This article was originally published to The Edge on 26th July 2016
If you wanted to make a music video that did everything that you might expect of it, ‘Low Lands’ by Gojira, would be a very good place to start gathering inspiration. It’s a narrative-less, confusing array of horror-genre establishing images, intercut with images of a (pretty darn rad) metal band rocking around an enormous bonfire sans instruments to their own song.
Their song is damn awesome, like every other track on Magma; it’s a swelling, swirling, and mysteriously badass song with more than the capacity to be chilling. Clearly the director of this video chose the chilling aspect to focus on, and create a chilling atmosphere they did. The trouble is, it’s not really clear what it’s meant to be about, or to signify. We see a deserted house in the country – so of course it’s a really big house. Dishevelled beds and creepily lit empty rooms, along with strange wooden toys littered in tree branches. There’s a woman with an umbrella walking through a tunnel, a field, a path in a really brightly lit green forest, along a cliff by the coast, along a beach; then she runs back through a tunnel without her umbrella, in the only surprising image we’re ever presented with in the video.
All of this imagery could be effective, if the scenes that are set away from the house seemed at all connected to the house itself. If this woman is supposed to be the person who has deserted their home, why do we not see her returning there as she runs back through a tunnel? Is she meant to be going farther away, in fear of seeing something that was never hinted at? And as all this ambiguous drivel goes on, we keep seeing the band members singing into camera, as they’re stuck in a permanent crossfade with shots of said enormous bonfire. Why?
Is it because this is a metal song, but not so very heavy that it’s driving forward with intense screaming and relentless drumbeats at all times, so why make its video exciting or fast? Because if so it’s a really boring choice. All this imagery does nothing to recontextualise the sound of the song in an interesting way, nor to make its creepy/badass tones more exciting. And if the point of it was to be ambiguous, it’s a disappointment again, because this isn’t ambiguity but incoherence. None of the images are interesting enough to make any feeling of ambiguity at all worthwhile – which is what some of the best horror films are able to do (see The Witch). At the very least, this music video is not incompetently shot, and it certainly always feels intentional.