One member of the group is dedicated (Axwell), another has anxiety and has been cautioned by his therapist to avoid stress (Sebastian Ingrosso), while the third (Steve Angello) is disinterested. Welcome to final days of Swedish House Mafia.
Whether or not you are a fan of Swedish House Mafia’s epic EDM signature, director Christian Larson’s Leave the World Behind presents a captivating inside look at the outfit’s slow, dysfunctional demise. While on top of the charts and raking in tons of cash from sold-out shows, SHM unexpectedly announced in June 2012 that they were calling it a day to the surprise of fans and peers. The talking point they repeated in interviews was that it was a good time to end things while they were still on top. It sounded like bullshit then and this film shot over two years and 250 dates in 15 countries provides context for what really happened.
Larson, a talented Swedish filmmaker and music video director (Kylie Minogue, Sigur Rós, Nero) who documented the group’s rags-to-riches rise in 2010’s Take One, was embedded with the trio as the breakup went down. As the Mafia set off on their global farewell stadium tour, the members appear to have accepted the decision to part ways and are in good spirits. There’s a lot of joking around before gigs and camaraderie. However as they trek around the world and inch toward their conclusion, the elephant in the room becomes almost too uncomfortable to watch. At one point near the end of the tour, tension between them is so high that after a show Angello hops into a van leaving his bandmates waiting in the dust.
Unlike Metallica, who recognized their imminent implosion and brought in “performance-enhancing coach” Phil Towle to help the band sift through decades of personal beefs, the death of their bassist and various trials and tribulations — it’s all documented by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky in 2004’s excellent Some Kind of Monster — the trio stick their heads in the sand and refuse to communicate with each other.
Larson offers stunning performance footage and graciously portrays the cities they visit. While the members say that ending the group is bittersweet during interview at each stop of the final tour, the only tears shed are by their disappointed fans.
On social media DJs often project themselves as omnipotent — a photo of themselves with their arms raised in triumph for “killing it” at a show with the gracious “thank you [name of city]” tweet issued the next morning. The narrative many convey is that they’re leading jet-setting lives and life is awesome. In the same way that Some Kind of Monster pulled away the veil and showed Metallica as real people who happen to be heavy metal stars going through a lot of personal shit, Leave the World Behind is the first honest account showing DJs as the flawed human beings they sometimes pretend not to be.
After all, how many of us would walk away from a dream job paying millions simply on the grounds of ego? In this instance, the answer is three.
Photos courtesy of Christian Larson