THE FREEZING, unknown expanse of Norway. Church burnings, dark metal, anti-Christian extremism, suicide, and murder. A documentary with all this seems impossible to fuck up, and yet Aaron Aites and Audrey Ewell have managed to do just that with Until the Light Takes Us, a disappointing stab at a rich and under-tapped subject, undertaken with a perspective that falls somewhere between feeble and nonexistent.
Even if you're not a fan of metal—much less dark metal, the melodramatic, Nordic-originating version characterized by extremely lo-fi production of crudely black subject matter that flourished in the early '90s—you probably remember some of the headlines when a series of medieval churches were torched by what the media deemed to be "satanic" cult members. Until introduces us to some of the perpetrators, most notably Varg Vikernes of the band Burzum, one of the handful of young men involved in what was known as the "dark circle"—a small group of friends and musicians whose worldviews were shaped by resentfulness toward the Christianity that stamped out Nordic pagan culture, anti-American stances prompted by the invasion of brands like McDonald's and Coca-Cola, homophobic and quasi-Nazi pride, and escapism into spooky fantasylands.
Vikernes, naturally, is the most compelling interview at hand, a charming, seemingly intelligent person who wound up in prison for stabbing another member of the dark circle in the skull, as well as for several church arsons. Yet it is Fenriz of the band Darkthrone, one of the few in the scene who isn't dead or in prison, who gets the most face time, a serious music geek who comes off as goofy and actually kind of sweet.
Accessing these guys doesn't seem to have been particularly hard, but there are more questions left unanswered than not as to why these kids—who are certainly not special in having descended from a culture stamped out by Christian influence, nor have they been singled out by the reach of American mass culture, just for starters—were the ones to react so alarmingly. There's a compelling, creepy, and blackly humorous story here that's only been partially told, because Until barely scratches the dirt.