I like to consider myself a music fan of (almost) all tastes (my personal sticking point being an inability to connect with country music, though I have often tried to get over this one). I’m not always well-versed in every genre or style, but I know enough to know what I like, for the most part. For example, I know about the electronic dance music scene and House music, but by no means am I an acolyte. Thus, when I sat down to watch a documentary, Leave The World Behind, about the EDM scene’s Swedish House Mafia, embarking on one last tour after announcing their break-up in 2012, I felt like I knew enough, and to an extent that is true, but ultimately I knew very little.
The biggest gap in my knowledge was the group itself, and their popularity. Music docs are made about obscure groups, or at least not popular ones, all the time, so the fact that a doc (or two) exists about the group was not an automatic giveaway, to me, that Swedish House Mafia was a massive hit the world over. It doesn’t take long into the film, however, to see that they weren’t just popluar, they were insanely popular. Filling arenas and selling out in minutes popular. Three DJs, Axwell, Steve Angello and Sebastian Ingrosso, commanding throngs of thousands with beats and a trippy laser show. It was eye-opening.
It was also informative about the group, as the film gives all the necessary history and context of the three members to get you up to speed as you watch the final tour roll-out in massive fashion. We see the personalities at play, the dynamics between the friends and see how their goals and ideals have evolved, or not evolved, over the course of their careers. Which brings us to the break-up itself.
As the group addresses in the movie, it can seem rather mad to an outsider that three men at the height of their success and popularity would choose to disband the group rather than attempt to maintain or make Swedish House Mafia an even bigger sensation (if that’s possible). However, as the film shows, not all three men are on the same page at the same time, and once a certain level of success was reached, the maintenance and growth of that success requires a level of commitment and effort that not all three are willing to give. With resentments growing amongst friends, and the ideas they formed the group under more easily forgotten or ignored, it became a choice of continuing down that path to the detriment of their personal relationships with each other, or go their separate ways. They chose to break-up.
But not without living it up on the way out, and putting on some massive concerts. Like I said earlier, while I was aware of the scene, I’m not a follower and thus the group did not sound familiar to me, but that doesn’t mean that’s the case for other people. Lots of other people. The crowds at their gigs were ridiculously massive. And they all looked to be having an absolutely great time.
And the edit of the film uses these massive experiences and other worldly occasions, from time to time, to juxtapose with the more routine and mundane. On stage, Swedish House Mafia are three guys holding sway over thousands, but those are the exceptions; on a more daily basis, they’re trying to keep track of the whereabouts of their children.
If you’re entirely ignorant of electronic dance music and the like (and it’s hard to be that way; even I knew more than I thought (which is still very little; my DJ brother is probably laughing at me right now)), this isn’t necessarily the film to watch to get a primer, but it is accessible to those who aren’t loyal acolytes of the raver nation, or Swedish House Mafia. That said, if you are one of those die-hards, than this film is even more attractive, offering insights in the unique history and falling apart of the group. It’s always entertaining, sometimes over-the-top and brash, but likewise populated with subtle, sentimental moments and reflection. A quality time with Swedish House Mafia, whether you know what that could mean or not.