More than any genre of music, heavy metal realized the potential of the album cover as an artistic medium. Bands like Iron Maiden, Dio, and Megadeth turned their covers into canvases for stunning, and often macabre, artwork. When MTV came along and launched the music video into the mainstream, metal acts made the logical transition, using their videos not just to show the band performing but to add to the stories being told in their music. These 9 videos represent the best that heavy metal has to offer.
9. Opeth — "Porcelain Heart
Progressive metal act Opeth has developed a reputation as some of heavy metal's strongest storytellers over their careers. But, strangely, their music videos rarely lived up to the cinematic qualities of their songs. That is, until “Porcelain Heart.” The single from their 2008 album Watershed finds Opeth and an appropriately creepy looking threesome of lovers in a darkened 15th Century castle, with sheets being draped across the furniture interposed with scenes of a murderous end to the video's love triangle.
8. Queensryche — "Eyes of a Stranger
Concept albums are notoriously hard to get singles from, much less music videos. How do you film a song that might be in the middle of a story and have it make enough sense to be a hit? Fortunately, that “what is going on?” aspect only served to increase the popularity of the videos from their 1988 breakout album Operation Mindcrime. Queensryche's first single from the album, “Eyes of a Stranger,” picks up the story at the end, leaving fans with questions about dead nuns, revolutionary killers, and mind control that made them clamor for more.
7. Kamelot — "March of Mephisto"
Kamelot's 2005 album Black Halo was a continuation of the story begun on their 2003 album Epica. The reimagining of the story of Faust began its second chapter with “March of Mephisto” and the band wisely chose to release a video for that song featuring not only the ominous voice but also the menacing presence of Dimmu Borgir frontman Shagrath as Mephisto. The video's fuzzy focus and sepia tones hint at the dreamlike state of Ariel, the album's protagonist, at the album's outset.
6. Ghost — "Cirice"
Few bands since Alice Cooper have been as successful at balancing hard rock and theatrical bombast like Ghost. In an era where music videos are almost an afterthought, Ghost has used them to great effect. The best of the bunch is “Cirice,” from their 2015 album Meliora. Taking inspiration from the 1976 Stephen King movie Carrie, “Cirice” finds Ghost invading a school talent competition and tapping into the telekinetic powers of a young girl in the audience, to apocalyptic effect.
5. Iron Maiden — "Can I Play With Madness"
For a band that has arguably used their album cover real estate better than any band, Iron Maiden has surprisingly few cinematic music videos. This is because their stage show is so electric that filmed performances are usually fine to get their point across. But for “Can I Play With Madness” from their 1988 album Seventh Son of a Seventh Son they took a crack at a story as an art teacher (played by Monty Python's Graham Chapman) chastises a student for drawing Iron Maiden mascot Eddie before falling into a set of ruins and coming face to face with Eddie himself.
4. Twisted Sister — "We're Not Gonna Take It"
No metal band ever used MTV as successfully as Twisted Sister, especially on their 1984 breakthrough hit “We're Not Gonna Take It.” The band tapped Animal House antagonist Mark Metcalf as an overbearing father who berates his son with the now famous phrase “What do you wanna do with your life?” before being subject to Looney Tunes-style slapstick violence for the remainder of the video. The video's concept, and the band's look, was so unique that for a time if made Twisted Sister one of the biggest bands in the world, as well as subjecting them to Congressional scrutiny for their promotion of teenage rebellion.
3. Guns N' Roses — "November Rain"
“November Rain” was an unlikely hit for Guns N' Roses. A nine-minute epic that featured a piano intro and an orchestra was a far cry from the gritty hard rock sound of the band's debut album Appetite for Destruction. But they went all out to make sure the song received attention, spending more than a million dollars for a video that interspersed concert footage with a story of the courtship, wedding, and eventual loss of a couple (played by Axl Rose and then-girlfriend Stephanie Seymour). Slash's desert guitar solo, filmed by sweeping aerial shots, is one of rock's most iconic music video moments.
2. Rob Zombie — "Living Dead Girl"
Both in his band White Zombie and in his solo work, Rob Zombie has made a career of releasing musical versions of classic horror movies. So it's hard to imagine an artist more ready-made for cinematic music videos than Zombie. He hasn't disappointed. The best example is “Living Dead Girl” from his solo debut Hellbilly Deluxe. The video takes the form of a silent movie, complete with dialogue cards, inspired by the 1920 film Cabinet of Dr. Caligari but featuring Zombie himself as the mad Doctor and his wife Sheri Moon as the song's namesake.
1. Metallica — "One"
“One” was the first video Metallica ever released and did they ever nail it the first time around. The anti-war song was filmed almost entirely in black and white, showing the band in a shadowy warehouse and cutting in scenes and quotes from the 1971 film Johnny Got His Gun, about a young soldier's final hours as a quadruple amputee floating between consciousness and dream and begging to be euthanized by his doctors via Morse code. It has shown up on numerous lists of greatest videos in any genre.