[13 August 2010]
Music videos do not play the vital role of exposure in the metal world that they do in the pop world, simply because metal music videos are often more performance-driven than story-driven. With a few rare exceptions (see “Light the Torch” and “Deliverance is Mine” by Soilwork, a two-part video story that will likely become a trilogy), almost all metal music videos show the artists performing their instruments in some fashion. In fact, that is all that is seen in a fair number of metal music videos. The reasoning behind it is simple: metal fans are usually more appreciative of the actual composition that goes into their songs because it is done on actual instruments, and thus seeing the human element of the music being played is visually gripping.
However, when metal music videos incorporate a storyline, usually it has something interesting, or at the very least attention-grabbingly awful, to offer (see “The Beast and the Harlot” by Avenged Sevenfold for an example of the latter). Storylines will sometimes relate to the actual concept of a song or album, and at other times just look and feel appropriate for the song’s overall tone. The best videos are the ones that accomplish both of these, and when they also incorporate a seemingly cliché but actually seldom-used plot device, you get nearly-guaranteed video success. I am talking, of course, about putting metal in space. And there’s no better band to do that than the group that first brought metaphysics into metal, Swedish sextet Scar Symmetry.
On the surface, this video doesn’t seem to have much in terms of storyline. An energy force leaves the sun, flies around for awhile, and then smashes into the moon, killing the band in a ball of fire. Is that it? Obviously not, since this video, much like the band’s lyrics, has tons more going on beneath the surface.
Upon reading the lyrics to “Ascension Chamber”, much of the video’s content is clarified. It seems the video is about the birth of an omnipotent being on another plane of existence, which then breaks forth into our universe to take control of all the stars. The energy force seen in the video is likely meant to symbolize some form of chrysalis or other incubation chamber that houses the being. Its collision with and subsequent destruction of the moon (and the band) is likely meant to display the violent “birth” of the being, in that its very existence can only mean destruction and death for all.
Setting aside philosophical and existential questions, though, how awesome is this video? There are very few, if any, bands that would dare to attempt a space-based video. Why? Because space is for nerds, and acting like nerds is decidedly not metal (unless you’re Every Time I Die or, heaven forbid, Horse the Band). However, Scar Symmetry has always unofficially held the role of “academia’s metal band” due to its lyrical content. One glance at the lyrics on any of the group’s four albums will give you all the insight and knowledge you could get from a year of college-level astrophysics and biochemistry classes (or at least, all the insight and knowledge you could hope to understand without having a genius-level IQ). Thus, it’s appropriate for the band to put a video in space. It fits the group’s persona, and it highlights most of its differences from the “old guard” of Swedish metal bands. Add to that the fact that space is not used nearly as often as one might think. We’ve seen the birth of omnipotent creatures in almost every other setting before with metal music videos, but space is one arena that has been steadfastly ignored until now. It works for the song, it works for the band, and it’s the only possible choice for the video.
On top of that, the video also looks totally awesome in the performance bits. Guitarists Jonas Kjellgren and Per Nilsson rip through their solos in perfect form, drummer Henrik Ohlsson is spot-on with his play, and bassist Kenneth Seil puts as much energy into his video performance as he does on a live stage. Much of the focus is given to singers Roberth Karlsson and Lars Palmqvist, both of whom deliver great presentations and sell this video in their close-up shots.
Scar Symmetry has scored a big hit with this video. Much like the group’s video debut “The Illusionist” with its post-apocalyptic themes, “Ascension Chamber” takes what many believe to be a tried-and-tired video concept, and turns it into something fresh and interesting, while simultaneously making viewers realize that there’s so much fresh ground for such a setting in videos. However, unlike “The Illusionist”, “Ascension Chamber” is one of the few songs that would fit perfectly in its environment. It’s a great sign of vitality in a genre so often devoid of solid music videos.