Rho Stone’s Audiovisual Adventures: Meshuggah – I Am Colossus

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Sorry for the absence. I’ve been busy in my jerb – gotta earn that beer money. I think I pushed a couple of your buttons last time by talking about Immortal, so now I’ll do the next most logical thing and compare them to Meshuggah.

I should begin by saying I don’t really like what Meshuggah has become. I mean if they’re playing with another band I’d like to see I wouldn’t mind seeing them and would maybe tap my foot along, but I’m not listening to that shit any other way (except watching their videos for you because I like you guys!) Their old stuff is good though. Well, whatever, here’s “I Am Colossus”

Videos like this make me miss MTV. The video is scary as hell and that appeal is kind of lost when you realize that only people who are already into this are going to see it. You might be saying “Pfffffft I wasn’t scared at all”, but most people at the Toilet are grown-ups who watch horror movies like they’re Saturday morning cartoons. Imagine seeing this as a starry-eyed pre-teen with musical knowledge that barely goes beyond Radio Disney. I might be one of them “90’s kids” with our Gamestations and our Star Trek phones, but I’m old enough to remember the first time MTV creeped the shit out of me. I think it’s kind of sad there’s not a medium like that anymore. We have more freedom of choice than ever before, but we’ve lost the magic behind rooting our asses in the couch and seeing obscure shit without having any power over it.

What I’m trying to say here is that Immortal videos can’t scare your grandmother but a video like this can. Notice how this video takes advantage of the song’s structure (also take notice of the imagery and the use of shadows like I have explained earlier). The camera position, the nuns, and everything else moves with the rhythm. It’s like they’re “dancing” with the djent. I’ve never worked with stop-motion but I understand the technicalities behind it: you move shit around the frame and take a picture. You fit said pictures on the timeline depending on what frame-per-second aspect you’re going for. Some common ones are 15 fps for an old film look, 24/25 for cinema style movement, 30 for digital video (this is the most similar to the human eye fps capability), or 60 if you hate your employees.

I think stop-motion was a good choice, particularly using clay models as they did. The creepiness of this video goes hand in hand with it sinking deep into the Uncanny Valley. I’ll explain this concept. Notice the nuns or, well, see pretty much anything in the video? It’s modeled to be human but not quite. Had they used actors or other kind of models they wouldn’t have those scrawny bodies, black hole faces or creepy movement patterns, which are crucial. Check this chart I made:

uncannyvalley click to enlarge

For the most part, the more human something looks, the familiar it feels to us. Imagine that robot arm on the left is in a movie; he goes around on its wheelies and hands the main character his coffee or something like that. It flaps its arm around to show joy or shrinks in disgust depending on how the plot is going. Even though it’s a stick on wheels he moves and does things that resemble things humans do, and we can sympathize with it.

R2-D2 is basically a trashcan with legs but it moves around, makes bleep bloop noises that everyone is somehow able to understand and has a cocky personality. Can you see how things start becoming more human? Then we have Kirby to represent simple cartoon characters, and DK the more stylized ones. There you have your Looney Tunes, Pixar characters, Spongebob Squarepants, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, you name it. They have the featues of people, like eyes in the front of their faces, elongated limbs and personalities. They talk and fluently move around.

The line peaks in the stylized human figures. The Iron Man suit, Samus Aran, or Master Chief, for example. These are humans that break suspension of disbelief without being photorealistic. From there the more human something looks, the creepier it gets. You and I both know what real humans look like and how they behave. Anything that deviates from the norm will weird us out. Also human features presented somewhere that’s not human (like teeth on a fish) will feel creepy. For some we seem to have some weird disposition to eyes. The part of the brain that says “beware of predator” will trigger. This downward slope between stylized reality and photorealism is called the Uncanny Valley.  It was “discovered” by the Japanese (who else?) when they started asking themselves why were their robots disturbing the shit out of everyone. So now everyone knows that if you want to create a good model, you stick to stylized realism or try to achieve photorealism and hope you don’t creep everyone out. Unless creeping everyone out is your goal, in that case you have the ingredients to do it right down there in the valley.

So now you know: the next time you want to disturb someone, keep your dignity and don’t tell them you like Disturbed. Be like the “I Am Colossus” video and move to the beat of djent. Also be a weird human/non-human creature.

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  • Negrodamus

    “I think I pushed a couple of your buttons last time by talking about Immortal, so now I’ll do the next most logical thing and compare them to Meshuggah”

    HA!

