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Until The Light Takes Us [Video Review]

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Until The Light Takes Us documents the rise in popularity of Norwegian black metal and death metal in the early 90s. Based loosely around two instrumental band members of Darkthrone, the film peeks into the origins but focuses heavily on the cultural aspect that, politically, turned the country into a frenzy. While never really skewing one way or another, Until The Light peers into the somewhat torn soul of Fenriz, who focuses all his energy and passion on the music he creates. Throughout the film, we come to understand that Fenriz lives for the music and get the impression that he struggled greatly with the political leanings of Varg Vikernes of Burzum, who was sentenced to prison in 1993 for 21 years after being convicted of murder and several counts of arson.

Though each person in the film took a different stance on the events that took place in the early years of the genre, the two most poignant are those of the characters noted above. Fenriz lives for the music, while Varg rarely discusses music and focuses instead on the cultural destruction brought by mass chains, religion, and the Christian faith. As he describes his incarceration, and what brought him there, we get a glimpse inside his soul. There isn’t remorse, per se, at least when it comes to arson — though he never fully admits to the crime. And the same can be said for the murder he committed, though he described it, nonchalantly, as more self-defense than a premeditated act.

Both Fenriz and Varg are shown as quite intelligent, and in the case of the latter very philosophical. While Fenriz continues to record under the Darkthrone project, Varg recorded two albums in prison before ending his project based on what he considered an ignorant fan-base — one that associated his music with Satanism. Still, Varg’s dark side shows in his association with Neo-Nazis during the 90s (although it isn’t discussed in the film). Overall, the only truly likable individual interviewed at length is Fenriz.

Throughout Until The Light Takes Us, the viewer is given a look into a few vastly different worlds of the culture. One is pure and creative (Darkthrone and visual artist Bjarne Melgaard), another is wild and self-destructive, and the third is culturally and politically motivated. It will have you on the edge of your seat — a viable feat for a documentary.

Now, I don’t necessarily go out of my way to seek black metal groups or metal in general, but that doesn’t stop me from highly recommending this film. It’s a fascinating glimpse inside a riveting subculture. And it’s a reminder that something on the fringes of the norm can start pure only to be exploited, tarnished, and blown out of proportion based on the acts of a few. This is a film not for the music fan, but for the cultural junkie – the person who loves to take a sociological peek into a cultural subset to see how it works and moves, expands and contracts; to see how it becomes a living, breathing organism.

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