Until the Light Takes Us: documentary about black metal

I actually really liked Until the Light Takes Us, the documentary about black metal by Audrey Ewell and Aiden Aites. I say ‘actually’ because I can see why so many people didn’t like it. It’s definitely not for fans of the genre, as there is not a lot of actual black metal featured in the film, and it focuses on the characters involved with the now mythic beginnings of the scene, namely Gylve ‘Fenriz’ Nagell of Darkthrone and Varg ‘Count Grishnackh’ Vikernes.

In turns hilarious and strangely tragic, the film is a sort of meandering character study that lets its subjects speak for themselves without venerating their public personas and the pop culture phenomenon they created. The film touches on themes of authenticity and appropriation, with a lot of focus on contemporary artist Bjarne Melgaard and his sometimes ham-fisted attempts to tackle the black metal aesthetic and mythology into his work.

The Q&A after the screening at the Maryland Film Festival was rather heated, with Ewell and Aites becoming a touch combative when audience members questioned the filmmakers’ appreciation of the actual genre of music, and the conversation verging on full-blown argument when another audience member brought up the uncomfortable contradiction of ostensibly liberal and progressive people appreciating a genre and a culture made by people who have committed extreme acts of hate and violence.

To me, though, the fact that even an apolitical documentary about black metal can generate so much debate amongst fans and laymen alike is yet more reason why I love the genre so much.