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Lords of Chaos: The Bloody Rise of the…
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Lords of Chaos: The Bloody Rise of the Satanic Metal Underground (1998)

by Michael Moynihan, Didrik Søderlind

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Lords Of Chaos details the development of black metal in Norway in the late 80s and early 90s, and the events unfolding during this rise that generated sensationalist media attention. The book gives an interesting though somewhat unhinged account of the history of rock and metal music, focusing primarily on the evil imagery and subject matter of bands such as Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, King Diamond, and Venom. The authors also give some analysis to the connection between Scandinavian mythology and black metal music, as it applies to image, aesthetic, and lyrical theme.

Significant space is allowed for intriguing, informative, and sometimes humorous interviews with key figures of the Norwegian underground metal scene, as well as with sources outside that circle who shed some light on Satanic philosophies and political ideologies and how and why these are exemplified in this type of music. Through the stories of murder and church burnings, the authors do an effective job of portraying these musicians as reasonably intelligent and aware, if a bit misguided and contradicting in a few cases. Emphasis is placed on sufficient background information regarding cultural ancestry and modern societal climate of the region, to make clear the intentions and passions of these individuals.

The book is essential for any fans of underground metal, particularly Norwegian black metal, as it allows individual personalities to shine through in‑depth interviews with people such as Ihsahn of Emperor, Hellhammer of Mayhem, and Varg Vikernes of Burzum, along with a plethora of rare photos. Detail is given as to the inner workings of bands both in musical development and formation of worldviews. It is also an appealing read for anyone who may not be a fan of extreme metal, but wishes to gain insight into the tempestuous realm of the darkest, most feral, and philosophically inspired strain of heavy metal music ever to exist.

Impressive and refreshing in comparison to most books on metal music, Lords Of Chaos is written by authors who have personal connections with this music, and have a firm understanding of what it means and why it exists, as opposed to outsiders writing about music they fail to understand in any true sense, often leading to misinformed and confused accounts of a traditionally misunderstood music.

"There is no doubt that a vast number of those involved in Black Metal emulate a barbaric image in their appearance and demeanor, statements and lyrics. The music could certainly be similarly described as barbarous by an unwary listener, although it is often complex and beautiful as well"

This simple and obvious statement is one of common knowledge among fans, but for outsiders looking to gain some manner of understanding of music unfamiliar to them, such a passage alone carries more honesty, understanding, and accuracy than the vast number of sources who dare to uncover this music through mainstream exposure.

At times the book is disjointed in its presentation, but any flaws are overridden by the integrity of character the authors succeeded in supplying this book. The story of this music is one that needs to be told, and it needs to be told by those who know, feel, and perhaps even love it. Regardless of one's individual beliefs, the message comes through with alarming clarity that these individuals actually lived their art because they were driven by something beyond music. There is a certain nihilism in an act of collecting pieces of a suicided comrades shattered brain and constructing a necklace from it, and using brain tissue as part of a stew. This nihilism is expressed when members of Mayhem and Burzum speak with indifference about murdered and suicided bandmates. Witness a response from former Emperor drummer Faust to the question of whether or not people were upset after Mayhem vocalist Dead committed suicide:

"People who knew him didn't like it, because he was a good guy. The Mayhem guys were upset because they lost a good vocalist. He was supposed to record the album, so he delayed the whole recording. It was an unfortunate thing, because he was one of the best vocalists, in my opinion."

Such a response communicates an understanding of life that transcends individualistic approaches. It is not the devaluing of life that most would ordinarily perceive it as, but rather an acknowledgment of a broader view of existence that recognizes the universal as possessing greater value than individual components. Faust's emphasis on losing a good vocalist rather than sorrow at losing a friend reflects a greater appreciation for the value of Dead's worth to a collective movement than his individual place as a human being in a world overflowing with such beings.

Understanding this existentialist nihilism is essential to understanding black metal. It is a commonality amongst the statements expressed by each of the interviewees in this book who are part of this movement. Moynihan and Soderlind do an admirable job of bringing these ideologies out of their subjects and research, representing this music as something far more than rebellious teenagers making an angry racket with instruments they can hardly play. These are the modern day warriors, revolutionaries, and philosophical visionaries, fueled by a passion for a better world that leaves most others who would assume themselves to be great minds and leaders of our time baffled and insecure, though their lust for personal profit and image would never allow them to admit as much.

The apex of this read arrives in the interviews with Varg Vikernes (a.k.a. Count Grishnackh), sole personification of Burzum, who murdered his one‑time bandmate and black metal figurehead Oystein Aarseth (a.k.a. Euronymous) of Mayhem. Varg discusses his ideas relating to Vidkun Quisling's philosophy of Universism and his thoughts on the essence of black metal, presenting himself as an intelligent and aware individual who, with the possible exception of Emperor leader Ihsahn, seems to possess a higher intellectual grasp, or at least a more penetrating manner of articulation, of ideologies fundamental to black metal music. In his answer to the question of how grave desecration fits into his ideology, Varg responds: "It's quite simple. They (The Christians) desecrated our graves, or burial mounds, so it's revenge. The people who lie in the graves are the ones who built this society, which we are against. We show them the respect they deserve. I have absolutely no respect for the people who built this society..."

No better story of this movement has been told, and though some mistakes are present throughout, the whole of Lords Of Chaos conveys a depth of understanding and informative awareness making this an enjoyable, engaging, and refreshing read.
1 vote AMD3075 | Feb 24, 2014 |
I've been looking forward to reading this for years, and only just got round to it. I think it's fair to say I got more pleasure out of the looking forward to than I did from actually reading it. The prose and editing are as bad as you'd expect in a Feral House book; I feel quite comfortable saying my freshman comp students could have given this a quick once over and made it as least twice as readable. The core story of the book - the origins and rise of Scandinavian black metal and the crimes committed by that scene's members - is fascinating and fairly well told, although the interminable interviews the authors throw in to every chapter make for painful reading. Only a fanboy could possibly care what the drummer of some random band thinks, especially when they all think more or less the same thing.

Once they move on from that story, though, the book turns to pulp: the authors' *ridiculous* sub-jungian musings couldn't even be of interest to the kind of people who attend seances; the stories and interviews with copy-cat criminal metalheads add literally nothing to the first half of the book; and the closing chapters, detailing a range of mediocre musicians across the world, are worse than pointless. There are some amazing black metal records, but you'd never know it from this book.

On the upside, Moynihan and Soderlind avoid moralizing, and the photos are worth the price of the book. What did I learn from this book? The only thing more ridiculous than a person who acts exactly like everyone else is a person who spends all their time trying to act exactly unlike everyone else. Bow down to the dark lord of pathetic, adolescent rebellion! ( )
  stillatim | Dec 29, 2013 |
The book sounds fascinating plus the author outed Jonah Lehrer for plagiarism:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/aug/03/jonah-lehrer-imagine-withdrawn-sale?...
  maybedog | Apr 5, 2013 |
The book sounds fascinating plus the author outed Jonah Lehrer for plagiarism:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/aug/03/jonah-lehrer-imagine-withdrawn-sale?...
  maybedog | Apr 5, 2013 |
If you like murder, mayhem, church arson, or simply like crazy Norwegians, this is the book for you. ( )
1 vote dresdnhope | Oct 14, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0922915946, Paperback)

“* * * * * *! The most incredible story in the history of music … a heavyweight book.”—Kerrang!

“An unusual combination of true crime journalism, rock and roll reporting and underground obsessiveness, Lords of Chaos turns into one of the more fascinating reads in a long time.”—Denver Post

A narrative feature film based on this award-winning book has just gone into production.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:34 -0400)

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