Music videos, like the very songs they accompany, are all about selling something scripted and pre-crafted as being real and genuine. This can range from a well-told fictional story, a mini-doco or a meta piece, a certain idea or a specific set of emotions, to merely a solid promotion for a band’s new release, upcoming tour, etc. However, the very best music videos are the audio-visual experiences that not only sell the listener/viewer the best kind of emotion, idea, story – real or not – but also those that perfectly align with the actual music and stick with you long after you’ve closed that YouTube, Facebook (or god forbid, Vimeo) browser tab. As such, the following list is a collection of music videos that I found to be the key standouts from 2017, as I think there’s a real art in this medium that just doesn’t get enough love.
Now, unlike my 2016 list, I don’t really have one sole favourite film clip to choose from. Rather, just a shortlist of the strongest film clips from last year. So let’s get to it!
Lo! – ‘Locust Christ’
Director: Adrian Shapiro
Lo!’s ‘Orca’ film clip will go down in the annals of heavy music history for just being fucking awesome watch and an even better song. Even so, this crushing Sydney metal outfit kept the visual goods coming last year with ‘Locust Christ‘.
Under his own production company Scoundrel, director, producer and bassist Adrian Shapiro, once more continues his disturbing, deranged yet gripping directorial visions with the ‘Locust Christ’ video. There’s no thick, pink ooze or post-apocalyptic/Fallout-like costumes here like there was in ‘Orca’, rather we get a vile physical manifestation of adultery of a couple’s supposedly sinful romance. The video shows a man pick up a woman from her house, they drive along in silence as the song plays out, with the male lead occasionally uttering lines from the song in time with the actual music (“world breakers”) as the woman creepily stares at him. Eventually, they come to a car park, they look at each other for a few fleeting seconds, before their lust suddenly takes over as they hook up. Shortly afterwards, though their lips part, they stare into each other’s eyes, and then at the same time pull off one another’s wigs, revealing these bulging boils and lumps beneath. Soon their faces start to become devoid of any features and their fleshy noggins begin to entwine and merge with one another in a very gross, David Cronenberg-like manner as they get freaky. All the while with the camera – AKA you, the viewer – still being situated in the back seat of the car; like you’re taking part in some kind of voyeurism that you shouldn’t be witnessing. It’s somewhat sickening to watch unfold before you, what with all of the grotesque practical effects, but just like a monkey swallowing a hand-grenade, you just can’t look away.
In all seriousness, though, as long as Shapiro is the guiding hand for the visuals of Lo!’s music, then whatever he and the band do for their next video, you can bet it’s going to be fucking weird and awesome at the same time.
Pianos Become The Teeth – ‘Charisma’
Director: Michael Parks Randa
Tyler W. Davis, the man behind the gut-wrenching tale of loss about man’s best friend in ‘Ripple Water Shine’ and a genuinely heart-warming, comforting story of simple rural life in ‘895‘ didn’t return for this Baltimore’s band’s newest single (culled from upcoming fourth LP, ‘Wait For Love‘). Instead, Pianos Become The Teeth brought in new director Michael Parks Randa who brings his own behind-the-camera flair to the melodic post-hardcore band’s equally serene, lush and driving music. And not only is ‘Charisma’ one of Pianos‘ catchiest, most satisfying songs to date, but the song’s music video is also a deliriously good package that fits the track’s mood exceptionally well.
The music video follows two wayward street dancers – played by Madeline Rhodes and Nataysha Echevarria – and the pair nail their respective protagonist roles and the music itself is a near-perfect score and representation for their time spent together. (Whether they’re just friends or actual lovers depends on how you personally interpret their relationship, however). It’s a lovely visual feast, one that shows a belated romanticised story between two kindred spirits and is such engaging watch overall. The lighting fast editing delivers so much info in such a concise manner and is synched so well to the song that it moves the plot and the couple’s relationship along so smoothly. Then there was the genius idea of filming most of this music video during the night of Halloween in a bustling U.S. city and capturing some truly stunning costumes of people’s favourite monsters and movie villains for what is a great backdrop for this relationship to blossom. As for the two leads, their wonderful dance choreography in the underground subway for the song’s bridge section matches the song creepily well and the gorgeous Day of the Dead-like makeup the pair wear from said sequence onwards is killer. Beyond all of that, however, this video just succeeds at being what all great music videos are when you boil them right down to their very core: a really good promotional tool for a kickass song, taken from what should hopefully be a wicked new album from PBTT.
[Just last night, Pianos dropped a music video for a new song called ‘Bitter Red‘, which saw both Rhodes and Echevarria return as the leads as well as Parks Randa reprise his directorial role. And yep, this team has nailed it once again!]
