Wade on Birmingham

Sidewalk 2010: Blacker than the blackest black times infinity


Movie review: ‘Until the Light Takes Us’

By Kenn McCracken

Review at a glance: “Until the Light Takes Us” shines the spotlight on a dark corner of music history, Norwegian black metal.

Until the Light Takes Us

A scene from the documentary, “Until the Light Takes Us.”

For those of us who listened to the fringes of music in the 1980s and ’90s, black metal was the outer limit: fast, bone-crushingly heavy, raw. VH1’s “Behind the Music” may have overlooked the Norwegian black metal scene, but a documentary from filmmakers Aaron Aites and Audrey Ewell makes up for that gap.

Wade on Birmingham - Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival“Until the Light Takes Us” screens Sept. 25 at the Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival.

I was excited to watch this film because metal doesn’t usually get the big-screen treatment.

Black metal is the antithesis of slickly produced pop radio crap. It has also had a history of controversy, with its creators involved in vandalism, arson and murder, all in the name of Satanism.

“Until the Light Takes Us” is, to my knowledge, the first time to hear the stories told by those involved, going beyond the news reports of the time. And these fascinating stories — true or false, biased or unbiased — range from the origins of the style to the violent and arguably tragic happenings in the community.

The film is beautifully shot: It’s fascinating that some of the ugliest music comes from one of the most beautiful and tranquil parts of the world. The soundtrack is equally haunting, disturbing and engaging, wisely eschewing for the most part the noise of the genre, exploring more ambient beds instead.

At times, the narrative seems disjointed, bouncing from topic to topic and back again with no real flow.

Still, for any fans of music, metal or otherwise, or culture, “Until the Light Takes Us” is highly recommended for its rare and insightful look into a unique branch of rock history.

Kenn McCrackenKenn McCracken (@insomniactive) is a director and an award-winning screenwriter (2005 Sidewalk Sidewrite grand prize, “Muckfuppet”). His song “Theme for an Imaginary Revenge” was used in the music video of the same title, screening at Sidewalk on Sept. 25.

He’s also a writer (Birmingham Weekly, Spin.com, mental_floss), a bassist for the Exhibit(s), an eight-time cat juggling champion for Malta and an ongoing experiment in sleep deprivation. He occasionally steals your best ideas to claim at his blog, Dairy of a Madman.

“Until the Light Takes Us” will screen at 5:40 p.m. Sept. 25 at the Harambe Room. Opening short is “Delmer Builds a Machine.”

Video: Fenriz, in a scene from “Until the Light Takes Us”

Video: “Until the Light Takes Us” trailer


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