Over the weekend, I watched three seperate documentaries on black metal. The first one I watched was the much anticipated Until The Light Takes Us that came out in 2009. I watched this one twice in a row and thought to myself, “wow, this is pretty good.” That was, until I watched the next documentary, Black Metal Satanica. Sure, Black Metal Satanica may not have had as high of a budget as Until The Light Takes Us, but what it didn’t have there, it made up for with delving deep into the history of black metal. The final documentary I watched was called Murder Music: A History of Black Metal which originally aired on the British pay-per-view channel, Rockworld TV. This one was also, not as informative as Black Metal Satanica but it went back further than either of the others and began the history of black metal with bands such as Black Widow back in the ’60s who performed “sacrifical ceremonies” on stage. All three documentaries were good in their own right, but I personally think that only one reigns supreme and I will only be covering Until The Light Takes Us and Black Metal Satanica in this post.
Starting off, I watched Until The Light Takes Us, which I was almost two years late to see. Yes, this film did have some pretty big names involved such as Fenriz of Darkthrone, Varg Vikernes of Burzum, Abbath and Demonaz of Immortal and Frost of Satyricon, but it left a lot out of the history of black metal. Sure, some of these things may not seem like big elements to the evolution of black metal, but it had a lot more to do with it than you would think. These things I will be mentioning later in this post. First, let me just say that while Until The Light Takes Us is a good documentary that I enjoyed, it was more of a “day in the life of…” kind of thing. The main focal points of the film are Fenriz and Varg Vikernes and they don’t really reveal anything that isn’t already well known. Of course, most of the history of black metal is pretty well known, but it is good to hear it from the mouths of those who were there, I suppose. Those who saw these things as they happened.
While the focal points of the film are describing instances that deal with Mayhem and their former vocalist Per Yngve Ohlin also known by his stage name, Dead, they give bits and pieces of his background in Mayhem, but they leave out a lot of things. These things are brought out of the dark in Black Metal Satanica. Some of these instances involving Dead were times when he would bury his clothes in the ground for months at a time and bring them out to wear at shows so that he would have that rotting, fresh-from-the-grave smell. They also leave out the rumor that Euronymous (real name, Øystein Aarseth) kept fragments of Dead’s skull, fashioned necklaces and gave them to band’s that he saw “worthy.” I think both of these instances add a lot to the history of Mayhem and black metal. The bands that Euronymous, allegedly, gave this necklaces to were Marduk and Abruptum (both from Sweden).
Second, we have Black Metal Satanica which is by far one of the best documentaries I’ve seen. It begins talking about the Scandinavian history of Vikings and the impact this history had on the first wave of black metal. Before I even get into some of the content in Black Metal Satanica let me just say that I enjoy the music in this film more than in Until The Light Takes Us. A lot of the music from Until The Light Takes Us was pure ambience. That is not the music that comes to (my) mind when I think of black metal. Black Metal Satanica on the other hand begins with a raw, vicious black metal track running during the credits. It’s great. Sure, this film doesn’t have the heavy hitters like Varg and Fenriz, but this one is not without amazing participants such as members of Vreid, Rimfrost and my personal favorite interview, Niklas Kvarforth (Shining from Sweden). Black Metal Satanica goes into pretty much every detail to the history of black metal from the viking symbology used to grave desecrations, murders and everything in between.
Until The Light Takes Us mentions former Emperor drummer Faust (real name, Bård G. Eithun) “murdering a faggot” but it doesn’t go much further than that. In Black Metal Satanica, not only does it give a rundown of exactly what happened, they show a reenactment! They also show a reenactment of Varg Vikernes killing Euronymous, which is pretty interesting. Black Metal Satanica doesn’t give a complete runthrough of what happened between Varg knocking on Euronymous’ door and the actual fight, but Until The Light Takes Us has a pretty good account of it from Vikernes himself.
If you haven’t seen either of these documentaries and you are interested, you can find them both on Youtube in their full forms. Click here for Black Metal Satanica and here for Until The Light Takes Us. I highly recommend checking these out, as they are both amazing.
~R. Gnarly//Dig It or Die.