Rho Stone’s Audiovisual Adventures – Colors are your friends
Let’s talk about science, psychology, stupid trends, and why music videos should ride the rainbow.
It seems Arch Enemy are really happy to have a new album with a new vocalist. They’re so happy, in fact, that they celebrated by making the same music video three times.
And for some reason, they decided it was a good idea to replicate The Book of Heavy Metal three times (apparently the dude who directed that atrocity, Patric Ullaeus, did these too.).
In regards to musicianship, this album is 90% 4/4 time in Presto/Allegro tempo with a generic buttmetal rhythm section and pretty but easily forgettable guitar leads. I think death metal lyrics are cool when they go philosophical, mythological, or just over-the-top creepy, but War Eternal seems to be about the torments of being an average awkward teenager. Is this even considered Death Metal? At least that’s what they call themselves. Their vocalist is a woman that awkward girls want to be and awkward boys want to be with. They write material that will appeal mostly to them. It’s obvious they want to hit it big so they can buy a golden toilet and flush themselves with class.
Now to the videos: Everything is bleached blue (green on “You Know My Name”) except for Alissa White-Gluz and Michael Ammot’s hair, singling them out as the center of attention. Nowadays it’s common to film as colorless as possible and add color in post production. This helps you choose the colors you want for the final product. However, making everything one dull color kills all the possibilities given to us through artistic language and human evolution.
Let me get sciencey for a moment. Let’s talk about the visual system; I’m kind of versed in this because I had to write a paper about it on the first grade. The human eye’s job is to capture light and send it to the brain for interpreting. It’s also able to capture three colors: red, blue and green. Everything we see is through the combination of those three. That’s why screens only display those; it would be moronic to spend time generating colors humans can’t see (some animals, like the mantis shrimp, are able to see way more colors!). The point is that humans have seen these color combinations for millions of years and our brains have evolved to interpret them in different ways. Let’s look at Soundgarden’s “Outshined” (listening to grunge is a thing I do, you’re going to have to roll with it):
Try to imagine this video being other color than orange. It wouldn’t work. Orange is a very important color to the human psyche. To us it can represent daylight, the moment where our ancestors didn’t have their eyesight impaired by the night. It made us feel safe, active and happy. Darker shades of orange remind us of sunsets and bonfires, figures of mythology and mysticism. It’s very pleasing to us. Several cultures around the world, for example Buddhists, hold it as their sacred color. There’s a whole lot of mental baggage surrounding this color and that translates into artistic language. We can use this just like a scale is used to write a song.
Every color has an opposite on the color wheel, and the opposite of orange is blue. There’s a logical reason for having the idiomatic expression “the blues”. Just as orange represents our comfort zone, blue reminds us of the night and the unknown. This can bring cold, sadness or fear to mind. However, blue also symbolizes the infinity, inquiry, confidence, and imagination, amongst other things. Using the color blue thinking it alone will make you feel the opposite of orange because you only took the time to learn basic AV knowledge makes you look like an idiot.
Lets go back to War Eternal’s bleak color palatte. Its combination cold colors and high contrast is part of a movement I refer to as the Grit Filter. As the Eighties were filled with obnoxious colors, everything now must be dark, gritty, and “mature”. In the future, we’ll look back at this time with the same disdain reserved for Poison. Now more than ever we have the technology to bring colors to life and we mostly use it to edit food photos on Instagram. Crudely mixing orange and blue to give “feeling cues” happens even in Hollywood and that’s as low as putting laugh tracks on blockbusters. (Also every videogame is supposedly “mature” because of tits and characters that say “fuck” a lot but that’s all overshadowed by games like Majora’s Mask that had actual mature themes in them, and that’s the Zelda that has Tingle in it.)
The Grit Filter is not cool or metal; it’s a horrible cliché. Look at any Mastodon album:
Full of color and totally metal
Know what? I’m growing tired of trying to go back to War Eternal and finding something else to say. Colors are metal. Let’s flush those videos and do something else.
So, you’ve been trying to make your video totally dark and brütal and just realized that simply bleaching it blue is a stupid solution? Next I bet you’re going to try black and white.
Look, I really don’t know if Immortal take their shit seriously (the fact that their wikipedia page is written with the seriousness devoted to scientific research doesn’t help either), but for intended purposes I’m going to assume they do. Even if they don’t, a lot of people still do. The thing is that they try to look evil, but end up looking like nerds. To begin with, putting a fake old film effect on your digital video is a stupid decision, as is making a huge contrast between the black and the white. Most importantly, they’re not even using shadows.
As you may have read on W.’s articles on Lovecraft , the strongest fear is the fear of the unknown. In its most basic form, the unknown is that which you can’t perceive. To achieve this feeling on video, you must create images by exposing enough light for the audience to know there’s something there, but not enough to fully distinguish what it is. This is called Low Key Lighting. In 2014 everyone knows what a xenomorph looks like, but back when Alien came out, you never saw it whole. The human mind builds through imagination what it doesn’t see, and there lies the basis for inflicting fear.
You can also create intrigue through using Low Key, as we can see in one of metal’s most iconic videos:
The filming of “One” was a critical point in the history of Metallica. It was their first music video, and they were about to be exposed to an audience who had never heard anything like them. Shadow and light are used as to paint the setting. The video didn’t change One’s quality as a song, but it made Metallica interesting in a world where music videos were flashy bubblegum glam crap. The guy who lighted this video went on to make The Matrix and many other classic movies. “One” helped humanity rid itself of the 80s status quo. We need to start making metal into a symphony of color so I don’t have to go to the movies for two hours of Grit Filter.