    • Metaphysical Anus

  • Metaphysical Anus
  • Randall Thor

    I remember finding out about the “Uncanny Valley” when the game Heavy Rain came out. For some reason, I haven’t found anything in that Valley that’s creeped me out since. Actually, I just laugh at it now. Check out how hilarious this is:
    EDIT UPVOTE THIS TO THE TOP SO THIS IS THE FIRST THING POOR COMMENTERS HAVE TO SEE

    http://zettelmagazine.files.wordpress.com/2013/12/uncanny-valley.jpg

    • Gaaaaaaah!

      • Randall Thor

        Stephen King’s The Dark Tower does an excellent job of using the Uncanny Valley on purpose: http://31.media.tumblr.com/eb3dd5de34426ee71b2836df4dd7cb48/tumblr_mmhgh1XKlB1s5vw3go1_500.jpg

        • Xan

          Stephen King’s anything does an excellent job at everything.

          • Randall Thor

            I wish I had more free time to read. I have so many fantasy/sci-fi/Stephen King books I want to read.

          • Xan

            I’ve listened to a good deal of his work on audio book and I’ve ready several of the books (I listen more because I can do something else). I’ve not really encountered a bad story so far. I still haven’t read The Shining or The Stand for some reason. I should probably get on that. I’ve got about 100 fantasy/sci-fi books I still need to read. I really am interested in reading the Dune series.

          • Randall Thor

            I haven’t yet made the jump to Audio books, and I really should, considering I have a 40 minute commute to work every day.

          • Xan

            That would be perfect for you then. If you want to use Audible, try signing up via something sponsored by them. You’ll get a free audiobook. I know the Rooster Teeth Podcast is frequently sponsored by them.

          • Scrimm

            The Shining and The Stand are both stone cold classics. My favorite book of his is actually his autobiography/writing book.

          • Randall Thor

            I’ve seen the Shining twice now. First time was like “lol wat this is dum.” Second time was like “DANG THIS IS SO GOOD.” I’m afraid that I may explode if I watch it a third time.

          • Scrimm

            I both love/hate that movie. As a movie it’s great, but as an adaptation of the book it is an absolute travesty.

          • KJM

            On the other hand, the TV version of The Shining is very faithful to the book but it’s a horrible movie.

          • Scrimm

            Agreed. Funny how that worked out, but WTF were they thinking casting the dude from WINGS.

          • KJM

            Stephen King loves that show.

          • Scrimm

            Guy is a hero of mine but he has some serious problems.

          • Scrimm

            You should add Brian Lumley’s Necroscope series to that list if you haven’t read them. Then put them at the top of the list.

          • Randall Thor

            Well, I’m in the middle of the Wheel of Time series right now, only 9 more books to go!

          • Scrimm

            Lol sounds like a good time, I like very long story lines. That’s how Necroscope. 18 books I believe.

          • Randall Thor

            My main issue is free time. Maybe if I switched to audio books I’d be more effective at getting through books. There really is nothing like having a bookshelf full of great adventures and memories though.

          • Scrimm

            No there isn’t. My books collection is my most prized possession. Takes up a whole wall in my apartment. Ninety percent or more are horror novels.

          • Randall Thor

            Maybe a future “nerd shit” post could be about book collections?

          • Scrimm

            Hell yeah that could be really interesting. But anything about books is to me. I miss all the used bookstores around here so damn much.

          • Howard Dean

            Hells yeah! Metal as fuck! Welcome to my book collection.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=weNO9k1TXS0

          • Virgil the Ghost Poet

            I love Danzig. Even his later albums we’ll just calk them 7,8, and 9.
            Right now I am reading I Have To Much Faith To Be An Aithest and a book on forbidden archeology.

          • Howard Dean

            Danzig, for all his follies and quriks, made some damn good no-frills straight-up old-school heavy metal albums. Danzig I – III in particular. I’m always jamming Twist of Cain or Dirty Black Summer.

          • Virgil the Ghost Poet

            Danzig 4 is one of my all time favorites. I really enjoyed Danzig 7 and CoS. 7 is my favorite weight lifting CD. You know I got to be able to move those motherfucking bricks.

          • Scrimm

            I was lucky enough to see him in person at an airport years ago.

        • W.

          Blaine is a pain, and that is the truth.

        • i read the first 3-4 books. not sure if i need to continue…
          The Drawing of the Three was a masterpiece

          • Randall Thor

            A lot of fans were disappointed with Books 5-7. Book 4 is by far the best IMO

          • Wizard and Glass right? the one where it gives the Gunslinger’s backstory? that was an extremely entertaining book, though it initially rustled my jimmies because it delayed the main Dark Tower storyline, i got over it.