Circa Waves – ‘Fire That Burns’
Director: James Slater
Circa Waves’ ‘Fire That Burns’ best represents the buttery smooth hooks, gritty rock sound and sinister themes of the band’s most recent record, 2017’s ‘Different Creatures’. An album that’s living breathing proof that rock is nor has it ever been anything even remotely resembling dead of late. But unlike the standard “band-plays-in-random-room clip” of the infectious ‘Wake Up’ or the live music video bonanza of the darker-sounding ‘Goodbye’, the ‘Fire That Burns’ clip is the real standout of the lot. With a grainy, vintage aesthetic style that evokes 1980’s Italian and French thriller and horror B-movies (something that the clip’s plot also captures very well), this is such a dark, vivid and interesting watch. One that also features a small role from Game Of Thrones star, Isaac Hempstead Wright AKA Bran Stark.
Anyway, Circa Waves frontman Kieran Shudall portrays the film clip’s protagonist, a violent serial killer going on a symbolic murder spree who is later revealed to be nothing but the lead actor in a fictional 80’s thriller/slasher movie. It all gets deeper from here on it as the line between the actor’s reality and his role as a killer blurs as he’s pushed to his mental breaking point by the fictional film’s director and then like a twig underneath crunching feet, he finally snaps, attacking the elderly director in the clip’s climax. It’s right here in the music video’s climax, right when Shudall’s character is going to burn his superior alive that the call of “cut!” is heard and its revealed that this whole final scene of irrational violence was just another setup for a fake movie scene. Leaving our protagonist to look distant and utterly confused at the camera, like he was left in a cripplingly unsure state of mind. Yes, I know that it’s all kinds of schlocky but goddamnit, do I bloody love this thing.
Furthermore, speaking with NME about the clip’s dark story, Shudall and Wright had this to say about the song and its video:
NME: It’s a very dark and vivid video – what would you say that it gives to the track?
Isaac: “It’s central to the name and theme of the track of this fire burning within someone that may or may not be for the best. There’s this whole dark undertone and it adds to the whole atmosphere. It’s a really neat idea with this whole B-movie thing going on.”
Kieran: “We wanted to make a video where we’re not playing, then the director came back with this concept of it being like old Giallo horror movies, – shot in the sort of film-80s style. The concept was a thriller within a thriller. I love anything that’s shot on film.”
Belle Haven – ‘Me.’
Director: Cian Marangos/Belle Haven
For those who don’t know ‘Me.‘ is the emotionally-supercharged finale on Belle Haven’s terrific second record, ‘You, Me and Everything In Between‘. And it’s the best music video to come out of the Melbourne bands sophomore LP.
Co-directed by the band and local star Cian Marangos, with colour grading from the always-stellar Crystal Arrow Films, this latest visual piece sees frontman David Vernon held captive by a female villain – a role representing a former partner of his. Throughout most of the clip, this woman mentally and physically tortures Vernon over and over; from beating him, injecting him with god-knows-what, and to even tying a noose around his neck – whether to hang him herself or to force him to end his life by his own hands is up for debate. However, while it’s a vile telling of a toxic relationship, by this point it was also a massive eye-roll for me as a clip like this is such a cliche trope for heavy music videos to have the key band member tied down and abused throughout. However, the film clip fully redeems itself and gets very fucking meta when the video’s filming goes off the rails when Vernon suddenly stands up, breaks character and quits the scene, leaving the band behind and the film set (the same place they did the ‘“Selfmade”‘ video no less), as he ominously wraps noose around his neck and rushes from the site. All with the intention of ending his life by suicide. As the song barrels towards its chaotic and emotional end, the remaining members of Belle Haven catch up with their dear friend and bandmate outside, surrounding and lovingly hugging him, ultimately stopping him from making such a permanent, drastic action. An emotional moment that is more real than most could ever imagine.
Of course, this is all a scripted moment, but it comes from a very real place. Likewise, this finale not only creates a cool twist on what would have been a very cliche video but it also stands to reinforce the singer’s dire battles with mental illness, whilst also stepping back to show the impact it has on not just himself but also his friends, his brother (guitarist Christopher Vernon), his remaining family and fellow bandmates. Now, a film clip for ‘Me.‘ was always going to deal with the issues of mental health present in this band’s music. I mean, right there in this song’s lyrics are these blunt yet deeply pained lines such as “Give me a gun/kill me/won’t somebody kill me?” and “I’ve spent a lifetime saving myself/Now I’m broke/One day I’ll save enough to buy a rope“. However, none of that doesn’t make this any less of a powerful and heartfelt watch.
