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A still from Until the Light Takes Us: behind the scenes of Black Metal in Norway.

2 out of 4 stars


Until the Light Takes Us

  • Directed by Aaron Aites and Audrey Ewell
  • Featuring Fenriz and Varg Vikernes

In the early '90s, affluent, tolerant Norway, the second country in the world (after Denmark) to recognize same-sex union, became the battleground for a musical uprising that incited church burnings and hate crimes.

The movement, dubbed Norwegian black metal, included bands Darkthrone and Mayhem. Musicians daubed in corpse paint went by Evil, Death and Faust. Faust killed a gay man in a park. After Death blew his brains out, the members of Mayhem sewed fragments of his skull into necklaces. Soon, copycat metal bands sprang up across Norway, eager to prove their sympathy for the devil by setting churches afire.

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American filmmakers Aaron Aites and Audrey Ewell moved to Oslo, settling into the music scene two years before making Until the Light Takes Us. Presumably they didn't want to spook their quarry. The soft-slipper routine worked. Mayhem singer Varg Vikernes, barbered and sounding like a grumpy political scientist denied tenure, welcomes them into his jail cell. Darkthrone's Fenriz takes them to clubs.

The musicians have no qualms about explaining why they raised hell. They were channelling their inner Vikings. Christianity had turned Norway into a footstool for American cultural imperialists.

Unfortunately, everything the neo-Vikings say is unchallenged. One waits for someone to ask Fenriz, who claims to despise Yankee culture, how he came to speak fluent Valley Girl. "I was like, well, whatever" doesn't sound like something a descendant of Eric the Red should say.

Until the Light Takes Us contains fascinating footage - material from the 1980s that looks to be the work of angry, ancient Norse warriors. There is, however, almost no perspective here. Perhaps the filmmakers succumbed to a condition associated with a city east of Oslo - the Stockholm Syndrome.

Special to The Globe and Mail

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