In Michael Moorcock's fantasy novels, the Lords of Chaos are much more visible than the Lords of Law. They tend be extravagant, capricious, selfish, but sympathetic to their favorites.

Arioch | Xiombarg | Mabelode (sometimes Mabelrode) | Checkalakh | Teer | Balo | Pyaray | The Fhoi Myore | Slortar | Chardros

Every now and then, as I walk past the small alcove at the end of the hall in my flat I catch a glimpse of the corner of a grey plastic box poking out of the top of one of the boxes piled there. Waves of 8-bit nostalgia wash over me as I recognise it as one of my ZX Spectrums and I'm soon plugging it all in to my TV. So given the huge amount of games I can play on the thing, which is always the first cassette slotted into the tape player? I've lost the box and the manual over a decade ago, but Lords of Chaos is always the one.

The Stuff

Name: Lords of Chaos
Author: Julian Gollop
Publisher: Blade Software
Released: 1991
Platforms: Sinclair ZX Spectrum 48/+/128/+/2/A/3, Commodore C64/C128, Amstrad CPC 464, Atari ST, Commodore Amiga
Formats: Cassette, 3" disk, 3.5" disk
Original Price: £9.95 tape / £14.95 disk

Overview

Released for the Sinclair Spectrum, Commodore C64/128, Amstrad CPC, Commodore Amiga and Atari ST, Lords of Chaos was written by Julian Gollop basically as a sequel to his still-popular and Spectrum-only Chaos. It's a turn-based fantasy RPG/battle game for up to four players. Each player controls a wizard which can move around the game world (which is wrap-around) and cast spells, many of which summon various creatures to help. After a certain amount of turns, a portal appears, and the aim of the game is to exit through the portal with the highest score; scored are awarded for killing opponents and their creatures, and for collecting treasure during the game.

Gameplay

As a multiplayer with up to four players the game becomes a brilliant battle between armies of creatures. The complexity of the game is pitched just right: easy to pick up but with enough depth for me and my friends to still be playing fourteen years on. As a single player game, it takes on a more RPG-ish feel, each level is played one by one against ai opponents, and scores achieved can be used to increase the wizard's power and knowledge of spells for the next scenario. Three of these scenarios come with the game (the first two of which can be played multiplayer) and an expansion pack with 2 extra could be bought separately.

The Spells

Each wizard knows certain spells (these can be individually designed, or randomally generated). A wizards knowledge of a spell is to a certain level, when you cast a spell its level is decreased until it's level reached zero, when it may not be used for the rest of the game.

Summon Spells

When a summon spell is cast, the number of creatures summoned is equal to the level of the spell. The following is a table of creatures that may be summoned and their properties...

             AG AF ST CN CT DF MR CL PC VP MT  RM  UD  UW  UO  WT  LT  RT
GOLD DRAGON  38 40 86 90 50 42 82 30 10 09 no  no  no  no  yes no  yes no
GREEN DRAGON 32 36 80 82 40 43 75 26 10 08 no  no  no  no  yes yes no  no
RED DRAGON   34 40 90 72 32 34 90 32 18 07 no  no  no  no  yes no  no  yes
PIXIE        34 00 40 16 04 06 67 30 02 01 no  yes no  yes yes yes no  no
DWARF        26 00 57 25 06 06 40 35 02 01 no  yes no  yes yes no  no  yes
GOBLIN       30 00 45 32 09 09 46 42 02 01 no  yes no  yes yes no  no  no
TROLL        32 00 88 47 12 16 46 40 02 02 no  yes no  yes yes no  no  no
GIANT        30 00 48 66 21 15 50 50 04 03 no  no  no  yes yes no  no  no
CENTAUR      48 00 62 36 08 10 54 34 03 01 no  no  no  yes yes no  no  no
UNICORN      56 00 72 40 12 09 42 00 03 01 yes no  no  no  no  no  no  yes
PEGASUS      46 56 80 40 08 09 50 00 03 01 yes no  no  no  no  no  no  no
GRYPHON      42 52 73 53 24 21 57 00 04 04 yes no  no  no  no  no  no  yes
ELEPHANT     36 00 55 73 14 22 40 00 06 02 yes no  no  no  no  no  no  no
GORILLA      34 00 56 38 15 14 43 26 04 01 no  no  no  no  yes yes no  no
LION         54 00 64 34 21 14 46 00 04 02 no  no  no  no  no  yes no  no
BEAR         38 00 70 48 22 26 48 00 05 03 no  no  no  no  no  yes no  no
CROCODILE    26 00 52 62 26 20 55 00 04 02 no  no  no  no  no  no  yes no
GIANT BAT    24 62 75 20 09 07 41 00 03 01 no  no  no  no  no  no  no  no
HARPY        28 52 60 28 22 14 60 16 04 03 no  no  no  no  yes no  no  no
GIANT SPIDER 44 00 74 52 41 24 55 00 07 06 no  no  no  no  no  no  no  yes
ZOMBIE       24 00 90 50 06 05 50 30 03 01 no  no  yes no  yes no  no  no
GHOST        36 36 92 30 08 18 60 00 06 02 no  no  yes no  no  no  yes no
VAMPIRE      34 40 85 60 18 17 65 30 05 04 no  no  yes no  yes no  no  no
SPECTRE      38 00 80 72 28 24 70 00 07 05 no  no  yes no  yes no  no  no
DEMON        30 00 90 78 38 31 78 00 09 07 no  no  yes no  yes no  no  no

