Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Featured Book: Lords of Chaos: The Bloody Rise of the Satanic Metal Underground

Authored by Michael Moynihan and Didrik Soderlind

I believe I first heard about this number through Amazon.com when I was looking into purchasing a book of photographs called True Norwegian Black Metal. This read came up under one of those “you might also be interested in” sections, if I remember correctly. At any rate, I figured it might be interesting so I picked it up. Knowing that the history of Black Metal is pretty fucked up, I assumed it would score fairly high on the gnarliness scale. Instead, it scored extremely high on the “meh” scale.

This book is written in a way that seems to meld crime drama and investigative journalism. It’s also full of interviews with many of the prominent people within the Black Metal scene, as well as people completely outside of it. The problem is, sometimes things get too far outside of what I expected to be reading about. Some cases it seems warranted, and other times it just seems extraneous. In fact, this bad boy is almost 400 pages long, and I have a feeling I would have gotten the same amount of information even if it was cut down to 200. At times this read just wanders.

Moynihan and Soderlind start out with a basic history of the rise of Satanic metal in general, citing bands like Black Sabbath and Venom. Then they move into how Black Metal itself actually started, still keeping a close tie to the Satanic aspects. All of this is pretty interesting, even if you’ve heard it before. Obviously the book takes on the infamous church burnings and murders involved with Black Metal, thus giving it the crime drama feel, but after awhile things changed, and it began to get a bit boring.

A massive amount of this book is spent talking about Varg Vikernes from Burzum. It’s true the guy is batshit insane and had a lot to do with where Black Metal began to progress, and it’s also true the guy murdered Oystein Aarseth (aka Euronymous from Mayhem), who was probably the most important person in the scene, but I just didn’t want to read that much about him. The whole section just talks about how Varg moved from Satanism to Odinism and is now a Neo-Nazi. Basically, you spend about a quarter of the book reading about Vikernes’ view on Nordic legends and getting a taste of his hate speech.

Using Varg as a bridge, the book then takes a turn from covering the “bloody rise of the Satanic metal underground” to covering nothing but the right-wing politics of many metal bands. If you want to read about that, then you’ll get plenty of information, but that isn’t what I was looking for when I got this. The writers still include information about various crimes and murders committed by the people involved, but most of them are politically based. I don’t know, I just lost interest.

The writing isn’t bad, and the amount of information contained in these pages is pretty impressive, but I lost a lot of respect for the authors because they tend to get very preachy or have a heavy slant towards one person or another. The way Euronymous was described used loaded words that gave me the idea that the writers didn’t respect him. On the same token, when they talked about his murderer (Varg), they seemed to praise him. I later read somewhere that one of the authors is actually a huge supporter of Varg, and whether or not that’s true, I could easily see why someone would think that.

In all honesty, I would recommend the first half of this book as an interesting history on the development and background of Black Metal, but I’d leave all the rest behind. It’s too drawn out and not really worth the time invested.