          • Randall Thor

            That story is the most compelling part of the entire plot, IMO! The first four books were magnificent, but the last 3 do feel a bit rushed and contrived. Still, I really enjoyed the last three, but they didn’t really capture the same incredible spark of adventure the first 4 did.

          • Howard Dean

            Wizard and Glass was captivating. I wish King did an entire prequel trilogy on Roland’s early adventures (aside from the Little Sisters of Eluria short story and W&G, this is unexplored territory). Wolves of the Calla was still pretty sweet, though. However, I must admit that the bringing together of elements from other stories in the King multiverse sometimes felt stilted and contrived (especially the “Stephen King as a character” bit), even if it was kind of cool. It made the last three books feel very deus ex machina.

          • Randall Thor

            Deus Ex Machina is the name of the game of the 7th book 🙁 I HATED how he ended the last fight with the Crimson King, what a copout.

            The ending was also simultaneously the best/worst ending in any book I’ve ever read

          • Howard Dean

            Agreed. It was unfortunate to see Randall Flagg meet such an uneventful end (not having him and Roland square off a final time was shitty), and the final fights between Roland and Mordred and Roland and the Crimson King were pretty weak.

            I actually thought King handled the ending of the series pretty well. Even though the “dual/choose your own” ending thing is seemingly flaccid, I think it worked. I understood what he wanted to accomplish with each one, and what type of fans he was catering to with each, also. I wonder if anyone actually stopped at the first ending, and chose not to read the conclusion that followed?

          • Randall Thor

            It is the greatest because he gives you the chance to stop. The first ending is a rapturous breaching of the Dark Tower, the Gunslinger’s answers being answered and his soul eternally satisfied by the end of his quest.

            Of course, then you read the second ending and realize what the Dark Tower actually contains, and then you feel eternal guilt for reading that and knowing of Roland’s true fate.

            I have never met or heard of anyone stopping at the first ending, human curiosity is too great to accept a “don’t read anymore!” after 7 long books.

          • holy cow, you just made me want to finnish the series.

          • Randall Thor

            I highly recommend it. Even though I liked the last 3 books less than I liked the first 4, the last 3 are still really enjoyable

          • W.

            The battle with the Crimson King was disappointing, but I really liked the ending to the book.

          • W.

            Book 1 still my favorite.

          • EsusMoose

            There is the comics and the wind through the keyhole

          • W.

            Book 1 and Book 7 are my favorites.

          • Randall Thor

            I can see Book 1, since it has such a mystical and western feel, but book 7? Huh

          • W.

            I think I really enjoyed certain parts of it (the thing under the castle), and it provided closure for certain arcs. Plus, dat assault on Blue Heaven.

          • Randall Thor

            I TOTALLY FORGOT ABOUT THAT PART!!! That was indeed amazing, holy crap.

            I think that was the fastest I ever read 100 pages

    • TIL what “uncanny valley” is. i can’t believe this is a thing.

    • CyberneticOrganism

      That is the failed Cyberdyne Model 301 Sexbot. What a disaster.

  • Xan

    Very well written piece. I’ve never been a fan of Meshugguh (and I despise Djent). The music video was an interesting one. I find this fan made video for a song by Nortt to be interesting and very creepy. The footage is taken from an independent film called Begotten. It is pretty fucking disturbing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=90z7UF3_9EI

    • You reminded me of this sick little jammy. Highly, highly recommended if you haven’t seen it before.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Vyw_FGIhAE

      • Howard Dean

        This is a great video for a really good track. Byah!

        • W.

          Cosigned

    • W.

      I hate hate hate that movie.

      • Metaphysical Anus

        Why do you hate it so much?

        • W.

          It just really disturbed me when I first saw it years ago.

          • Metaphysical Anus

            I haven’t seen it. Is it a horror film? I probably shouldn’t watch it, seeing as I get traumatized by children’s shows.

          • W.

            It is horror. Very gritty horror.

          • Metaphysical Anus

            Yeah, I’m not going to watch it.

