Once upon a time, I was a bit of a goth. I still am if you look deep into the darkest realms of my soul, but age, motherhood and the joy of wearing sweat pants has all but taken it away. Every now and then though, and especially around Halloween, I have an excuse to find my old self and enjoy the grotesque and disturbing things in life. Horror and alternative music go together like Morticia and Gomez, so join me for some of my favourite, most disturbing music videos.
(Most of these are NSFW)
Aphex Twin, Come to Daddy
Released in October 1997, Come To Daddy—the latest EP by Cornish electronica wizard Aphex Twin—hit the shelves. The title track was terrifying enough: a brilliantly hideous splattercore drum and bass number that found Richard D James growling “I want your soul!” like the devil himself.
But it came with a music video, courtesy of director Chris Cunningham, that took the song itself and transformed it into pure nightmare fuel. An old lady walks her dog through a dilapidated housing estate (the same one in which A Clockwork Orange was filmed as it happens) when she comes upon a discarded TV broadcasting a terrifying, distorted face. Immediately after, she is set upon by a gang of children, each sporting the unmistakable, beaming visage of Richard D James—and just when she thinks she’s escaped, there’s something more hideous lurking in the depths of the estate…
Tool, Prison Sex
When Tool were just beginning to become modern-day legends, the band released a stop-motion animated video for “Prison Sex,” the second single from Undertow. The clip consists of no violence or nudity but was banned for its ability to tap into human emotion.
The masterfully imaginative and thought-provoking video for the 1993 track was created and directed by guitarist Adam Jones, who has a wealth of previous experience in art direction and animation, most notably for the movie Jurassic Park. Due to what was called “disturbing content,” “Prison Sex” was removed from MTV’s rotation, although that didn’t stop the video from grabbing a nomination for Best Special Effects at the 1995 MTV Video Music Awards.
Dir En Grey, Obscure
Careful now. Definitely NSFW this one. Not my cup of tea musically at all, but this video is pretty nasty. Lots of dismemberment, with weird, tortuous sex, vomit and blood. Japanese metal band Dir En Grey have a penchant for making controversial videos; this one put them on the map. If Takashi Miike is your style of horror, this one might just delight you.
Skinny Puppy, Testure
I wanted to add the video for Worlock, which includes many graphic scenes from films, largely of the horror genre but the official video isn’t out there. Definitely worth a watch if you aren’t too squeamish.
So instead I went for “Testure” by the Canadian electro-industrial band Skinny Puppy, taken from their 1988 album VIVIsectVI. The video was banned for its shocking imagery. The music video was directed by Ogre and produced by Gary Blair Smith, and it follows the story of a dog-abusing man who, in turn, becomes a test subject operated on and caged by surgeons. Interspersed with the narrative sections are shots of actual animal testing footage from the 1981 documentary The Animals Film and the 1984 PETA film Unnecessary Fuss.
The Cure, Hanging Garden
This video isn’t too scary to be honest with you, but I wanted to add it anyway as it was this video that lured the ten-year-old me into loving The Cure and becoming a bit of a goth at a very young age. Thank you Bob! Weird masks, gargoyles and graveyards a-plenty here.
Not only is this video fantastic, but “Freak” is an absolutely banging tune too. LFO were a British electro duo, signed to Warp Records, along with our old pal Aphex Twin. The track was released in 2003, around the time Japanese Horror movies such as Ringu and Juon were really popular. Plucking that scary schoolgirl look and choreographing their spasmodic and jerking movements to the beat of the song makes for a truly enchanting experience. RIP Mark Bell.
Health, We Are Water
Everyone likes a bit of karma, and that’s what the brute in this video gets. Don’t mess with this girl; she might look like she’d be the first to die in a Halloween movie, but she’s full of surprises. This girl is a scream queen, but for all the right reasons. It’s pretty gruesome but kinda fulfilling.
Mr Bungle, Travolta/Quote Unquote
Yes! Mr Bungle. No list of grotesque videos would be complete without a bit of Mike Patton. Although the song was originally titled “Travolta”, it was quickly changed to “Quote Unquote” due to legal threats. The video was banned from MTV due to images of the band members (dressed in various costumes and masks) hanging from meat hooks and disturbing images of BDSM activities. It’s not exactly scary, but it’s not quite right either. The song references both Hitler and Donald Trump, which considering it was released in 1991, pretty much makes Patton a prophet. Not that I ever doubted his closeness to godliness.
Marilyn Manson, Born Villian
It was kinda hard to choose a Marilyn Manson video as they are all creepy in their own way. In Born Villian though, Manson plays a surgeon, carrying out various unspeakable acts on two women. The near-seven-minute affair is a barrage of tried and true Manson visuals, including, but not limited to, ritualistic haircuts, Victorian-era waterboarding, magic shows with false eyeballs, and, possibly the most frightening of all—poetic monologues by Manson himself.
Nine Inch Nails, Came Back Haunted
Similarly to Mr Manson, NIN have tons of creepy videos, and in an ideal world I would have dropped “Happiness in Slavery” here but its still almost impossible to find anywhere due to its extreme footage of a man having his genitals mangled and then he himself being put through a mincing machine, all in the name of sexual pleasure. I remember the video well surprisingly enough.
Anyway, I couldn’t get you that, so we have this delight from David Lynch instead. Weird and creepy, and perfectly Lynchian. The camera work is enough to cause motion sickness and it also comes with a Photo Epilepsy warning so beware.
So those were some of the creepy videos that have left an imprint in my mind. Let me know what videos you think are the scariest. Don’t have nightmares…