This is the first of two posts this week about metal-related movies. Until the Light Takes Us is a documentary that claims to "tell the story of black metal." That's an ambitious and impossible mission statement. Black metal has attracted a lot of interest from popular culture recently (including this recent article about the film in the LA Times) and I'm not sure why. Maybe its all the allegations of Nazism and the crazy notion that Scandanavians can be dangerous outside of a hockey rink. Even the movie's promotional materials describe black metal as a "music scene that blazed a path of murder and arson across the northern sky." Pretty sensationalistic stuff and serves to fuel the public's perceptions about a genre that has come a long way from its dubious origins. And yet this project seems motivated by a desire to show the disconnect between those perceptions and reality. The directors, Audrey Ewell and Aaron Aites, explain:
What truly inspired us and inspires us still is that at the core, there is a group of kids who actually thought they could change the world with their underground music scene, and who actually tried to do so. There was a lot of confusion and ego, and the inevitable factions, but who actually tries to change the world anymore? Who actually thinks they can? It’s kind of amazing. And the fact that at the same time, they were so focused on remaining “true” and not becoming co-opted or even a part of the commercial machine, only to finally be so overwhelmingly recreated into the absolute antithesis of what they’d intended…it’s tragic. Theirs was a violent movement of strange ideology and searingly raw and painful music, they were truly in search of a truth, and as the movie shows, they are now incorrectly known for being exactly what they despised.
An intriguing statement, to be sure, but begs the question why the filmmakers would choose Varg, a convicted murderer and arsonist that has just been released after spending the last 21 years in jail, as a primary storyteller? They apparently try to counterbalance his sordid tale by introducing us to Fenriz, the "sweet-natured" drummer/vocalist of DARKTHRONE, but in the end it appears he is predictably overshadowed by the more outrageous Varg. For example, despite giving the movie 3 out of 4 stars, the NY Post's review concludes:
Though not many documentaries are as engrossing or can boast such a dramatic climax, "Until the Light Takes Us" essentially amounts to an extended interview with a psycho, fleshed out with background material that, while suitably shocking, is not always illuminating or even frank. The film is curiously shy about calling Varg what he is: a Nazi.
At first blush, it doesn't sound like Until the Light Takes Us will do much to change black metal's image, and that is unfortunate. Today, long after Varg's infamous acts, there's so much more to the scene. But I haven't seen the film, and lest I be accused of prejudgment, I intend to see it. You should too.
Until the Light Takes Us premieres this Friday at the Laemmle Sunset 5. In celebration of that event, Vacation Vinyl will present free Colt 45s and and an in-store DJ set by Pete Majors and Cult of the Horn's DJ Steve Strong on Thursday night. A night of malt liquor, tunes, and the smell of fresh wax is always a good time.