It is often thought that the clip comes after the song itself. But a dark music video can sometimes be just as eerie and visceral an impact as the melody it accompanies.
Of course, the visual component of a song has to complement the audio, but can’t it also go further and disturb, titillate, horrify? Perhaps the mark of a good clip is to test these limits.
After all, some big rock and metal bands have made videos that are more likely to chill your back than to tickle your imagination. And many viewers returned from these clips with more appreciation for the illustrated song. But we are sure that many have also returned marked.
So what are the darkest music videos in rock and metal? Take a look at our choices in the list below, if you dare …
Given their penchant for disturbing videos, how the hell could Rammstein not be here? While the video for “Du Hast” is certainly a journey, “Mein Teil” is practically his own warped fever dream. Suffice it to say everyone in the group is having a bad day here, from Till Landemann chopping an angel’s wings to Flake who stumbles on drugs and does ballet. And then, who knows ? For Rammstein, it just might be another Tuesday with the boys.
Queens of the Stone Age, “Sick, Sick, Sick”
The best songs from Queens of the Stone Age make the listener a little uncomfortable, and frontman Josh Homme’s voice is already grim. But the premise behind “Sick, Sick, Sick” is much stranger than we were prepared for – a woman dines on the flesh of the band members, one at a time. Afterwards, we see them playing from inside what we can only assume to be his digestive tract. QOTSA became Hannibal Lecter.
The Cure was for sure one of the strangest goth acts of the 1980s. But even though the original Robert Smith emo sang more about heartbreak than horror, the idea behind “Lullaby” is much more. scary than the rest of Disintegration. In the clip, Smith’s “spiderman” of the lyrics – no, not the Spider-Man comic – stalks the sleepwalking singer until he devours him. Yes, don’t expect this character to debut in the Marvel Cinematic Universe anytime soon.
Tool songs are so illustrative in themselves that they don’t even need video clips. Yet thanks to guitarist Adam Jones’ signature sequence, we avoid sleeping with the images of “Schism” etched in our brains forever. Strange blue beings materialize and perform several strange maneuvers; maybe it’s a children’s show from an alien planet? Either way, the chilling weirdness reaches terrifying heights when the screams of singer Maynard James Keenan are heard. If you only watch it once, don’t worry, you’ll see it again every time you close your eyes.
Nirvana, “Heart Shaped Box”
This song belongs here more for what it stands for than for the final product. Either way, Nirvana’s “Heart-Shaped Box” is still a pretty distorted video. After all, a man is crucified and a little girl in a KKK dress tries to grab fetuses hanging from a tree. Yet, strangely enough, the darker parts in retrospect are Kurt’s brisk, spirited movements – it’s like he’s about to lose his mind every time we see him.
For a long time, Metallica didn’t need to “stoop” to music videos. Their tour schedule was enough to keep them on the minds of metal fans around the world. When they finally filmed one, it hit the fans right in the guts. Use images from a movie titled Johnny has his gun, “One” viewers are familiar with the dialogue of a man hopelessly trapped in his own mind. Things hit their low point at the end of the clip, when the odds solidify that, for that person, there really is no escape.
Linkin Park, “Breaking the Habit”
Considering Linkin Park’s Joe Hahn experience as a director, is it any surprise that the video for “Breaking the Habit” turned out so well? But other than all the stellar visuals, the actual story is a lot more concerning, as it depicts, in reverse, what led to the main character’s death by suicide. This clip may be viewed infrequently, but the song helped many fans deal with their grief at the time.
Slipknot, “The Devil in Me”
Almost half of Slipknot’s filmography could make it onto this list. From shots of the band in the rain in “Left Behind” to the damaged mind in “Vermilion,” the masked metalheads know how to do something … symbolic. But when they put percussionist Shawn “Clown” Crahan behind the camera for “The Devil In I”, they introduced us to the band’s new era in the most graphic way possible. Death, Death, Death – Corey Taylor blows himself up; Guitarist Mick Thomson tears off his own face (mask?) This clip fully confirmed Slipknot’s savagery, and it’s still too much.
Here is a video that has become rock folklore at this point. It was one of the few prime-time MTV videos cut for its graphic nature, as a shot in the uncensored clip shows the incumbent “Jeremy” putting a gun barrel into his mouth. Then again, there was no other way it would play out thematically – if you wanted to do the Pearl Jam song justice, the video portrayal had to match the raw story of the song.
Nine Inch Nails, “Closer”
Again with MTV – remember when the channel was trying to “clean up” its music videos? Well, Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer” is a great example of how something like that can backfire. MTV may have done the right thing for the family viewing, but all the censorship makes the video a bit darker. Whenever we see the slate on the screen indicating that an image has been deleted, all they have to do is imagine what a horrible frame was in there! Maybe Trent Reznor realized an important point: the scariest thing you can think of is already in your head.