It's often thought that the music video comes second to the song itself. But a dark music video can sometimes pack a punch just as foreboding and visceral as the tune it accompanies.
Sure, a song's visual component should supplement the audio, but can't it also go further and disturb, titillate, horrify? Maybe the mark of a great music video is to test those boundaries.
After all, some huge rock and metal bands have made videos more likely to chill your spine than tickle your fancy. And many viewers have returned from those clips with more appreciation for the song being illustrated. But we're sure plenty have come back scarred as well.
So just what are the darkest music videos in rock and metal? Take a look at our picks in the list below, if you dare…
Considering their penchant for making disturbing videos, how the hell could Rammstein not be on here? While the video for "Du Hast" is certainly a trip, "Mein Teil" is practically its own warped fever dream. Suffice it to say that everyone in the band is having a bad day here, from Till Landemann cutting off the wings of an angel to Flake tripping on drugs and performing ballet. Then again, who knows? For Rammstein, this might just be another Tuesday out with the boys.
Queens of the Stone Age, "Sick, Sick, Sick"
The best Queens of the Stone Age songs make the listener feel a little uncomfortable, and frontman Josh Homme's voice is already sinister-sounding. But the premise behind "Sick, Sick, Sick" is a lot weirder than we were ready for — a woman dines on the flesh of the band members, one at a time. Subsequently, we see them playing from inside what we can only assume to be her digestive tract. QOTSA gone Hannibal Lecter.
The Cure were for sure one of the oddest goth acts to emerge from the 1980s. But even though original emo Robert Smith sang more about heartbreak than horror, the idea behind "Lullaby" is a lot creepier than the rest of Disintegration. In the clip, Smith's "spiderman" from the lyrics — no, not the comic book Spider-Man — stalks the somnambulant singer until it devours him. Yeah, don't expect this character to make his debut in the Marvel Cinematic Universe anytime soon.
Tool songs are so illustrative on their own they don't even need music videos. Yet, thanks to guitarist Adam Jones' auteur streak, we get to avoid sleep with the images from "Schism" forever etched into our brains. Strange blue beings materialize and do several odd maneuvers; perhaps it's a children's show from an alien planet? Whatever the case, the creepy uncanniness reaches terrifying heights when singer Maynard James Keenan's screams kick in. 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 represents than the final product. Regardless, Nirvana's "Heart-Shaped Box" is still a pretty warped video. After all, a man crucifies himself and a little girl in KKK robes tries to catch fetuses hanging from a tree. Yet, eerily, the darkest parts in retrospect are Kurt's lively, animated movements — it's as if he's about to lose his sanity every time we see him.
For a long time, Metallica didn't need to "stoop" to the level of music videos. Their road schedule was enough to keep them in the minds of metal fans the world over. When they did finally film one, though, it hit fans right in the gut. Using footage from a film called Johnny Got His Gun, viewers of "One" are privy to the dialogue of a man desperately trapped inside his own mind. Things reach their low point by the end of the clip, when the probability solidifies that, for this person, there truly is no escape.
Linkin Park, "Breaking the Habit"
Considering how much experience Linkin Park's Joe Hahn has as a director, is it any surprise that the video for "Breaking the Habit" turned out as well as it did? But aside from 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 get infrequent repeat viewing, but the song helped many fans process their grief back in the day.
Slipknot, "The Devil in I"
Pretty much half of Slipknot's filmography could appear on this list. From the shots of the band in the rain in "Left Behind" to the damaged mind in "Vermilion," the masked metalheads sure know how to make something…symbolic. But when they put percussionist Shawn "Clown" Crahan behind the camera for "The Devil In I," they introduced us to the next era of the group in the most graphic way possible. Death, death, death — Corey Taylor blows himself up; guitarist Mick Thomson rips his own face (mask?) off in one of the goriest music vid moments ever. This clip fully confirmed Slipknot's savagery, and it still feels like too much.
Here's a video that's become rock folklore at this point. It was one of the few videos MTV cut in primetime for its graphic nature, since one shot in the uncensored clip shows the titular "Jeremy" put the barrel of a gun in his mouth. Then again, there was no other way it could thematically play out — if you wanted to do the Pearl Jam song justice, the video portrayal had to match the song's raw story.
Nine Inch Nails, "Closer"
Again with the MTV — remember when the channel would try to "clean up" its graphic music videos? Well, "Closer" by Nine Inch Nails is a prime example of how something like that can backfire. MTV may have been doing the right thing for family viewing, but all the censoring actually makes the video feel a little bit darker. Every time one sees the onscreen slate saying an image has been removed, they're only left to imagine what horrific frame was in there! Maybe Trent Reznor realized one important point: the scariest thing you can think of is already inside your head.