"Until the Light Takes Us" Black Metal Documentary Review

Updated on August 30, 2019
FatFreddysCat profile image

I've been a film buff since childhood, and I love writing about and reviewing my favorites.

Film Poster
Film Poster | Source

An Intriguing Walk on Metal's Dark Side

Film: Until the Light Takes Us (2009)
Genre: Documentary

Directed by: Aaron Aites and Audrey Newell

Featuring: Gylve "Fenriz" Nagell, Varg "Count Grishnackh" Vikernes, Bard "Faust" Eithun, Jan Axel "Hellhammer" Blomberg, and others

I have yet to see Lords of Chaos, director Jonas Akerlund's dramatized 2019 film version of the now-infamous crimes that took place in the early '90s Norwegian Black Metal scene, but its recent release prompted me to re-visit Until the Light Takes Us, an intriguing documentary about those same events, via Amazon Prime.

For those who are unfamiliar: in the early '90s, a small group of Norwegian extreme musicians decided to accompany their deliberately lo-fi, Satanic, abrasive metal music with acts of anti-Christian, anti-social violence, resulting in a wave of crimes across Norway that included several church arsons and murders.

I'm not a fan of the black metal music style, but I've always been fascinated by this story. I remember trying to keep up with the saga via European metal magazines while it was going on, reading about who killed who, which guy was in jail and so on, and thinking to myself, "Damn, what the hell is in the water in Norway?"

Until the Light Takes Us may not help viewers understand the mindsets behind these events, but it is an interesting ride nonetheless, taking viewers into the dark underbelly of a music scene that became legendary for a variety of reasons that had little to do with actual music.


"Pure F**king Armageddon!"

The two main "characters" in Until the Light Takes Us are Gylve "Fenriz" Nagel of Darkthrone (considered by most to be the first "true" Black Metal band from Norway) and the infamous Varg Vikernes, aka "Count Grishnackh" of Burzum and Mayhem. (the film takes its name from the English translation of a Burzum album title, 1994's Hvis lyset tar oss.)

Fenriz seems like a bit of an odd duck, but he's likable enough in his role as the "voice of reason" in the film. If this were a documentary about '60s rock, he'd be the old hippie guy who was into the "scene" strictly "for the music, maaaaan." He laments how the small, insulated black metal scene suddenly became crowded with wanna-be's who jumped on the bandwagon with their own violent campaigns once the media-fueled "Satanic Panic" hysteria began. By the mid '90s black metal had become a cartoonish trend, and you can tell that he's still bothered by it to this day. I could sort of relate to how he feels; from a mainstream metal perspective, it reminded me of old Metallica fans who turned their backs on that band when they released their gazillion-selling "Black Album," and let everyone into their cool little club.

Varg "Count Grishnackh" Vikernes, meanwhile, is interviewed from his jail cell in Trondheim, where he was serving a lengthy prison term for taking part in several church arson fires and the murder of his one-time Mayhem bandmate, Øystein "Euronymous" Aarseth (though he's been released since this film was made). Varg saw black metal as a vehicle for his nationalist political views -- he believed that Norway should declare outright war on Christianity and return to its Viking/Pagan origins. He comes across as surprisingly soft-spoken, good-humored and even somewhat charming during these segments, which makes it all the more disturbing when he describes the murder of Euronymous (which he maintains was self defense) as if it was no big deal.

Mayhem - "Deathcrush" (Live in Leipzig, 1990)

Other interviewees in the film include the surviving members of Mayhem (who continue to release albums to this day) and musicians from such bands as Satyricon, Immortal, and Emperor. Some of these guys have, shall we say, "interesting" views of the events that transpired.

By this point, viewers who are unfamiliar with black metal will either think these guys are all from Mars, or that they simply shouldn't be walking around loose. Clips from Norwegian news reports about the events are interspersed between the interviews, and judging from all the media hoopla, Varg Vikernes' arrest and court case appears to have been Norway's "Trial of the Century," transforming him into a sort of Norwegian Charles Manson, i.e. a "celebrity" criminal/boogeyman that everyone has heard of.

It's strange to think that this story was such huge news in this tiny country, but since it all took place during the pre-internet age, most people outside of Norway -- or at least those who didn't follow the underground metal scene - had no idea that any of it was transpiring.

Summing It Up

I enjoyed Until the Light Takes Us, but viewers who have never heard of black metal and don't know anything about the figures profiled in it are likely to be completely lost. Therefore, it helps to have some idea of who these players are before watching the movie. The film probably could've used a narrator/voice-over at times to fill in some of gaps and to move things along in a more linear fashion, but aside from those minor complaints, I imagine anyone with an interest in black metal, or true crime documentaries in general, will find Until the Light Takes Us an enjoyably bizarre way to spend 90 minutes.

© 2019 Keith Abt


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

      Justin W Price 

      15 months ago from Juneau, Alaska

      i'll have to check this out. Big metal fan with a strong interest in the NOrweigian death metal scene.

    • bhattuc profile image

      Umesh Chandra Bhatt 

      16 months ago from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India

      Absolutely new thing to me. Very interesting and well narrated. Thanks.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, spinditty.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)