Metal videos are not known for their innovation. Metallica assuming they could get away with a video for “The Unforgiven II” is enough proof for me.
So when a band does try to do something new and different, I think they should almost always be congratulated for it. But there are exceptions.
Megadeth‘s recent attempt to add a technological leap to one of their videos should have ostensibly shown that despite Dave Mustaine’s gratuitous insanity, he was still looking for ways to push his band forward. Instead the world ended up with “Poisonous Shadows” (Live) (360).
If you were to watch the video like a normal person, then you would quickly wonder why the band is lethargically playing inside a fog-choked laser tag arena with a string quartet. But if you were instead to utilize the 360 feature in the top left-hand corner, then your confusion would soon give rise to a belief that at least somebody behind this idea hates you.
Here is the deal — Megadeth put out a record called Dystopia and they want you to buy it. But they’d prefer if you didn’t download it or dig a jewel case from the rubble of your local Blockbuster Music. No, they want you to buy the Deluxe Fan Package with bonus tracks, slicker packaging and a Virtual Reality headset.
The last of these is why the Poisonous Shadows video exists — because once you buy this package, construct the headset, download an app, give them your email, create a username, then a password and finally strap a contraption to your face, you will experience the most immersive waste of time in your life.
The idea is that you can look around, 360 degrees, and feel that you’re actually in the video. But this environment you have been transported to ends up being shockingly mundane. As I mentioned, the visuals are often shrouded in smoke, the spotlights are overpowering and most of the Mustaine footage is just a shot of his back. The bass player is all but absent, the drummer seems a million miles away and the musicians who get the most exposure are, that’s right, the string quartet.
In the final minute the entire band walks away, leaving you scrambling for a sense of reason in this black-light bumper bowling alley of a video. You wait and wait until there’s the payoff: an animatronic Vic Rattlehead touching his foam hand to a keyboard. It’s like you watched an entire video preparing for something to happen… and at the end it’s an animatronic Vic Rattlehead touching his foam hand to a keyboard.
360 videos are in their infancy, and even the best ones still fall short. But they have at least figured out how to take some of the work out of your viewing experience. They either switch cameras, use cues to shift your attention or place you in a spot that makes sure, wherever you look, there is something mildly interesting. But this single shot, moving at a snail’s pace, demands that you yourself direct the experience while also hobbling you at every turn. Want a close-up on that solo? Want to see the drummer pound on his toms? Want to see where the bass player has been for the last three minutes? Fuck you. But if you don’t keep turning your head you’ll risk looking at absolutely nothing while something just slightly better is happening out of view. It has all the exciting interactivity of using a hand crank to play a silent film.
But the truest sign this video’s a turd is Mustaine’s near invisibility. Here is a guy who thrives on attention and loves starring in videos so much there’s half a dozen of him in “Sweating Bullets.” He is always front and center. To play hunched, barely moving, head down with a music stand in front of him makes plain that he didn’t sign up for this. Mustaine is far from a sympathetic figure, but by the end it feels obvious that some label head’s piss-ant son pitched a flashy, futuristic dud to move a few extra units and Megadeth was strong-armed into it.
But if even Dave doesn’t want to be there, why in the world would anyone else?