Imagine my surprise: I arrived 30 minutes early to the Grand Illusion Cinema, Seattle’s oldest (and probably smallest) active theater, to find that Until the Light Takes Us was sold out. Why surprise? Well, if you haven’t heard of the film, you’re far from alone: the documentary on black metal, Norway’s most infamous musical export, is currently making the limited-engagement rounds across the US. On IMDb, it has a paltry 119 votes. So how did it sell out?
On closer inspection, it’s less of a shock. Black metal, whose practitioners wear a style of makeup called corpsepaint and shy away from high production value, has long attracted a cult following. This small, vocal minority champions artists who stay “true” and shun those who go commercial. It is a strange, contradictory movement, and much more interesting as a cultural phenomenon than as a style of music. Prior to Light, black metal had already spawned a number of other documentaries and books. Continue reading