Heaven Shall Burn – ‘Corium’
Produced by: Iconographic
While there is a fair debate to be had that Germany’s Heaven Shall Burn have been nothing but a bland, repetitive shadow of their former selves since 2013’s ‘Veto‘ and that ‘Antigone‘ (2004), ‘Deaf To Our Prayers‘ (2006) and ‘Iconoclast: The Final Resistance‘ (2008) remain their most accomplished works, they sure have shit released some brilliant music videos in their time! From the fast-paced politically subversive undertones of ‘Endzeit‘, the brutally violent animated short that is the suitably uncomfortable ‘Combat‘, to the pro-environmental message of ‘Hunters Will Be Hunted‘, this super-charged melodic death metal band’s music is often paired so well with fitting visuals. Which is also the case with ‘Corium‘.
This music video was shot in the simply beautiful Region of Magallanes in Chile and features countless breath-taking mountain shots and many jaw-dropping views throughout. However, at first, the narrative of this lone woman wandering through these immense yet desolate, empty landscapes in search of human activity (spoiler: there is none) at the bequest of some shady organisation does just seem like “Walking Simulator: the movie 2k17”. Yet once you consider the title of this song, things get a whole lot darker and serious. See, “corium” is the name given to the lava-like mixture of fissile material created within a nuclear reactor’s core during a nuclear meltdown (the more you know). And given this band’s long history of lyrically tackling the vast misery and almighty fuck-ups that mankind seems to be a true expert at creating, it’s not at all a stretch to see this clip’s universe set in a time in which humanity is now nothing more but faint flickers of dust in a howling, uncaring wind (whether via war, nuclear fallout, or some other such catastrophe isn’t quite clear). It’s this idea of showing a world devoid of any remaining human life and very few signs of modern civilisation that the visual palette for ‘Corium‘ captures so bleakly well; which in turn works superbly for the band’s message here.
It’s also the best tourism advert you’re like to see for this picturesque area of Chile too. Like, come on, just look at the goddamn thumbnail below!
Stolas – ‘Catalyst’ drum play through
Okay, yes, this is not a proper music video per say, but goddamnit, this video is just so fucking cool!
The criminally underrated band that is Stolas – check out a solid taste of their recent self-titled album here – have put out what is easily the best playthrough video I’ve ever seen in my life. Not because of how technical or mind-blowing the actual piece of music is (‘Catalyst” is a solid tune, mind you) but because of how it was all composed and executed as a finished product. See, every respective drum and cymbal hit that drummer Carlo Marquez lands was filmed individually before being later spliced together; creating this weird, yet awesome visual effect of him moving between different parts of his kit, all from multiple different shoots. Again, it’s so odd but so goddamn cool to see in action. Just think of it as a visual MIDI-track.
Filmed and edited by Michael-Rex Carbonell, again, this really is one of the most creative playthrough videos that I have ever seen with my own face holes. Apparently, this video’s shoot took around four hours of drummer boy playing the song through with different kit setups to get it all right and then about two days of editing to finalise it (Christ, the editing process here must have been a nightmare to complete). And I’d just love to see the making of this thing. Truly, this is how you take a style and method so banal and typical online and make it abnormal, resulting in some very different but also something very special. Honestly, this should have gone viral and it’s a goddamned shame that it didn’t.
Cascades – ‘Whitewater’
Cascades eight-minute epic ‘Whitewater’ is an utter beast of a song. Yet when you experience this hulking, doomy, post-metal track with its accompanying music video, it reaches a whole new level.
The story here goes that several years ago while wandering through an abandoned warehouse in Melbourne’s inner north (as you do), Cascades‘ Sam Filmer stumbled upon a box of old videotapes. Through watching these ancient tapes, Filmer discovered hours of transferred 16mm footage from Melbourne and Sydney circa the 1950s and ’60s. Despite their age, the colour and composition here is – as you’ll see below – just incredible to view. Whether its these windy and gloomy coastal beaches, shots of our national landmarks, rural Australian landscapes, bustling city streets of Melbourne and Syndey, military training, snippets of home footage and travelling; it’s such a vivid and ominous experience to take part in.
None of the footage you see here has been altered, colour corrected or manipulated besides just being edited together to create this often creepy film clip. The found footage nature of the whole piece, shot by an unknown cameraperson, is incredibly affecting when paired with the band’s eerie and nightmarish post-metal tune. It’s also a captivating glimpse into a bygone era of mid-20th-century Australia that many of us have never seen before. Well, rarely like this. An equally off-putting but mesmerising watch.
