I’m not trying to knock laid-back music. But on the whole, heavy, intense music tends to make for the best music videos. Think of the imagery in videos from Marilyn Manson, Aphex Twin, Nine Inch Nails, Bjork, etc. The extremeness of their music conjures the type of extreme, bold filmmaking that music fans remember the most. Even on the pop side, the best Madonna videos came from her darkest songs – “Like A Prayer,” “Justify My Love” – ones that sought to shock and provoke. And we’re seeing that trend today. In the past couple weeks, we’ve seen certain artists releasing some of the heaviest material of their careers. And we’re getting increasingly dark, intense visuals to go along with it. Here’s just a few recent examples.
STROBE WARNING: VIEWER DISCRETION ADVISED.
Birds In Row: “I Don’t Dance”
French melodic hardcore upstarts Birds In Row are one of the most exciting up-and-coming bands in heavy music. And the music video for recent single “I Don’t Dance” is brutal and breathtaking. Using the motif of violence as a dance routine, two interpretive dancers savagely kick and push and swipe at each other in expertly-choreographed movements. The noir cinematography, pinpoint editing, and stunningly violent dance itself make for a galvanizing spectacle. It’s an incredibly inventive concept for a music video, and a perfect representation of Birds In Row’s ferocious aesthetic.
Chelsea Wolfe: “The Culling”
Chelsea Wolfe’s steady descent into goth-metal territory has produced some of the most wicked iconography in music video history. Her latest, “The Culling,” is an eerie barrage of gothic symbols: a sea of candles, white roses, red cloaks, a dead pig’s head, and Chelsea caked in face powder and smoky eye shadow, choking up black entrails. It’s all shot in a serene, collage style that’s both calming and overwhelming all at once. Overall, it’s some oppressive stuff.
Denzel Curry: “CLOUT COBAIN”
Clowns are scary and everyone know that. More importantly, Denzel Curry knows that, and the intense Florida rapper takes on a scary clown persona for his latest single “CLOUT COBAIN.” Looking like a combination of Pennywise and the face-painted bank robbers from Dead Presidents, Curry puts the horrorcore vibes front-and-center. Coupled with lush black-and-white photography and the song’s themes of depression and self-harm, the video is a potent and unnerving carnival of creepiness. Definitely the stuff of nightmares.
Iglooghost: “Clear Tamei”
Whereas the other videos here are dark and punishing, Iglooghost’s “Clear Tamei” is bright and colorful, but every bit as intense. As he raps in a made-up language over his frenetic, hyper-warped, bombastic IDM beats, fantastical landscapes, sinister creatures, and neon-colored blobs flash across the screen in off-putting ways. When the beat hits another stratospheric gear, colors and settings bend and shift in a flurry of strobe lights and melting visuals. The Tamei mascot might be pink and cuddly, but it is as crazy and antagonistic as Iglooghost’s music can be. Which somehow makes it scarier.
War On Women: “Anarcha”
Short on visual flair but every bit as potent as the other videos on this list, War On Women’s video for “Anarcha” is direct and intimidating, just like their polically-charged brand of hardcore punk. In grainy, VHS-style camerawork, the band slashes and thrashes their way through their instruments in a dark parking garage. The noir lighting and heavy use of silhouettes plays into the dark undercurrents in the band’s music, but it’s frontwoman Shawna Potter’s ruthless presence that maximizes the video’s impact. Full of snarling attitude and political outrage, Potter is the perfect cypher for delivering the band’s message of defiance and wokeness. How can you not join the cause?