Black metal has a rich and fascinating history, rife with scandal, infamy, and philosophy. Because of the sensationalism of it all, black metal documentaries are among the most interesting music documentaries to watch. In the precursory years before the alleged release of the Lords of Chaos movie, which will either be an abomination or a masterpiece with literally no in-between, I found myself glued to Youtube, binge watching a copious amounts of music documentaries, specifically covering black metal. These are my top six picks.
6. Murder Music- The History of Black Metal
Murder Music takes the number six position on the list. Narrated by the beautiful Candy René Ackermann, Murder Music- A History of Black Metal explores the depths of the world’s most controversial style of music chronologically and thoroughly. Featuring interviews from Venom’s Mantas, Abbath, Dani Filth, Satyricon’s Satyr, Hellhammer, journalist Didrik Søderlind, and even Mayhem vocalist Attila, this documentary covers all bases. What I like about the documentary is that the focus is clear. It’s about the music and the history of the genre. Director’s even go so far as to cover the origins of occult music by including an interview with 60’s satanic icons, Black Widow. This is a good one.
5. True Norwegian Black Metal
This documentary series was a particularly interesting one given that the main focus is on infamous Gorgoroth frontman, Gaahl. VICE journalist, Peter Best interviews the enigmatic Norwegian vocalist at his home and viewers get an inside look at the man behind the corpse paint. We get a look at his artwork, his grandfather’s house, and an eye-opening look into his ideology. The ending, which features a frustrated Gaahl refusing to answer the journalist’s question or even acknowledge him, captures the essence of the man coined by tabloids as the most evil man alive. Definitely worth the time.
4. Black Metal Satanica
This documentary is fascinating, as it explores the philosophy, ideology, and history of black metal in Scandinavia. Focusing primarily on the second wave, with only brief, compulsory introduction on early black metal, director Mats Lundberg gives us an in-depth look at the meaning behind black metal, covering everything from Nordic legend, race relations, down to Scandinavian tradition. Interviews with members of Watain, Enslaved, and others are complex and visceral. Mats Lundberg’s foreboding narration adds a nice touch to a documentary that will have you hooked immediately.
3. Black Metal- The Music of Satan
Ignore the intro on this documentary. Seriously, skip it if you have to, because once you get into the meat of this documentary, you won’t be disappointed. This film is directed unlike any other black metal documentary, in that it focuses not on the predictable, sensationalist jargon typical of other documentaries, but on the men behind the music. Huge names like Fenriz, King Diamond, Cronos, Abbath, Dani Filth, and more are interviewed backstage, in their element and stripped of the corpse paint and image. Beer is present and there are a lot of hilarious moments. While the journalists ask prying questions about Christianity, racism in metal, and church burnings, it’s all done in a fun, lighthearted manner. This is a limited edition DVD. While you can stream most of it on Youtube and DailyMotion, it’s worth dropping the ten bucks to watch the full version along with the bonus video. Simply stellar.
2. Metal’s Unexplored Fringes- One Man Metal
Back in 2012, Noisy of all publications, released the only documentary, to my knowledge, to cover the murky caverns of one man, depressive black metal. The documentary features interviews with three defining one man bands, Leviathan, Xasthur, and Striborg. The fact that the interviewer only focuses on the men behind these three bands, means the interviews get extremely deep and personal. Jeff Whitehead (Leviathan) talks about his trouble past as a foster child, Scott Conner (Xasthur) disscusses his deeply misanthropic worldview, and Sin Nanna (Striborg) discusses overcoming drug abuse and the impact isolation has had on his music. The questions are invasive but never prying and the direction of this documentary flows seemlessly, leaving viewers glued to the screen. This is a documentary you can watch over and and over and never get bored. If you haven’t seen it, watch it now, you poser.
- Until the Light Takes Us
This is a no brainer, Until the Light Takes Us is the best documentary on black metal, hands down. This documentary features the biggest names in the genre, Fenriz, Varg Vikernes, Frost, and more up close and personal, giving the viewers an inside look into their lives. We get to see sides of Fenriz we’ve never seen before as he discusses his interest in art and electronica. Varg is interviewed from jail and gets personal about his feelings toward Fenriz, talks about his checkered past, and his opinions on American and Norwegian culture. Frost performs in a local art show. The lack of structure and focus on regular conversation make this documentary fantastic for true fans of black metal, interested in getting to know their favorite artists better. It’s truly a masterpiece.
Once Upon A Time in Norway: This probably could have made the list but I am American and don’t want to read subtitles. Don’t beat me up for being honest.
Per “Dead” Ohlin- Documentary: This is a really cool documentary that focuses on the life of the deeply troubled Per Ohlin of Mayhem. Really well done documentary.
What are you favorite black metal documentaries? List them in the comments.