Norwegian Black Metal Music Leads To A Grisly Fate

Lords of Chaos is a grimly compelling peek behind the scenes at the beginning of Norwegian black metal music in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Detailing the rise and fall of Mayhem, a fanatic metal act known for its members burning historic churches to the ground, Lords of Chaos embraces the teenage alienation and angst that fuels the genre without sugarcoating its repulsive roots. Strong direction and fine lead performances carry what would otherwise be a dark and disturbing journey into a largely unpleasant musical odyssey.

Exploring a small music subculture in Norway with a burning hatred for Christianity, Swedish director Jonas Åkerlund’s film is inspired by true events. Lords of Chaos tackles the dark personalities in Mayhem, a key band that couldn’t separate the posturing in its hateful ideology from normal showmanship common in the music industry. Best known for music videos like Madonna’s Ray of Light, Åkerlund’s assured direction tackles the fascinating tale with an understanding of what drives the genre, being a former drummer himself.

Mayhem’s story begins in Oslo, 1987. Coming from an ordinary and normal Norwegian family, Seventeen-year-old Euronymous (Rory Culkin) hopes to strike a blow against polite Norwegian society and what he views as its confining Christian morality by creating “true Norwegian black metal” music. He founds Mayhem, a band dedicated to Satanic ideals and uncompromising music.

…embraces the teenage alienation and angst that fuels the genre without sugarcoating its repulsive roots

Euronymous is soon joined by others in Mayhem that share and even go beyond his fierce dogma, Dead (Jack Kilmer) and Varg (Emory Cohen). Desperate to fit in with Euronymous and his inner ring of associates that dub themselves the Black Circle, Varg quickly goes from disaffected youth to dangerous menace. Varg goes on a rampage and starts burning churches down, gaining national attention in Norway.

The irony is that as Mayhem’s music grew in popularity and fame, their members grew ever more reckless committing crimes. Their heinous acts eventually catch up with them, ending in a bloody murder. The uncensored director’s cut included here on Blu-ray is graphic. This is not for the squeamish. There’s a gruesome suicide and recreations of Mayhem cutting themselves while on stage in concerts.

Lords of Chaos is a stark portrait of evil, but one that reminds us that twisted individuals grow into their crimes. They don’t emerge whole out of nowhere. This is grisly subject matter that points a light on a musical subculture unknown to most people. You don’t have to be a fan of metal music to gain something meaningful from Lords of Chaos. There’s a thin line between fantasy and reality that gets blurred for fanatic believers. The movie isn’t for everyone but reveals the darker side of Satanic belief infiltrating music.


Lords of Chaos isn’t demo material and its music video ethos looks somewhat rough. This is ordinary video quality for a 2018 production. Some archival footage from the 1980s and 1990s is included from sources obviously in standard definition. The movie was finished as a digital intermediate and filmed with Arri Alexa cameras, but that oversells how it looks. Expect soft definition and washed-out video, not to mention an unstable contrast.

The 1.85:1 presentation is offered at 1080P resolution. The uncensored director’s cut here runs 117 minutes on a BD-25, encoded in MPEG-2 at disappointing bitrates. Some footage is noisy due to erratic lighting and some of it is baked into the source material.


All marketing material and even the menus indicate this Blu-ray has a surround option, but is instead missing when chosen. What you get instead are two separate English Dolby Digital soundtracks in 2.0. It appears the disc has been incorrectly authored, which isn’t without precedent by MVD. Neither option sounds different except maybe in volume.

The lossy presentation isn’t poor but generally underwhelming, especially for a movie so heavily invested in its music. Norwegian black metal apparently has that loud, headbanging sound so familiar to metal fans. Dialogue remains intelligible with decent fidelity and doesn’t get lost in the fairly standard stereo mix.

Optional English SDH and French subtitles appear in a yellow font.


MVD Visual distributes Lords of Chaos in North America. Arrow Video has the movie’s rights in the UK and many expect them to deliver a more loaded release in the future.

This edition comes with a slick, embossed slipcover. Called a limited edition combo set, the included DVD actually features the rated 116-minute cut while the Blu-ray has the uncensored director’s cut with more grisly footage.

The only extras are a bunch of weird teasers made for the film and the trailer.

Director’s Teasers (HD) – Ten different “teasers” are included, none running longer than thirty seconds. If you pay attention, some footage that didn’t make the film appears. They tend to focus on specific characters and brief snippets.

Lords of Chaos Trailer (02:22 in HD)

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Lords of Chaos
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A graphic and stark account of Mayhem, founders of Norwegian black metal music, as they implode in violence and their own hateful, Satanic ideology.

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