Fenriz of Darkthrone. Still via Black Metal Movie.
[Video removed in response to copyright infringement complaint. Buy the film here.]
Screaming and corpse paint on this entry of The FAM as we take a look at Until the Light Takes Us, the 2009 documentary directed by Aaron Aites and Audrey Ewell which details the goings on of a small group of individuals who took the Norwegian black metal scene and propelled it into infamy with vandalism, church burnings, and, eventually, murder. It specifically sets its sights on two of the individuals: Darkthrone drummer and producer Gylve “Fenriz” Nagell and ex Mayhem member and one man band Burzum creator Varg “Count Grishnackh” Vikernes who, at the time, was finishing out a 21 year sentence (the maximum under Norwegian law) for four of the aforementioned church burnings, as well as the murder of fellow Mayhem band-mate Øystein “Euronymous” Aarseth.
The reasons for this decision are apparent from the start, as they are almost diametrically opposed to one another. Nagell continues to remain active in the scene, making music with Darkthrone and running his record label. He is also, seemingly, apolitical. Vikernes, on the other hand, is anything but. He waxes at great length about the ills his country and culture have suffered under the tyranny of everything from McDonald’s to Christianity. Indeed, of the two, he is far more charismatic. He is also the most problematic.
Critics have pointed out that Vikernes may have charmed his interviewers into complacency, and I can’t help but agree. Little is done to expand his views of Christianity, and yet it seems that most of those issues revolve around the fact that it is an offshoot of Judaism. It is also not mentioned that, for a number of years after his conviction, he identified as a neo-Nazi. (He has since created the term “odalism” to differentiate his beliefs, though those differences do not pertain to either racism or anti-Semitism.)
In a sense, then, Until the Light Takes Us serves much better as a history lesson, a snapshot of the early days of Norway’s burgeoning black metal scene. It serves little in the way of critique save to ponder how society has co-opted the scene, rendering it somewhat toothless in the eyes of its forefathers; and while this is an interesting diversion it is more observation than analysis. In the end, it could have used a more insightful vision. Aites and Ewell spent two years in Norway making this documentary and getting to know their subjects. It may have helped to get some distance.