(If you know anything about these tapes and can connect them with the original owner or their family, you can email any info to the band at email@example.com).
Obituary – ‘Ten Thousand Ways To Die’
Director: Balázs Gróf
Much like Vitamin X’s gory ‘About To Crack’, Municipal Waste’s simply bonkers ‘You’re Cut Off’, Frenzal Rhomb’s ‘When My Baby Smiles At Me I Go To Rehab’ or even Obituary’s own ‘Violence’ (take from their ‘Inked In Blood’ album), this is a bloody and totally gnarly animated clip. In a nutshell, ‘Ten Thousand Ways To Die‘ is just good, dumb, gory viewing fun. There is nothing overly deep or high-art about it at all, but that’s the thing: there didn’t need to be for it this glorious piss-taking video to work this fuckin’ well.
Also, the list of metal and pop-culture references here is also insane. From The Human Centipede, Alien, Titanic, Elvis, to Deicide showing up, brief appearances from Glen Benton, the legendary Lemmy, George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher, to the guy from the ‘Ten Thousand Ways To Die’ album cover, Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’, right through to aforementioned first part ‘Violence’, this clip is nuts and jam-packed with easter eggs. It’s truly one hell of a wild ride, so get on board below:
Basically, Any Of The Music Videos That Don Broco Released In 2017
From the flashy, gorgeously well-shot and brilliantly edited live show in ‘T-Shirt Song‘ from the band’s massive Alexnder Palace gig last month and the goofy festival-circuit antics in ‘Stay Ignorant‘, to the gruesome B-movie camp of ‘Pretty‘ and the easter-egg bursting, self-referencing journey that is the out-of-this-world ‘Technology‘; Don Broco absolutely go all out for their music videos!
It’s also crystal clear that these four U.K lads have a metric fuck tonne of fun when creating these visuals as well, clearly evident by the silliness and humour found throughout all of their clips as well as the narrative of their newest clip ‘Come Out To LA‘. With their upcoming album, ‘Technology‘ set to drop early next month, I’m confident we’ll see many more ridiculous and over-the-top visual pieces come from the collective silly minds of DB in 2018 yet.
Sorority Noise – ‘No Halo’
Director: Kyle Thrash
The opening song of Sorority Noise’s latest album, the damned solid ‘You’re Not As ___ As You Think You Are‘, is a beautifully touching, pop-punk-meets-post-rock gem; an emotionally affecting composition and then some. This goes doubly so for its music video, in which sensational New York-based director Kyle Thrash boldly represents the song’s deep themes of how we battle with death, how we all deal with loss differently and how you apologise and tell someone you love them long after they’re gone. It’s this expertly told collective experience of loss, of feeling like you’re choking or drowning with someone you loved no longer being here with you, that’s something Thrash has really excelled at portraying here. He’s a terrific story-teller first and foremost, and as you’ll hopefully see in two clips that I’ve linked below at the very end of this piece, he really is in a league of his own when it comes to creating music video’s, helping to build characters and a detailed world that gels so perfectly together with the original music.
From those who seek escapism in any form to those attend grief counselling or lash out and fight with those they love, to those dealing hard with loneliness, depression and insomnia and to those who must push forward and put the deceased’s affairs in order; this is a haunting and tear-jerking watch. The video’s colour grading and scene composition is near-perfect for the song’s mood and tone, the actors here portray so much despite us only seeing small glimpses of their wider roles in this wider story, and the metaphors present work so well too. For instance, the over-flowing bathroom sinks at the start capture the over-flowing, outpouring of emotions of ‘No Halo‘ itself, all represented in the video. Even more than that, the figures dressed in plastic sheets who stand and sway behind frontman Cameron Smith in the performance shots all disappearing when he utters the song’s final line “if there’s a race to heaven, I will always come in last” is a chilling reminder for him of those close to him who have passed away as the song’s fading organ note rings out.
No, I’m not crying, you’re crying!
WAAX – ‘Same Same’
Director: Gregory Kelly & Pernell Marsden
WAAX are one of Australia’s best rock bands right now – fact. ‘Same Same‘, which starts with the best opening guitar riff that Bloc Party never wrote, is one of the best cuts from their solid EP, ‘Wild & Weak‘ – also a fact.
