I think it's worth talking a little bit about the unintentional and perhaps ironic damage that some bands' image does for them. This has been something on my mind for a while now, and it's only crystalised into an idea worth posting with the recently released tracks from Rotting Christ.
I'm a huge fan of fairly well produced melodic metal, but unfortunately a lot of the time these bands are targeting a younger audience with, frankly, foolish imagery and bally-hoo. I think it backfires in a lot of cases.
Cradle of Filth is the most obvious example. As I've stated on this forum many times, they are one of my favourite bands. I consider four of five of their albums to be metal classics, whilst also accepting that another three or four are quite appalling. What bothers me most, however, is the ridiculous image Dani has created for the band. I love the puns and wordplay, and I love the generally dark/gothic artwork when it's done well (and mostly it's not), but gosh most of the time they look like tools dressed up like a bad Marilyn Manson cover band. A lot of the time they look so stupid and embarrassing that it completely undermines the complexity and intellectualism of the music and lyrics. They do get the image thing right some of the time. The band pictures from 'Cruelty and the Beast' and the last couple of albums are examples of them getting it right. But as a rule, when I avoid their videos/pictures and just listen to the music I find it so much more compelling and meaningful.
The new Rotting Christ songs are a similar case in point. I watched the lyric videos for 'Heaven and Hell and Fire' and 'Fire, God and Fear' and for the first few times I saw them I was really unimpressed with the songs. I thought they sounded commercial and unexciting. Of course, I was watching them with the animated lyric videos. After hearing them a few more times I bought both tracks on itunes because I was heading out and wanted to give them a proper listen. Well, suddenly they bloomed into life as magnificent tracks, free from the corny imagery of a commercial black metal marketing exercise.
Septicflesh are another band who have done this. Their song 'Prometheus' from the 'Titan' album is one of my all time favourite metal songs. It's about the rise, fall and rise again of the average man, and speaks to me on so many levels. But the video shows the band playing amongst pieces of meat hanging from the ceiling that have no relevance to anything. They look like cyber-goths and it feels foolish. Again, a sophisticated band that produces great art is reduced to an embarrassing S&M photoshoot.
Dimmu Borgir are another band. Their 'Eonian' album is one of my favourites from last year, but those stupid sequined hoodies they're wearing in the promo shots are just lame. My lord. To their credit, the pictures in the 'Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia' and 'Death Cult Armageddon' sleeves are fantastic, as are the nature shots in 'Eonian'. But why the band feels the need to dress up like idiots is beyond me. Even when I picture them walking down the street on Halloween in those hoods I start laughing. There's NOTHING evil or cool about them.
I don't want to over-egg the pudding here, but there are just so many examples of bands who are putting out great albums and then, in my jaded 39 year old eyes, undoing their good work with cheesy imagery. It's almost reached a point where I deliberately avoid videos so that I don't have the beauty of the music sullied.
So the point of all this is: if you're a great band, please don't overdo the image thing. Be reserved, be classy, look cool and everything but let the music do the talking. Try some sophistication like Fleshgod Apocalypse in their promo shots (although even their videos are corny in the extreme). Pull it back about 40%. Because I've had enough of you fools looking like idiots.