Extra things to note: Dragons also benefit from being able to breath fire as ranged attack and as a way to start fires. They cannot be cast without a Dragon Potion (A cauldron and a dragon herb in the same place). Pixies are invisible to opposition players. Ghosts can move through rock, walls and other solid squares (although not roofs).

Potion Spells

In order to cast a potion spell, the casting wizard must be standing on a square with both an empty cauldron and a specific ingredient. The amount of servings created is three more than the level of the spell.

POTION NAME         INGREDIENT EFFECTS
Strength Potion     Mistletoe  Boosts combat
Protection Potion   Clover     Boosts defence
Invisibility Potion Crystal    Creatures cannot be seen by enemy
Speed Potion        Sulph      Doubles Action Points and triples 
                               stamina recovery
Flying Potion       Fairywing  Enables airborne movement
Super Potion        Ambergris  Boosts combat and defence, doubles Action Points 
                               and triples stamina recovery
Healing Potion      Apple      Restores constitution and Stamina, 
                               cures fatal wounds

Other Spells

Magic Fire
Causes the target space to catch fire. The fire will spread and will cause severe harm to creatures it catches, and will turn all terrain to wasteland. It will not harm your own creatures. It burns Tangle Vine but can be put out by a flood spell.
Flood
Causes the target square and some around it to become flooded. Non-water creatures may drown in it. It will put out Magic Fire but is 'soaked up' by Gooey Blob.
Gooey Blob
Similar to Magic Fire, but spreads over different terrain. Soaks up Flood, but is destroyed by Tangle Vine.
Tangle Vine
Changes terrain to thorny vines. Destroys Gooey Blob, but can be burned away by fire.
Enchant
Weapons in the target space become magic; their power is doubled and it can be used to slay undead creatures.
Curse
Can inflict a fatal wound on target creature. In my experience, not likely to work, and not much use if it does.
Magic Attack
Attacks all creatures of same type as target creature even if they are yours. Unlikely to work unless very high level and used on weak creatures.
Magic Bolt
Ranged attack on target creature.
Magic Lightning
As bolt but affects the surrounding squared too.
Teleport
Inaccurately teleport your wizard to target square. Use with caution as after teleport you will have no action points left.
Magic Eye
Allows you to see as if you had a creature at target square (so you can see what's behind a door, for example). Also lets you see an invisible creatures.
Magic Shield
Temporarily increases wizards defence rating.

The Scenarios

The first two scenarios can be played as multiplayer maps, or sequentially as a one player RPG. The third can only be one player, and can only be played by a level three or higher wizard.

Scenario One: The Many Coloured Land

Four diamond-shaped rooms with a door at each compass point provide the starting point for wizards. In each gap between the diagonals of each room is a feature: a shadow wood, a small, rectangular, unlocked room, a swamp surrounded by tall grass, and a magic wood containing a room with four locked doors. The room with the locked doors contains four locked chests which in turn contain treasure. The room also contains a Giant Spider and there are a couple more lurking outside. The Portal appears in one of these four places at random.

Scenario Two: Slayer's Dungeon

No use for flying creatures in this dungeon. Many passages and rooms and many independent creatures wandering around. Watch out particularly for dungeon things. These are invisible, and quite strong. Never leave you wizard unmounted and/or undefended in this dungeon. The points, in this level, are in grabbing the slayer. This is a particularly potent weapon and is found in the room with the square of lava. The room has a locked door and is defended by a demon and two spectres. It is also hidden in a locked chest, the key to which is found in the other locked room with a couple of vampires for company. It can be pretty wearing to go through all this and defeat Elbo Smogg, but the points bonus is worth it. The portal appears in the clearing over the lava just South-West from the room with the vampires in.

