Lords of Chaos vs. The Dirt – Battle of the Bands
The beginning of 2019 has brought with it one hell of a Battle of the Bands. In one-corner looms, Norwegian Black Metal pioneers Mayhem. Swaggering to the other corner are 80’s Glam Metal rebels Mötley Crüe. That’s right, it’s Lords of Chaos vs. The Dirt. This show will be judged on their performances, on-stage presence and the set each band has put together. Let the battle begin!
Welcometo the Stage
Lords of Chaos follows the creators of ‘True Norwegian Death Metal’, Mayhem. The film opens with a title card that reads “Based on truth, lies, and what actually happened.” and that’s what the film delivers. Euronymous is a determined 17 year old with a plan to break from the ‘poser’ Metal scene and carve his name as the pioneer of a new sound. His band, Mayhem, may begin as rebellious young Metalheads who love to shock, but all their talk soon becomes action when they hire Varg to be their new frontman. Chaos ensues with violence, arson and eventually murder in this ultra-violent, shocking ‘mockumentary’. I give you Norwegian Black metal.
The Dirt tells the story of how Mötley Crüe became one of the most notorious and infamous Rock bands of all time. It’s a story known by anyone who’s ever tuned into MTV, the rise of bad-boy Glam Rockers Sixx, Lee, Neil & Mars who set out to do everything they were told not to do. The poster-band for drugs, sex and bad decisions these boys have hair as big as their egos. We follow the rise, fall and rise again of four talented and tortured individuals. Bring on the ‘Girls, Girls, Girls’ and ‘Kickstart my Heart’
Both films are set in the 80’s and yet are complete antithesis to each other. One revels in the heyday of Glam Metal with style over substance and the ‘glamourous’ hedonistic lifestyle that culture brought with it. The other fights against the tide and creates its own unique sound with Satanic spice and vicious brutality. Who will win? Fuck knows, so keep reading.
Now that we’ve introduced our contenders, be warned that the rest of the show involves SPOILERS.
The Set List
Both Lords of Chaos and The Dirt utilise fourth-wall breaking and stylised mockumentary techniques that clearly come from the fact that both are based on books, which in turn are based on ‘true’ events. Real life is sprinkled with dramatic flair and zested with artistic license.
While we slip between different perspective in The Dirt, giving us an insight into the mind of all the band members, and even some managers, we are purely aligned with Euronymous in Lords of Chaos allowing us a clear protagonist. Of course, we need to see the multiple perspectives to make sure that everyone’s story is told, but this does weigh the overall narrative down in The Dirt and gives it a jumpy fragmented style that seems to jerk from plot point to plot point to keep the drama revving. Lords of Chaos however allows itself to dwell in some of the slower moments and paces itself across the full arc.
As far as the overall narratives of both films, it’s hard to judge the two against each other. Lords of Chaos is a more fluid story of the rise and destruction of Euronymous as he becomes the outcome of his own shocking escapades. The slow build horror of a man who’s fiction becomes his brutal reality is engaging and disturbing with moments so dark that it’s hard to watch at points.
The Dirt covers a lot more ground and montages together the best/worst moments of Mötley Crüe’s history. Family friendly it is not, but much more typical of what would be expected from this type of film. There are moments that seem to sink to a real and honest place in the bands journey, touching on the most horrendous moments of their lives, but these moments just don’t seem to resonate as much as they should. Heroin addiction, vehicular manslaughter, overdose and the loss of a child all punctuate the party lifestyle of this film. It’s honest in many way but doesn’t quite gut punch in the way that LoC does.
Winner: Lords of Chaos – A tighter and more succinct narrative.
What is a band without a good frontman? I don’t just mean the typical vocalist that puts out the lyrics, I mean the presence that defines that band, the name that is synonymous with that brand. I present to you Euronymous and Nikki Sixx.
Rory Culkin is amazing in this role as Euronymous managing to be both ruthless and sympathetic. He may not be lead vocals but he is the lead of this film and the focal point that we follow. His transformation throughout the film brings emotional depth to a character that could just be another shock rocker with delusions of grandeur.
Douglas Boothe brings heroin hotty Nikki Sixx to life in this film, giving him some brilliant moments overall. From burning his licence, and his past with it, to confronting his mother on two different occasions, there is some emotional depth to his character. Due to the thin spread story though and the ‘fun not fact’ mentality it didn’t feel like Boothe was given the opportunities that he could have been.
In a way, it’s easier to watch the performances in LoC and see them as isolated within the film. Despite the controversy surrounding Mayhem they are not as culturally recognisable as the Crüe and that gave me less expectations of how they should/would act.
