Until the Light Takes Us
Until the Light Takes Us
posted on 10/2010 By:
When Until the Light Takes Us first came out, I made the trip into San Francisco with every intention of seeing it with a small pile of like-minded black metal fans curious to see if the makers of the documentary made any sort of effort to go beyond what was already extensively covered in Moynihan/Soderlind's book, Lords of Chaos. Sadly, I was turned away by a line of skinnyjeans, foppish hair and striped hoodies as long as Jörmungandr himself who'd already bought up all the tickets. Approximately a year later, I now realize the best way I could have approached this film is actually through the DVD format that sits before me today. To share this experience in a theater comprised mostly of outsiders looking in -- curious lookie-lou's and people there only to satisfy a mild curiosity about "the story" -- that would have defeated me within the first ten minutes of the film. Elitist, I suppose, but we are talking about Norwegian black metal, for fuck's sake.
The film does essentially cover the meat and potatoes explored in Lords of Chaos, but this was an inevitability I think most people interested in black metal were fully prepared for; it's an engrossing history certainly worthy of diverse media platforms. And honestly, it's presented pretty nicely with an appropriately heavy emphasis placed on Fenriz and Varg Vikernes interviews sprinkled with occasional input from Hellhammer, Abbath, Faust and Garm that covers the beginnings of the second wave of black metal in Norway, its eventual commercialization, and the ensuing controversies that peaked with the church burnings, the death of Euronymous and Varg's arrest and jailing.
Beyond reiterating the history and already well-known controversies, the documentary does a respectable job of examining the commercialization of black metal as well, mostly by tossing visual artist Bjarne Melgaard to the gd lions. This fellow is truly the sort of dribble-dick you love to hate. His incorporation of black metal into his work is fucking laughable (almost as laughable as the interpretive tap routine performed later by some half-wit clown with sloppy corpse paint), and I found it quite amusing to witness the sheer level of indifference Fenriz shows him after painfully enduring his exhibit in Stockholm and leaving with nary a word beyond "I suppose I should meet you the polite way" and quickly shaking his hand before bolting with zero conversation. This same meatball steps on his dick yet again upon meeting Frost to discuss an equally silly performance piece that involves fire breathing and the senseless murder of a perfectly innocent couch in the pale moonlight.
The bonus disc is where the goodies really hide, however. Two-and-a-half hours of additional interview material cut from the original documentary that further peeks into the minds of Varg (45minutes), Fenriz & Nocturno (35minutes + a 45minute "black metal 101 w/ Fenriz course"), Ivar & Grutle (20minutes), Frost (10minutes), Abbath & Demonaz (20minutes), Hellhammer & Necrobutcher (10minutes), and Garm (10minutes). I suppose such a thing could be excessive for those not obsessed with the early 90's Norwegian black metal movement, but it really does do the actual documentary a great service by giving viewers a closer, much more personal look at how the pioneers individually dissect the importance of what they collectively brought to the extreme metal table. Varg emphasizes the misinterpretation of the church burnings, caps on today's black metal for no longer provoking action, and rips America a new asshole for leaking capitalism and our "hamburger culture" into Norway, and Fenriz spends the lion's share of his time lamenting the fact that the genre he helped define as a stand against the popularizing and diluting of death metal has in itself fallen to a very similar fate today; it's like a fucking Shakespearean tragedy, people.
Honestly, due to the familiarity of the subject matter, I probably would've been mildly disappointed with this DVD if the producers hadn't packed the extra 2.5 hours of bonus material onto the second disc. Then again, I consider myself a perennial fan of Norwegian black metal who gobbles up this sort of material, so sitting and watching these guys talk about their culture and history for a couple hours is an afternoon I consider well-spent. Those folks with only a passing interest in the genre would be better off simply renting the DVD, obviously, but for me, Until the Light Takes Us makes a fitting companion alongside Lords of Chaos on my shelf.
"It's beautiful. Like New Zealand, but grimmer." -- Fenriz on Norway
"It's funcore!" -- Varg on Mayhem's Deathcrush EP
"We are not fucking living in a trailer camp listening to Anthrax!" -- Fenriz on being musically open-minded
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