Lords of Chaos

By Michael Moynihan and Didrik Søderlind

Introduction

One topic of which I have written somewhat extensively (well, relative to the number of write-ups I have at this date) is the wonderful genre of musical carnage known as black metal. Though it has been gaining popularity in recent years, most black metal elitists (such as myself, admittedly) don't see this as a particularly positive development. However, this isn't the "ohhhhhh, it's popular, so it can't be good!" way of whining coming into play here. What gets me -- and many others -- is the fact that black metal's rising star is based almost entirely on a total misunderstanding of the deeper concepts at work. Although this may sound a little corny, I assure you it's not. Have you ever met someone who likes Fight Club because of its gratuitous violence and general misanthropy rather than its plot or social commentary? I know you have. Do you frustratingly think something to the effect of "gah, no! Why do these ignorant plebs have to like this movie!?" Well, now you know how I feel in reference to black metal. Many people get into it because they like the pseudo-Satanic imagery associated with it or, as John Chedsey claims, it's "just fun music." These weekend warriors therefore lend support to the lowest common demoniator of black metal and lower-profile bands with better music are neglected in favor of ones that loudly profess "shocking" beliefs. Of course, I'm not trying to suggest there's a causal connection between being obnoxiously provocative and sucking, but I question the validity of any self-proclaimed "artist" who has to use controversy as a place-holder for talent. This is where Lords of Chaos comes in.

Lords of Chaos is a book that the black metal "community" is not just a little divided over. On the one hand, some people view it as a decent chronicle of the rise of extreme metal around the world, with a particular emphasis on the Norwegian scene. On the other hand, just as many if not more people see it as sensationalistic propaganda that has done nothing more than increase the ranks of the middle schoolers seeking a way to offend their parents and neighbors with progressively more extreme music and beliefs. And still to others, it's a factually inaccurate piece of historical fiction at best and biased journalistic fraud at worst. Controversial by default, this book is almost guaranteed to remain a potent lightning rod in the metal scene for years to come.

Synopsis

Lords of Chaos is a book that seeks to accomplish many objectives in a short space of time, and actually succeeds on most fronts. The main subject of this book is the controversy surrounding Burzum-frontman Varg Vikernes, especially as it relates to his murder of Mayhem guitarist and song-writer Øystein "Euronymous" Aarseth. Before jumping headlong into this, however, Moynihan wisely chooses to give a brief history of black metal's emergence as a formidable subgenre of metal from some schlocky flash in the pan. (Of course, some people contend it still is a flash in the pan, just a bigger one than before.) This, I feel, is where Lords of Chaos is at its most competent. We're shown how black metal evolved from the darker side of late-60s American stoner rock with bands like Coven, towards the not-so-missing link common to all metal known as Black Sabbath, travelling then to the snarling aesthetic of Motörhead, and finally seeing its first culmination in the first wave of black metal with bands like Venom and Mercyful Fate. From there, we're shown the geneaology of second wave black metal with the primitive death-thrash typified by Slayer and refined by the inimitable Bathory.* At this point, we are introduced to the hellish Norwegians known as Mayhem. By combining the altogether evil aesthetic of Venom with their own twisted lust for speed and brutality, Mayhem was able to revolutionize the Norwegian -- and later the world's -- black metal scene. After a series of line-up changes involving suicide, prison, and then ultimately murder, the Norwegian scene (and the remnants of Mayhem in particular) was catapulted to the front of not just the independent metal press, but to that of the overall international media as well. Beyond Mayhem and Burzum, we also learn about the actions and motivations of Emperor guitarist/Burzum session bassist Thomas "Samoth" Haugen, Emperor/Thorns drummer Bård "Faust" Eithun, Dissection vocalist/guitarist/song-writer Jon Nödtveidt, Absurd vocalist/bassist Hendrik Möbus, and a host of other extreme metal luminaries through exciting adventures such as church arson, random murder, more random murder, and some less-random-but-still-not-really-intelligent murder (respectively). Though these sordid details are obviously the book's big selling points, we are by no means finished with its content.

As I mentioned earlier, much of the book is centered around Varg Vikernes and as such contains numerous interviews with him. In these interviews, Vikernes comes off sounding quite articulate, especially when one considers that the interviews were conducted in English -- his second language. In these rather revealing interviews, he discusses his opinions on race, religion, culture, nature, the role of women in politics, music, and any other subject that may wander into his mind. Unfortunately, he comes off as somewhat inconsistent and says things that simply are not true. For example, he attempts to downplay his friendship with Aarseth -- whom he murdered -- by claiming he never liked him at all. It's a known and established fact, however, that the two men used to hang out a lot together, and that Burzum was signed to Aarseth's label (Deathlike Silence Productions), and that Vikernes played session bass for Mayhem and wore Mayhem shirts, and that he even referred to Aarseth as a "musical genius" in one magazine interview. I don't think I would do that for someone I despised.