          • Xan

            According to Wikipedia: The story opens with a robed, profusely bleeding “God” disemboweling himself, with the act ultimately ending in his death. A woman, Mother Earth, emerges from his remains, arouses the body, and impregnates herself with his semen. Becoming pregnant, she wanders off into a vast and barren landscape. The pregnancy manifests in a fully grown convulsing man whom she leaves to his own devices. The “Son of Earth” meets a group of faceless nomads who seize him with what is either a very long umbilical cord or a rope. The Son of Earth vomits organic pieces, and the nomads excitedly accept these as gifts. The nomads finally bring the man to a fire and burn him. “Mother Earth” encounters the resurrected man and comforts him. She seizes the man with a similar umbilical cord. The nomads appear and proceed to rape her. Son of Earth is left to mourn over the lifeless body. A group of characters appear, carry her off and dismember her, later returning for Son of Earth. After he, too, is dismembered, the group buries the remains, planting the parts into the crust of the earth. The burial site becomes lush with flowers.
            EDIT: The movie also has no dialogue as far as I can tell. It is really strange sound effects and soundscapes.

          • Metaphysical Anus

            I can’t decide which one to choose! To watch or not to watch!

          • Xan

            Watch the first five minutes. If you find it to be too strange for you, turn it off. Here is the whole movie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lHXgNn18z90

          • Metaphysical Anus

            I’m not going to watch it now, because then I’ll not get any sleep. I will test it later this week.

    • Christian Molenaar

      This is also a fan video but I always thought this was way better than anything they would have made on their own.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AMJNCjxfsPo

  • Howard Dean

    Nice article, Rho Stone! Good shit!

    It got me thinking about my first exposure to scary music videos. I remember very clearly being a young chap in the early 90’s, sitting and watching MTV (I’m sure I probably wasn’t supposed to be watching it), and seeing Morbid Angel’s “God of Emptiness” video. Now, this was my first exposure to death metal, too, so the combination of eerie music and scary visuals floored me. It had a profound impact on me. David Vincent’s lion-esque barks coupled with his distorted chorus lines and Trey’s absolutely menacing riffage scared the shit out of me. The video, filled with dark religious iconography, was harrowing stuff, too. It was funny to grow up, become a fan of Morbid Angel, and stumble upon this song. The first time it came over my speakers, I got the chills, and I half expected that mutated winged-demon guy to pop up behind me.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lyPvUIt_YWg

    • RustyShackleford

      video’s a goddamn classic! Yep!

    • Hey look, it’s another one of those heavy metal videos with a naked dude all crawled up on the floor.

  • King Shit of Fuck Mountain
    • CyberneticOrganism

      Think of all the curve balls you could impale with that thing.

  • W.

    Good post, Rho! I think Tool did a lot of similar stuff with their early music videos.

  • Metaphysical Anus
  • Rho, i agree with you about Meshuggah. they just get progressively worse with each album (after Destroy Erase Improve). i can’t stand Koloss. so boring. this is going to piss a lot of people off.

    • Scrimm

      I am also not a big fan. The best review I have ever seen for one of their albums said “The music sounds like an aluminum door slamming rapidly, and judging by the singer’s agonized vocals his fingers were in the way.”

    • Howard Dean

      Not going to piss me off. I’ve never been a fan of Meshuggah. I totally understand their place in heavy music, and I understand the overall importance of what they were able to do (combining heavier strains of thrash/groove with hardcore rhythms into a palatable and marketable package), but for me, once the “uber-technical” and “dood 7-string guitars and polyrhythms lol” lipstick was smeared off, they really weren’t anything special, nor were they particularly listenable.

      • prior to Meshuggah, all the music i heard was “pleasing to the ears” (if you catch my drift). i was probably 18 when i discovered them and it opened up my mind. i found out that music doesn’t have to sound pleasing in the natural sense. it can be analyzed, deconstructed, and reconstructed in bizarre time signatures. i thought songs had to have a certain structure with repeated riffs, etc. etc. so Meshuggah did what they had to do for me, and now i just occasionally visit the back catalog. last time i saw them live, my friends and i left mid-set because they were playing Nyquil-esque tracks from Koloss and Catch33.

    • Metaphysical Anus

      I like Destroy Erase Improve and that’s it. obZen had some good stuff.

    • Stockhausen

      I LOVE Koloss. Let’s bash our foreheads together.

      • ParallaxativeHyperStool

        I too love that album. Fuck da haters. Boring? BULLSHIT. I am Colossus and Do Not Look Down and The Demons Name is Surveillance are some of my favorite Meshuggah tunes ever.

    • you bastard…..

    • Love the album. I do thoroughly agree that it’s boring though. My 2 favorite tracks: “I am Colossus” and “Break Those Bones Whose Sinews Gave It Motion” may as well be the same song.

  • Stockhausen

    This immediately jumped to my top 5 music videos ever list when I first saw it. Great write up!

  • CyberneticOrganism

    Thanks for including me on your graphic, Rho.