LoC and The Dirt both have some hit and miss performances overall. The American and Norwegian accent confusion is a bit of an annoyance at points but the supporting cast do communicate their roles well as the disaffected youth out to revolt against what is offered to them. Everything is over the top and exaggerated in The Dirt, just as the band themselves are, which can lead to some amazing performances and some lacklustre ones. Ozzy Osbourne’s accent was a big issue, there was no Brummie there whatsoever, but Tony Cavalero’s irreverent performance nailed the mannerisms at the same time. No major complaints on either bands performance really.
Winner: Lords of Chaos – Who doesn’t love an empathetic egomaniac?
What would the Rock and Metal genre be without debauchery? Bloody boring that’s what!
Enter our two battling films as they revel, roll and relish in every depraved act, messed up decision and base instinct that they can. It’s time to spill a few fluids, some that may offend you more than others.
LoC definitely indulges in the violence of it’s band members. Within the first act of the film, there is a display so stomach churning that I had to avert my eyes for just a moment. I am talking of course about Dead’s suicide. As this is a biopic it wasn’t a surprise that this happened, but the way it happened on screen definitely was. The camera is unflinching as it cuts between an isolating long shot of Dead slumped on the floor bleeding to an extreme close up of his newly inflicted wounds.
After blowing his brains across the bedroom wall, Dead is found by Euronymous, who decides this is a marketing opportunity he cannot miss. Armed with a disposable camera and manic imagination Dead’s suicide becomes the front cover of an album and a piece of jewellery for each band member. This scene perfectly summarised how obsession with perpetuating an evil image can lead down dark paths.
This isn’t the end of the debauchery either, which, aside from the groupie sex and stripping of Ann-Marit scene, revolves around violence and destruction more than nudity. From church burnings, to the murder of a homosexual man, all the way to the film gruesome and bloody climax, LoC dwells in a dark place of rage and ferocity. What else would you expect from Black Metal?
The Dirt has its own indulgences that seem to be on the complete opposite end of the spectrum to LoC. Replace the violence with gratuitous sex and nudity, there’s your 18 rating. For anyone who has read the story of Mötley Crüe it’s is very apparent that to make their biopic without sex, drink and drugs would be impossible. The first five minutes of The Dirt make this evident as we are introduced to one of Tommy’s many girlfriends who happens to have a very ‘entertaining’ skill. Let’s put it this way, the first two rows are a possible splash zone…
Let’s begin with the low level rock’n’roll antics, the things we expect our rockstars to do. Groupie sex is rampant throughout with quite a lot of partner swapping as well, some only known by one partner. There is a recurring gag about a blonde woman who lives under a bar table just to satisfy the Crüe and their unsuspecting visitors. Beyond that there’s the excess in booze, Jack Daniels definitely sponsored this one. Then we get to the drug use, again this is expected but it’s the levels it reaches that turn it from glamorised to destructive.
Watching scenes of Nikki hiding in a closet and shooting up with any vein he can find is disturbing. The fact he technically dies in this film as well just gives even more weight to his addiction. It’s not Trainspotting, it doesn’t show the truly desperate levels caused by addiction, there is still a romanticised air to the proceedings with Sixx, but the realities are dealt with in the death of Razzle.
I wasn’t sure how the film was going to broach this subject as it is quite controversial and still affects the lives of those involved. After a heavy day of partying, Vince and Razzle go on a beer run that ends in disaster when Vince loses control of his car and crashes into an oncoming vehicle. Razzle dies in the accident and the two occupants of the other car are left with brain damage. We begin to see the consequences of these actions with Vince’s sentencing and stints in rehab. Yet, as the true story goes, it doesn’t stop them going back to their old ways.
Winner: Draw. Controversial, I know, but between the intense violence in Lords of Chaos and the self destructive pleasure-seeking in The Dirt both films are equal in their own brand of debauchery.
My one complaint for both films is that neither one does great things for women. Lords of Chaos seems to indulge in a strange version of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl who is only there to better Euronymous and give him the push to change his way. Then there’s Varg’s use ‘em and abuse ‘em attitude which means I saw more lady ass than I did lady face….yeah. The Dirt is worse. Statement. Fact. Women are just objects and groupies to have and be had. The opening of the film involves a woman squirting, and it only carries on from there. I guess that rockstars just love them some pussy…what can you do about it?
Rant over, the compere has been sent to scream backstage so we can get back to the competition.
It’s decision time, the votes are in and the judges are shit-faced. Drum roll please…
OVERALL WINNER: LORDS OF CHAOS
I’m not going to lie, if it came down to who’s albums I’d rather listen to it would hands down be Mötley Crüe. Sometimes Norwegian Black Metal just doesn’t feel right blasting out of your speakers on the Monday morning commute. However, as far as the films I have to give this one to Lords of Chaos. The nightmare-scape imagery, intense storyline and excellent performance from Rory Culkin just put them a broken guitar string ahead of The Dirt.
Thanks for watching the show, the merch stand is on your right and the medical team are on your left. Goodnight metalheads.