Hindsight is always 20/20, but in the case of the ’90s, that vision is deeply impaired. Today, metal fans like the remember the ’90s as a creatively-fertile time when even the whitest of dudes could sport dreads and a flannel shirt loincloth. But those of us who were there remember the ’90s for how utterly confused it was, and how quickly our favorite artists funneled their bizarre creativity directly into MTV in order to blow up and make bank.
Music videos were definitely where ’90s artists either blazed or puttered, especially for fans of metal. For every “Closer” or “Freak On A Leash,” there were a handful of music videos that made one scratch their head and wonder who the fuck had approved this. So today, we look back on those ’90s metal videos that embody just what the hell was so weird about that decade. Here’s what we came up with…
GWAR, “Meat Sandwich” (1995)
Leave it to GWAR to spend their video budget on foam-rubber dicks and crusty extras. This video is so dense with what-the-fuck that it’s hard to pick the most mind-boggling part. Is is the rat barbecue with squatter punks? Or is it when Jesus Christ challenges Oderus to a one-on-one basketball match and loses? Either way, “Meat Sandwich” is a perfect example of how GWAR became one of the ‘90s most important musical projects. And by ‘important,’ we mean confusingly successful.
Enuff Z’Nuff, “Fly High Michelle” (1990)
In the years after The Dirt, fans have since hailed the hair days as some of metal’s most important times — but the “Fly High Michelle” video is a reminder of why that scene had to die. Packed to the gills with rainbows, pink balloons, doves, and frontman Donnie Vie failing to hit his cues, Enuff Z’Nuff‘s biggest video is a nauseating example of what the music industry wanted metal to become. Today, it is an eternal monument to everything that was wrong with mainstream metal at the end of the ’80s. It hurts our eyes to watch this.
Limp Bizkit feat. Method Man, “N 2 Gether Now” (1999)
After featuring himself being convicted by the court of public opinion and drowned in milk for the “Re-Arranged” video, Fred Durst…plays video games with Method Man? Limp Bizkit‘s “N 2 Gether Now” is as strangely ill-advised as the title of the song itself, with Durst trying hard to clown around while Method looks vaguely bored and annoyed. The whole thing culminates with a TV show of the band chilling with Wu-Tang after being absent for the entire video. Think about it: someone, multiple people, even, thought this was a good idea.
Immortal, “The Call of the Wintermoon” (1992)
And…STRIKE A POSE! When you see someone making fun of black metal videos, “The Call of the Wintermoon” is the one they’re mocking. Not only is Immortal’s infamous 1992 video low-budget and cruddy, the band’s behavior in it raises endless questions. Why is everyone running? Is that a goat in the background, and if so, why don’t we see it? Wouldn’t this have looked better at night? Why the wizard hat? At the end of the day, the video is the ultimate testament to black metal’s lack of self-awareness.
Pantera, “Planet Caravan” (1994)
One of the worst parts of the emerging digital age in the mid-’90s was bands using clumsy early CGI, and damn if Pantera didn’t go all-in. For their cover of Black Sabbath’s “Planet Caravan,” metal’s burliest created the worst screensaver imaginable, not even psychedelic enough to entertain high people. We get that the band were probably advised that this was current and interesting, but damn, did they even watch it? At least it’s interesting as a cultural relic.
Mercyful Fate, “The Night” (1998)
For satanic metal fans, Mercyful Fate will always be one of the most dramatic, powerful bands on earth…but man, “The Night” is a reminder that shit was tough for Denmark’s finest in the ’90s. Terrible-quality footage coupled with a bad wiggly distortion effect made this one kind of a tragedy to behold. It make sense, given the boom of nu-metal at the time, that these dudes weren’t at the top of their game. But damn, maybe no video at all is better than this video.
White Zombie, “I’m Your Boogieman” (1996)
On the one hand, the “I’m Your Boogieman” video is pretty much the birth of solo Rob Zombie; though White Zombie technically performed this KC and the Sunshine Band cover, they’re nowhere to be found in the video, while Sheri is front and center. On the other hand, this video is a confusing mixture of low and high budget antics. How come Rob’s vamping around in what looks like any haunted house, and then some randos are dancing around in those huge monster heads? How much did those things cost? Who saw this and thought, Yes, very good, the kids will love it? WHY?
Meshuggah, “New Millennium Cyanide Christ” (1998)
You have to give Meshuggah some props for this one. So many underground bands have forged ahead with subpar budgets (see the Immortal entry above), with the result being music videos that are plucky but hugely disappointing. Instead, one of Sweden’s most brutal bands went cheap and funny, filming a video of them air-performing their song on the tour bus. The final product is both confusing and ultimately hilarious. A gem of necessity and humor that remains a template of how bands can be both awesome and ridiculous.
Tool, “Stinkfist” (1996)
If you want to know how Tool became the ultimate art rock band in every metalhead’s eyes, look no further than the “Stinkfist” video. This one’s got all the Eastern European-style stop-motion bullshit you could ever imagine. Dusty nudes! Twitching amputees! Machines with a million chords that do…something? Is it a bong? This video is an example of how confusingly popular Tool were, and how places like MTV were just expected to go with it. He put the potato in the jar, maaaan. It’s okay if you don’t get it.
Entombed, “Wolverine Blues” (1993)
Poor Entombed. The fathers of Swedish death metal finally wrote their breakout album in ‘93 — and they gave it a title unknowingly using the name of arguably the ‘90s most popular comic book character (it didn’t help that their label Earache, known for screwing their artists left and right, secretly made a promotional deal with Marvel). As such, the “Wolverine Blues” video is mired with bizarre, unnecessary images of Wolverine while the band play in front of crappy-looking comics frames. At least Venom made their records before this could happen.
Words by Chris Krovatin