“In our contemporary society, youth are pretty much lost,” a musician says in Until the Light Takes Us, an exploration of Norway’s storied black-metal scene of the 1990s. “People are telling them what to do, but the youth have an instinct telling them, This is wrong.” Fair enough: Rebellion and boredom have long inspired potent rock. But the speaker—Varg Vikernes, mastermind of seminal black-metal act Burzum—makes his point from jail, where he’s serving time for murdering a bandmate.
Largely forgoing the sensationalism of Michael Moynihan’s seminal black-metal tome, Lords of Chaos (look for a screen adaptation in 2010), Aaron Aites and Audrey Ewell’s plainspoken music doc relies on firsthand testimony from band members and key observers. Meanwhile, images of blazing churches and lurid tabloid headlines show how isolation and affected melancholy led to heinous crimes perpetrated by black-metal musicians, and on to a media-fueled frenzy.In addition to the unsettlingly charismatic Vikernes, Aites and Ewell focus on Darkthrone drummer Fenriz (Gylve Nagell), a diligent craftsman whose ghoulish pallor amounts to a blue collar. “A big part of me wishes that this whole thing didn’t turn into a trend—that’s what fucking sucked, and sucks still,” Nagell says. “Then again, well…people like to dress up.”