Anywho, the music video for the aforementioned ‘Same Same‘ is a damn fine example of how you apply a song’s lyrics into the visual and both directors, Gregory Kelly & Pernell Marsden have nailed that audio to visual transformation. This song’s hooky refrain “I pace, I backtrack, till I walk the same path” is embodied perfectly by showing singer Maz De Vita stuck in this mundane life cycle for the most of the clip (besides a quick performance break). It’s all about how she breaks these cycles, lets it all go to hell for a brief period of time, before eventually learning to slow down and embrace the everyday cycle of monotony and personal patterns are what makes for such a solid watch. The continual re-use of the same living room space that the singer moves between over and over, in which she hastily makes coffee, quickly glances at the newspaper, waters her plant, turns the T.V. but never watches and then slowly adds to her painting is so… simple and mundane. (Plus, the slow addition of the rest of the band members into the room over time was a nice move as well). Yet it’s the continually hurried and stressed manner in which she obsesses over these trivial things and how she learns to live with them is what’s at the core of this song’s message: learning to calm down, slow up, and enjoy the moment a little while longer. Because some things just take a little time, annoyingly enough.
Fit For An Autopsy – ‘Black Mammoth’
Not at all dissimilar to the tone and message of Thy Art Is Murder’s ‘They Will Know Another’, Fit For An Autopsy’s ‘Black Mammoth‘ music video is a brutal tune armed with a dire message of what can happen when big business shows its truest, evilest colours. Essentially, the music video acts like an informative mini-doco about the protests, police brutality and wider debate on the construction of the Dakota Pipeline Access in America; from the politics surrounding its creation, it’s many risks to the local environment, and the human lives and fauna its existence would gravely affect. It provokes one to research the issue further (here’s info from the ‘for‘ side and here’s info from the ‘against’ side) but this clip still provides a strong basis of info within the clip itself; an informative visual watch with a savage head-banging score to boot.
Furthermore, and in what is a move that really was for the best, the film clip never once shows the six-piece New Jersey band themselves as the song itself and its subsequent video are not about the death-metal-tinged metalcore band. It’s all about the Dakota Access Pipeline, the lands in which this disaster-waiting-to-happen would’ve ruined, the heritage and culture of Native American tribes it would’ve horribly desecrated in the process of its construction and upkeep, and is a stark reminder of the impact we have on this planet. This is an incredible song with an incredible message: money and business must not win over health and safety. And when they threaten to do so, the people must mobilize to prevent further harm from occurring.
Despite what some people may say, heavy music should often be political in tone and this is a fantastic example of just that.
Every Time I Die – ‘Map Change’
Director: Kyle Thrash
Okay, I must admit that I kinda lied at the start of this piece. For if there was just one music video that would be my favourite from 2017, it would be Every Time I Die’s ‘Map Change’ video. Sorry, ‘clip’ is the wrong word; ‘journey’ feels like the true operative word here. It’s also perhaps the best case of how having real heart, people who truly care about the art, in question and a solid vision will trump a staggering budget and high production values every single time.
With stunning cinematography, strong and sharp editing, a great location to pull from, small inclusions of raw home video footage, and a terrific sound bed of music to guide the video, director and editor Kyle Thrash’s expose on the much-loved hardcore group’s hometown of Buffalo, New York is a gorgeous and kinda unnerving watch. Seriously, the guy just knows how and what makes a great music video and if it was anyone else handling this video’s creation, they probably would’ve botched it up royally so. The ‘Map Change‘ clip is a stark, unflinching and honest tribute to the city that vocalist Keith Buckley and co “spend each winter” in. It shows the good, the bad, and everything else in between for the U.S. band’s home city. For whether it’s the personal shots of friends, local families and longtime residents, the stories of the young and old, the hardships of the poor and the middle-class, scenes of staple local businesses and town landmarks, to the cold winter weather (“It’s supposed to be cold here it’s goddamn buffalo you need to learn how to deal with it”) and the creepily isolated vibes that the city gives off; this is surreal viewing. And an absolutely essential one at that!
I’ve honestly lost count at how many times I’ve watched this video since its release back in April and it hits me heard every single goddamn time I watch. Plus, ‘Map Change’ is also one of ETID’s greatest songs in literal years, so that really helps matters too.
It doesn’t get much better than this.
Tell me what music video’s I inadvertently missed in this list below. Also, be sure to check out some honourable mentions:
Code Orange – ‘Forever‘
Converge – ‘A Single Tear‘
Remo Drive – ‘Yer Killin’ Me‘
Tiny Moving Parts – ‘Caution‘
Northlane’s – ‘Colourwave‘ & ‘Solar‘
Julien Baker’s – ‘Appointments‘ & ‘Turn Out The Lights‘
A Lot Like Birds – ‘For Shelley (Unheard)‘
The Wombats – ‘Lemon to a Knife Fight‘
The Menzingers – ‘After The Party‘ (because having three Kyle Thrash videos probably would’ve been a bit much)