"Ascension Chamber" by Scar Symmetry, or Why We Need More Videos IN SPACE!

People might not believe it, but very few metal music videos take place in the far reaches of space. Scar Symmetry dares to go there in a video with a thoughtful story and excellent execution.

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.

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.