A Swedish documentary about Black Metal.
I really had a hard time wrapping my head around this movie. It was produced by Cleopatra Records. Cleopatra. The same company that does all those third-tier glam Metal collections that fill up the CD bargain bin in Wal-Mart. How a predominantly glam Metal, retro label, based in Los Angeles ended up doing BLACK METAL SATANICA I’ll never know. It is probably a North American licensing and distribution deal. The film was done by a filmmaker by the name of Matte Lundberg for Doom films based out of Sweden.
The packaging is adequate with a cartoony cover of Satan hovering over a burning church and the blurb on he back is highly sensationalistic and doesn’t even mention that this is a music documentary. The film also makes the claim that it is ‘The most haunting and evil documentary ever made.’ Strong words. There is no booklet to go with the short 80-minute film.
BLACK METAL SATANICA is very well produced, lots of archival footage, some of it quite grainy, I expect lifted from ancient VHS tapes. It looks good and sounds good. The film starts with an overview of some history, mythology and early roots of the genre. Unfortunately there is a narrator who speaks very slowly and an ominous and scary voice. I understand it was likely intended to add atmosphere to the film but it did not have the intended effect, it just sounds forced and unnatural. A narrator with a Scandinavian accent would have been fine.
The film has a decent narrative arc following the development of the genre, early influences and lots of shots and interviews of various Black Metal members from various bands such as Watain, Mordichrist, Shining, and a few others. A lot of the film is anchored by talking head shots, many of them staged with shots of people dressed in stage attire, with props, candles, skulls, drinking wine and so forth and all this makes it a little more visually interesting. The whole tone is calm and slow, perhaps attributed to the interviews with quiet, understated young artists, very little in the way of posturing.
Of course the soundtrack is very good, if you are a fan of Black Metal! Speaking of music, one problematic issue is that the film centers almost entirely on the philosophy and ideology of the music and there is very little mention of the actual Black Metal music. There is certainly very little mention about the industry, record labels, or the major non-musical participants. Of course there is lots of discussion about people like Varg and the gang and the various crimes they committed. There are a couple of creepy interviews with people who are vocally disguised describing how they committed arson and grave desecration and some of the motivation for the crimes. My favourite part was when a member of a Black Metal band blamed rap and hip-hop fans for the grave desecration!
This is essentially a very good introduction to Black Metal. It leans towards the sensationalistic but that is part of the appeal and interest in the genre for many people, fans and non-fans alike. I’d recommend this to most Metal fans and even those curious to understand some of the basic history and ideals of Black Metal.
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