suicide scene as well as the stabbing scenes that will give quite a few shocks.

The performances are quite good with the young cast. The head to head psychological battle between Rory Culkin and Emory Cohen are played quite well by the two and certainly carry the story along. The other band members in supporting roles do have a presence but not quite to the extent of standing out as much as they could have. Sky Ferreira's character of Ann-Marit was a fictional character and gives a slight outsider's perspective being Euronymous' love interest and putting a little heart into the supposedly anarchistic cold bandleader. With the only female character in the mostly male cast, it is some fresh air, though her character is a little underused. The young cast does a fairly good job depicting the period and the setting, and though taking place in Norway, all the characters speak English with their natural accents rather than in Norwegian or Norwegian accented English for the production.

As stated there was trouble with the members of Mayhem for the making of the production. At first there was trouble securing the rights to use Mayhem's music in the production. Varg who is currently out of prison but continuing his Neo-Nazi views was against the production and called it a negative and incorrect portrayal of his character and called the book as filled with lies from the writers. Later with the casting he was also critical of his character being played by a Jewish actor. Attila Csihar, who took on the lead singer role of Mayhem following the death of Death was actually supporting of the production and even his real life son Arion Csihar played his father in the film. Eventually music by Mayhem was able to be used, as well as songs from other metal bands of the genre and era.

The film premiered at The Sundance Film Festival in 2018, followed by screenings at Fantasia Festival, Fantastic Fest, Sitges Film Festival, Stockholm International Film Festival, and others throughout the year, and received theatrical releases in 2019 in the United States and elsewhere in limited screenings. While it won Best Film and Best Actor for Culkin at the Molins Film Festival, it was not a major festival awards winner but was fairly well received. While there was praise for the depiction of power struggle and the marriage of music and the image, there was some backlash on the amount of violence and characterizations. "Lords of Chaos" may not be the definitive biopic and may not be the complete truth of the events, but is a fascinating and horrifying biopic piece that music fans should not let by.

Note this is a region 0 NTSC DVD


Umbrella Entertainment presents the film in the 1.80:1 aspect ratio with anamorphic enhancement in the NTSC format. There are very thin black bars on the top and bottom of the screen. Dark colors are the mainstay in the film, with the frequently work black clothes, black makeup, and dark environments, though there are quite a few brightly scenes frequently seen. Colors are well produced and consistent, the image is quite sharp throughout with the handheld cinematography, and there are no errors to speak of in the transfer.

This is the director's cut which has a runtime of 117:26.


English Dolby Digital 5.1
The original English audio track is given a 5.1 mix. Considering it is a music based film the 5.1 track is not the most aggressive in its use of surrounds. Most of the music and concert scenes are mostly left, center, and right speaker based with very little activity in the rears. There are a few effects that use the rears such as rain but for most of the time it is a front heavy experience. The score by Icelandic band Sigur Ros and Dead Can Dance's "Host of Seraphim" which plays near the end are some examples of surround use to full effect. Dialogue on the other hand is always front based, and is clear and easy to understand being well balanced with the music and effects.

There are no subtitles for the main feature.


No extras are on the disc. No menu, nothing. The theatrical trailer has been embedded below, courtesy of Umbrella Entertainment.

The film has been released on Blu-ray in the United States by MVD Visual, Germany by Studio Hamburg, and upcoming from Arrow Video in the United Kingdom. It's unfortunate that Umbrella decided to go DVD only with the release, but the current US and German releases are a little on the disappointing side. The US Blu-ray only has a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track and the German release has a Dolby Digital 5.1 track - not lossless audio which Blu-ray is capable of. The upcoming UK Blu-ray will have lossless audio and exclusive extras including interviews making it the best option for fans.


The packaging states region 4 but is in fact region 0.


"Lords of Chaos" is a fairly disturbing biopic on youth, anarchy, and ego that entertains as well as shocks throughout. The Umbrella Entertainment DVD gives the film a fairly good presentation but sadly without extras.

The Film: B Video: A Audio: B Extras: F- Overall: C


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