Some attention is also given to the American band Deicide and their rather...interesting...frontman, Glenn Benton. Similar brief synopses can be found for the scenes in Britain, Germany, Poland, Russia, and other countries. I've been informed that later editions of this book include an appendix detailing the Finnish scene, but since I have the first edition, I can't comment on the quality of this new section. Chapters are also dedicated to the relationship(s) between black metal, Satanism, Asatru, Odinism, (anti-)Christianity, Nazism, and so forth. Included in these sections are interviews with members of bands like Emperor, Darkthrone, Enslaved, as well as discussions with significant figures in the scene (for example, Metallion of the once-prominent Scandinavian extreme metal rag known simply as Slayer Zine). Concluding the book is a series of relevant newspaper and magazine articles written "back in the day," including one somewhat hilarious interview with Varg Vikernes where he is referred to as "the Devil Worshipper" and in which he proclaims "our intention is to spread fear and devilry."

Review

Well, where to start? Though I consider myself knowledgeable about metal in general, I have to admit there were some things in this book that were quite new to me. I had greatly underestimated the influence of psychedelic stoner rock on the genesis of heavy metal, and it was particularly interesting to read about the band Coven, of whom I had never heard before picking up the book. There were also bits of minutiae that would be of no interest to most people (the fact that Vikernes gave Per "Dead" Ohlin the ammunition with which he ultimately shot himself) as well as some even broader topics, such as the chapter dedicated to the connection(s) between Germanic/Norse mythology and the ideological formation of the black metal aesthetic and more specifically its influence on Varg Vikernes.

On the other hand, there were a lot of the things in the book that were not new to me, and at times I felt almost bored since it was more or less a review of everything I already knew. Going along this same line, there were things in the book that I knew to be factually incorrect which were apparently accepted without question by the authors. For example, there's the infamous gaffe in which in the identity of Quorthon from Bathory is revealed as being Pugh Røgefeldt. This may not mean anything to most people outside of Sweden, but it's a joke that's been going around for years now that everyone else seems to miss. Pugh Røgefeldt is the name of a relatively successful prog rock musician from that country, and it causes no small amount of hilarity over there. (Of course, to be fair, a German magazine claimed Quorthon's name was Runka Snorkråka, which translates to something like "masturbating booger," so Moynihan and Søderlind don't have the distinction of making the biggest fuck-up regarding that man's name.) Likewise, Moynihan makes some really far-fetched logical stretches to support his claims of the prevalence of Nazism in black metal. Though the assertion is well-founded, he picks some really poor evidence to show it. For example, in the section of the book dealing with former Eastern Bloc countries, one Russian band he specifically mentions is Korrozia Metalla. While it's true that Korrozia Metalla has some rather fascistic songs and a worldview to match, the band is categorically not black metal. Korrozia Metalla is sort of like a happier version of Slayer, if you can possibly conceive of such a thing. There are any number of black metal bands in Russia (Temnozor', Rossomahaar, etc.) that Moynihan could have used to prove his point, but for some reason, he simply chose to go with that which was easiest to see. It's like someone writing about the anti-commercialism of punk and using Nirvana as an example.

There are also other minor mistakes that make me cringe. For example, Moynihan repeats the claim that the band VON is an acronym for "Victory Orgasm Nazi," which Vikernes made a decade ago. The only problem is that he never actually said that. What he was trying to do was spell it out for the person interviewing him at the time, as it was done over the telephone with a rather poor connection. The interviewer apparently thought he was saying "Bond," so Vikernes spelled it out in the "d as in 'dog'" method. (For the record, "VON" doesn't even stand for anything.) These various errors aren't enough to kill the book, but if you don't know much about the subject at hand, you're likely to become confused or misled by the mistakes here. How is the uninformed reader to know what's real and what's not when the only source they have at hand is this book that's littered with errors? With that said, I recommend this book with a word of caution: it's a good primer for those who are unfamiliar with black metal and are curious to learn more about it (because it really is an interesting subject) but as with most things in life, don't believe everything you read. If a statement seems odd or there is little or no evidence to support it, do yourself a favor and look it up. Your intuition about bullshit may be stronger than you know.


* This is sort of misleading; Bathory is actually one of the most imitated bands ever, but nobody has ever done it particularly effectively.


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