Translating music into a visual medium is difficult to say the least. A great song usually conjures up all sorts of images in the listener’s head…but asking that listener to define, organize, and represent them is usually like asking a snake to juggle. Add to that the rules of platforms like MTV and YouTube, and the commercial aspects that come with promoting a record, and you have a feat of Sisyphus. That’s why we’re so excited when a band we love releases a great music video — because we get to see their art come to life in ways we understand, but could never imagine.
That mentioned, which is also why so many bands have horrible music videos. And they’re not even bad artists either – good songs by great bands can easily end up with clunky, nonsensical and painfully embarrassing music videos. To highlight this phenomenon, we’ve put together a list of great songs that are cursed, whether by label pressure, bad creative choices, or the technological limitations of the time, with bad videos.
Here are 11 hard-on-the-eyes but easy-on-the-ears tunes…
Killer, “World Painted Blood” (painted blood of the world2009)
Here’s the thing about Metalocalypse: you can tell that a fair amount of work goes into making the performance animation look cool. But Slayer seemed to want to effortlessly go to Dethklok, and the result is this clunky, jerky, poorly animated video. The band literally looks like it has the mouths of Terrence and Phillip – but even those move more easily than this style of animation (Dave Lombardo’s portrayal is definitely the most shameful). And this record was also so important to Slayer! Male, What happened?
Arsis, “Forced to Switch” (starve the devil2010)
Now with this video we know exactly What happened! Arsis, a band that does elaborate death metal, had mainstream recognition and, fueled by their Bodom-ish love for hair metal, believed they could break through to a wider audience and straddle genres. The result is a Mötley Crüe video without sex, or a death metal video without darkness, or just an extremely bad music video. Really, guys – in class? ‘E=MCROCK? The pink guitar? Who hasn’t said “no” along the way?
Disturbed, “Voice” (Disease2000)
Hate all you want on Disturbed, but “Voices” was a good way to start Disease. It let the listener know that this album was here to bounce back. And the video features… office supply torture? Blow up a blonde chick? Unfortunately, this was in the heyday of MTV, so murdering someone was not yet allowed in a music video (like when Disturbed made this video implying you should shoot presenters you don’t like). Still, this one does a disservice to his song, which is already fighting to be better than all the other nu-metal tracks.
Meshuggah, “Hut” (Catch thirty-three2005)
Oh man you can tell back then this video was a huge victory for Meshuggah. We’re sure that shitty CGI animation cost the label a lot of money. But the band was just too big to get scrappy and too small to really get going, so instead we get this kids TV show To restart, but EDGY. The result is a lot of iTunes visualizer-looking prog metal bullshit. Weft.
Satyricon, “Mother North” (Nemesis Divina1996)
You see, most early black videos are just funny. Witch hat, park in the woods – fucking hilarious. But Satyricon’s “Mother North” isn’t even that bad, it’s just solidly not very good. You’ve got the cross-cutting band and carefully directing Mother North herself, but it feels like a lot of that was filmed in a hourly rental space near a Norwegian shopping center . What a killer black metal song – and then, man…
Slipknot, “Left Behind” (Iowa2001)
It’s amazing how cinematic the camerawork for this video is, considering how silly its narrative is. Slipknot meat boy literally lives in a broken house! There are bullies, but they, uh, don’t really do anything? Even Meat Boy’s egg and water cereal doesn’t bring him comfort. And then, my boy, that rains? As with Disturbed, Slipknot’s need to be accepted by MTV detracted from the heartbreaking, angsty power of this track. Sleep forever, sweet Slipknot meat boy.
Rob Zombie, “Living Dead Girl” (Hellbilly Deluxe1998)
Look, silent movies are rad, The Office of Dr. Caligari mostly…but they just aren’t very exciting. Rob Zombie’s music, meanwhile, is high-octane hard-rock thunder, pelvic thrust, particularly on this track. Instead, we have the protagonist of this strippy song swinging around in a white dress with her eyes pointed skyward, and it all looks like a punch fired. And with Zombie, the punch is really what we’re here for.
Cryptopsy, “The pestilence that walks in darkness (Psalm 91:5-8)” (once was not2005)
Oh man, Lord Worm is back – we better pack this video with it literal verses! Let’s see what horny shit he does! Oh wait, Lord Worm is a fucking weirdo, so he spends all his time hunched over a bible with a pained look on his face? Wow, it’s almost like it wasn’t a song that needed a music video! It’s almost like a waste of Cryptopsy’s precious time!
Pantera, “Revolution is my name” (Reinvent steel2000)
Hell yeah, Pantera represents the progression of American history! Wait, what the fuck? This bizarre time-jumping video for a song where Phil sings from the perspective of Revolution himself is, well, wacky and confusing. More than that, however, it feels extra-tame in the post-9/11, post-COVID, post-George Floyd, post-2020 world. Oh, yeah, Pantera, did you know all about the revolution? Cause the fuck metal groove?
Akercocke, “Leviathan” (Choronzon, 2003)
So the big problem with Akercocke was that they were satanists in three-piece suits, but then they did extremely cool, occult-infused death metal. But damn, does the “Leviathan” video only care about one of those things. The premise of the video is that these satanic gentlemen get their drinks poured while watching a tasteless “striptease” of a sexy libertine Matrix lady in an abandoned public school. These guys look like they have erections that rub against their expensive pants. Stay in the shadows, boys.
Testament, “Practice what you preach” (Practice what you preach1989)
The late 80s was a confusing time to be a thrash band. You wanted that exposure on MTV, but you didn’t want to be associated with glamour, and you couldn’t be crazy like those gnarly motherfuckers in Germany and Switzerland were. The result is so many videos like Testament’s “Practice What You Preach” video, where the story is kind of like Testament is a band, and they move fast when they play music. Worth it for young dreamboat Chuck Billy alone.