Friday, October 23, 2020

Lords of Chaos by Michael Moynihan and Didrik Soderlind

Lords of Chaos by Michael Moynihan and Didrik Soderlind
Release Date - November 1, 2003
Publisher Website - Feral House
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages - 391 pages
My Rating - 3/5

**content warning for talk of murder and suicide**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
Growing up under his punk rocker dad's spotlight, eighteen-year-old Luke Greenly knows fame and wants nothing to do with it. His real love isn't in front of a crowd, it's on the page. Hiding his gift and secretly hoarding songs in his bedroom at night, he prefers the anonymous comfort of the locally popular podcast he co-hosts with his outgoing and meddling, far-too-jealousy-inspiringly-happy-with-his-long-term-boyfriend twin brother, Cullen. But that’s not Luke’s only secret. He also has a major un-requited crush on music blogger, Vada Carsewell.

Vada's got a five year plan: secure a job at the Loud Lizard to learn from local legend (and her mom's boyfriend) Phil Josephs (check), take over Phil's music blog (double check), get accepted into Berkeley's prestigious music journalism program (check, check, check), manage Ann Arbor's summer concert series and secure a Rolling Stone internship. Luke Greenly is most definitely NOT on the list. So what if his self-deprecating charm and out-of-this-world music knowledge makes her dizzy? Or his brother just released a bootleg recording of Luke singing about some mystery girl on their podcast and she really, really wishes it was her? 
In the late 1980s/early 1990s a group of Norwegian young men created a new type of music and plenty of newspaper headlines. They are now known for church burnings, a suicide, and multiple murders just as much as they are for their music. Lords of Chaos breaks down not just the murder of Øystein Aarseth but the entire scene.

I was already pretty familiar with the case thanks to the well researched three part series from the guys over at Last Podcast On The Left (episode 285 if you want to listen) and the equally captivating movie adaptation of this book. I couldn't help but compare the three to each other. The podcast and movie firmly focus on Aarseth's murder while the book more fully examines the scene as a whole.

The biggest difference is that the book digs more into the beliefs the people in this group had and how they may have created the conditions that led to the church burnings and deaths. The book focuses on the fact that some of the people involved in the black Metal scene were also racists much more than the movie does. They make a pretty good case for there being some overlap there and how this fact may have played a role in the larger picture at the time. It breaks down all these connections in a way that instantly allows the read to connect all the pieces. It also looks at various members religious beliefs and how Satanism may or may not have played a role.

The pacing felt a little uneven for me. The beginning breezes by and it stagnates a little in the middle and end sections. It felt repetitive at times as we kept hearing the same thing from various members of this scene said just in different ways. This may hammer home the point the authors are trying to make but left me a little underwhelmed as a reader.

There is also the question of how much the reader should believe. The movie based off the book touts that it is “based on truth, lies and what actually happened." Which should tell you everything. There is a mythology there to some of the actions attributed to various key players. You have certain people believing one thing that others swear is a lie. Lies are certainly plausible because for many people involved it was an act and they did and said things to make themselves seem a specific way. Nobody knows for sure if members of the band Mayhem really wore pieces of their fellow band member's skull as necklaces after he committed suicide or if they were pieces of animal bone. This entire thing is filled with things like this that may be overblow. Related is the scrutiny that should be given to the people being interviewed. The authors did a lot of research and interviews and they present these in a very unbiased, straightforward way. They let the subjects of their interviews speak for themselves without injecting opinions or commentary themselves. This means that there are going to be things that many readers will not agree with. Some have questioned why these people should be even given a voice but I think the message the book is presenting is a worthy one - even if I wanted to scream every time a murderer talked about their victim. It was rage inducing to have them say whatever they wanted about the victims because they are not around to tell their side of things thanks to the whole being murdered thing. I don't personally find anything a murderer says about their victim very reliable. 

This book basically left me with the same mindset that I had after watching the movie. These were a bunch of bored young men who were trying to one up each other. They ran wild and things basically turned into Lord of the Flies. It is a fascinating look at a specific point in music history and at a true crime case that leaves you with plenty to to think about. I recommend this for anyone wanting a deep dive into the Norwegian black metal scene as it is certainly detailed and thorough.

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