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By Mark Bell | March 8, 2013

This review was originally published on January 19, 2013…

Ian (Jonny Mars) is the lead singer in a death metal band, Crown of Horns, and one evening a fan of Ian’s band murders his teacher, smearing Ian’s band’s logo on the wall in blood. While stopping at a convenience store on the way home from a gig, Ian is confronted by another customer who speaks his mind, going so far as to involve Ian’s family in his taunts.

Not surprisingly, a fight breaks out and Ian struggles with the aftermath of both the fight, the murder and his potential responsibility due to the message of his music. Haunted, Ian finally confronts his own feelings and actions when his daughter asks him about the cuts on his face from the fight, and he has to explain what happened.

A moody and entrancing tone piece with a complex argument at its core, Kat Candler’s Black Metal succeeds in personalizing an often theoretical discussion about violence and art. It’s also a study in humanity, and family, which is what truly grounds the short.

There are moments in Black Metal that remind me of David Lowery’s brilliant short film Pioneer (and if you’ve seen it, you understand that such a comparison can only be complimentary). For the obvious correlation, it’s because of the measured way in which Ian talks with his daughter, explaining what happened to him and in relation to his music. In another way, it’s how Candler breaks down and simplifies what can be an extremely complex and political argument about the connection between art and violence and focuses on what it means for one person, or one family.

Much like the effects of listening to music, what you take away from the film will often be what you walked into it with; the film doesn’t make any major political statements or lectures us on whether art and violence can or cannot be connected, but instead just turns the camera on the singer of a band whose artistic iconography was used in a savage murder, and watches how he deals with it all.

It’s not sensationalistic, but deeply personal. These are the quietly human moments when the stage makeup comes off and the persona comes down; before the press releases are written and the press conferences given. All the questions that arise are equally as puzzling to Ian, and all the answers will need to be found by each one of us individually.

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