Most death metal is dead to me these days. When I was younger I could tolerate indecipherable growls because the genre was still new and interesting enough to offset my neurotic desire to understand what was being sung. Though some of the bands were understandable to me, like Hypocrisy, Opeth and Amon Amarth, for me the growls were more of an instrument than actual vocals. These days not so much. The genre has suffered a sort of recursive plague wherein all the bands seem to blend together to me and the growls no longer seem like a deliberate attempt to evoke chaos and darkness as much as they seem aggressively derivative. Worse, much of the content in death metal has taken on a cartoonish slant, so bludgeoning and over-the-top that it no longer seems outre but rather seems ridiculous bordering on tiresome. I find myself listening to more melodic death metal, which means I also find myself listening to folk metal and, god help me, prog rock hybrids.
All of this exposition hopefully explains why I haven’t been paying attention to death metal and how the band Job for a Cowboy and, more specifically, their video for “Tarnished Gluttony” are just now coming to my attention. I need to listen to more of the band’s songs to see what I think of them as a whole but I was really impressed with “Tarnished Gluttony” as a song and especially as a video. The singer(s?)’s vocals are completely unintelligible to me but there is a theatricality to the music that renders a lack of understanding far less important. The growls verge into screams that harked back to the days when black metal didn’t fill me with despair. But before I praise the band’s style overmuch, I need to track down more of their body of work. Until then, let’s discuss this video.
Warning: This video is violent, gory, and features the death of a child.
I watch this video every night before going to sleep because I’m sort of obsessed with it. It’s almost like a bedtime story, and given how much an homage it is to Lovecraft, it’s a creepy story, too, though no creepier than anything Perrault wrote as a fairy tale.
When I first discovered this video I watched it several times in a row and then forced Mr OTC to watch it too (and he actually enjoyed it, no small praise for a song when a man is mostly into old country, zydeco, and, inexplicably, the Talking Heads). We both have read Lovecraft but of the two of us Mr OTC is the far bigger Lovecraft fan and it took him a couple of goes before he had a handle on what was happening.
Of course now it is clear that a Lovecraftian Deep One sired a child with a human, and that child appears fully human (though in the literature Deep Ones could maintain a completely human appearance until they reached adolescence and sometimes even later). It seems as if the Deep One is sacrificing his human child to Dagon, returning the boy to the sea. And the only reason I even wanted to find out what exactly was happening in this video was because of the nuanced and emotional acting skills of Morten Klode, the actor who portrayed the adult Deep One.
His grimaces and hesitations show he is not a particularly willing participant in this sacrifice. His tender stroking of the boy’s cheek shows affection for this child – this isn’t some random kid a Lovecraftian horror is killing to appease an Old One. His rushed hurry to begin once he realizes the child may be awakening shows he has no wish to cause this child pain. His anguished scream at 4:01, after the sacrifice has begun – it was deeply affecting the first time I saw it.
But there are some seriously creepy elements to this video. The undressing of a small, unconscious child in the woods is unnerving. And of course eviscerating said child is difficult content. The most unsettling part of this video for me was when the Deep One licked the needle before he began to stitch up the child’s abdomen. Anyone who has sewn much knows that sometimes a blunt needle or pin needs lubrication before it can penetrate certain cloth. It’s unlikely that this needle needed any help with the first stitch into the child’s stomach but that lick of a blunt needle or pin is often the reflexive action of a person well-accustomed to old-fashioned diapers using safety pins. A quick lick of the pin ensures it goes through the thick flannel quickly and there’s less chance of pricking a squirming child. You don’t see that too much these days with prefolds and velcro tabs and the like and I am very likely assigning a motive to this action that is not part of the directorial intent but for me this small action was fatherly, showing a man who had, at some point in the past, cared for this little boy, a man who knew his way around the more visceral elements of child-rearing taken to an extreme. And the way he blankly threw the needle away. Just the numb disgust and misery written all over his face. It was a mild devastation when he tossed that needle into the leaves.
It’s remarkable when a music video engages in such attention to detail, and all the more remarkable when it is a death metal video engaging in such nuance. I’ve become accustomed to the aforementioned club-across-the-face approach of songs and videos like Cattle Decapitation’s “Forced Gender Reassignment.” (Jesus Christ, this link is NSFW and NSFL). I get and sort of approve of the intent behind the song and video but if I want to assault my psyche that way I can just watch Human Centipede II: The Full Sequence and at least then I know what the hell everyone is saying.
(For the record I had to look up the lyrics for “Tarnished Gluttony” and the song is kind of up my alley, lyrically, but the video is not related to the song’s content in any manner that seems obvious to me.)
Morten Klode reminds me of someone. I don’t know who but his face is damnably familiar to me. As I saw him acting in this video my mind was clicking away in the background as I tried to determine where I had seen him before. I looked him up and he has only three credits on his IMDb page and I’ve only seen one of them, this video. Yet each time I watch it a feeling of familiarity washes over me. I hope Klode finds himself with more work in the future. You don’t expect to find acting chops of this caliber in a music video – I’m actually rather surprised to see that he doesn’t already have a feature-length film under his belt.
Any other videos or bands you think will impress me this much? If so, let me know. And let me know what you think of this video (and if you have any work for which Morten Klode would be a good fit, hire him – we need to see more of this man in film!).