The Friday Afternoon Movie: “Until The Light Takes Us”

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.

6 Responses to “The Friday Afternoon Movie: “Until The Light Takes Us””

  1. Scott Says:

    The scene and Vickernes are problematic for sure…but our society and government has strong Nazi and Fascist tendencies in their own right, hidden from the public eye of course, but on a much grander scale. Subverting democracy and installing vicious dictators while selling excess weapons to African Warlords…hundreds of millions dead, dying, suffering and starving so we here in the West could live out our Fetishistic Fantasy Land nook and cranny Hollywood inspired cheap oil on blood, toxic waste, dying earth Decline of Western Civilization straight down the nihilist drain “lifestyle”. Its stories like this that allow us to divert our attentions from the real issues and scapegoat some fringe dwelling black metal heads.

  2. Scott Says:

    “How many punks does it take to screw in a light bulb? Twenty…One to hold the ladder, one to screw it in and 18 on the guest list. You’s all suck, who don’t think so?” FEAR, I Love Living in the City, The Decline of Western Civilization.

  3. Red the liner notes luv, you didn't quite get it. Says:

    Ignoring the lack of research and insight here, it would be ever so lovely, when you post the pirated video of my film, if you would link to the filmmakers’ site. How charmingly blase of you.

    If you think co-option of culture isn’t exactly what this is all about, you’re quite mistaken. If you think this was a history lesson, you’re entirely wrong. If you think this is about the way history is altered, copied by the misinformed and disseminated with no connection to the creator: then you’d be right. But you weren’t. So unthinking. Our culture swirls around the drain in a miasma of convulsive capitalist twitches, as the “critics” blather on, blind to meaning, in love with their “analysis.”

    Varg’s portrayal, btw, was very carefully calibrated to balance his truth with that of the scene, and to arrive at the larger truth. So many assumptions.

    You can also stream the 4 hours of extras at the same site, including 45 minutes with Mr. Vikernes. Cheers.

  4. Meredith Yayanos Says:

    Hi, Aite/Ewell. Coilhouse co-editor, here. I have just added linkbacks to your official site, and the video has been removed, leaving only Ross’s review.

  5. Tequila Says:

    You’re right Ross, distance from the subject matter would have helped.

    I’ve tried watching this film straight through numerous times but I either get bored into a coma or see the fact it’s just not very documentary like and feels like it’s a glorified youtube rant. It has high points but it just feels to incomplete to serve as anything more than a curiosity at best. Hopefully someone comes along and makes an actual film about all this or finds some of the gold no doubt buried in the unused footage.

  6. Laura Says:

    It should still be up on Netflix streaming for anyone who subscribes. \m/