It’s no secret that I’ve been on a black and death metal kick lately: Enslaved… Behemoth… Mayhem…I mean, I’ve always liked it, but I’ve been REALLY into it lately. So, I was excited to see this pop up on The Roxie’s calendar. Tonight, I took myself on a hot date to see it, and emerged with mixed feelings.
The documentary folds interviews with Fenriz from Darkthrone and Varg Vikernes of Burzum together to give a selective history of Norwegian Black Metal. From the genre’s aesthetic, to the production- as Varg puts it, “I wanted the shittiest recording equipment available”, to the church burnings and rising popularity of the genre, these two tell their stories in broken English, often which much humor and minimal editing.
Generally speaking, the film could have used a more heavy handed editor. It isn’t clear if the film assumes that it’s audience goes into this with a certain level of knowledge, or the the filmmakers themselves didn’t bring the expertise to the table when making the film. As a viewer, I felt like there were gaps where I missed something or wanted more way too often. There’s a severe pacing issue, and the lack of actual performances or an integrated soundtrack within the film stunts it’s success.
That said, there is something to be said for the organic quality of the film- shot in 35mm with sound issues in the interviews and unrestored archival footage. Like the low-quality production aesthetic mentioned above, the film followed this sentiment and carried an ominous, albeit sometimes annoying, tone as a result.
The film also became comedic too often for the subject matter. The people behind me definitely thought it was a comedy. The inclusion of Frost from Satyricon towards the end of the film could have been an attempt to poke fun of the newer Black Metal bands, or it could have been to show progression of the genre…I can’t decide.
There were some good quotes/scenes in there- like when the person who found Mayhem’s Dead after he committed suicide, and decided to take a picture of him before calling the authorities: “he found Dead…well, dead”. Or when Fenriz is doing phoners for his album, and he talks about how the lyrics from the first two records were what he thought black metal fans would want to hear, likening the fans to ‘petting a dog’…and now the last two records have been lyrics that should make you want to commit suicide. And his final quote to end the film, about Black Metal becoming popular, “everyone likes to play dress up”.
‘Before the Light Takes Us’ is worth a watch if you are into the genre- just don’t go in with high expectations.