When you think of the fairy tales that once enchanted you, visions of valiant princes, damsels in distress, and mystical godmothers may dance in your head — but not all magic is pixie dust.
The dreamscapes in these music videos are more Grimm than Disney, often turning into nightmares when dolls start walking, wolves look human, and magic doors lead to the seventh circle of hell. Angels fall with tears of blood. Mermaids are attacked by tentacles. Wonderland becomes Horrorland.
Of course, there have to be knights in rusted armor somewhere, and they can be found braving everything from apocalyptic disasters to the spawn of Cthulhu. There is something to be said for Ronnie James Dio letting his wild hair fly in the wind as he heads into battle with a sword that ignites itself.
Enter another realm with these 21 otherworldly music videos that may result in gratuitous use of the word "epic."
Pull back the curtains and enter a dream emporium of scary clowns, grinning pirates, things on stilts and the creepiest Snow White ever. What is both spooky and enchanting about this video is that it goes back and forth through the smoke and mirrors to show both the illusion of a fairy tale and the special effects that create the spectacle.
Van Canto, "Wishmaster"
This is one music video which has everything that should be in a fantasy-genre storybook — ethereal vocals, knights on horseback, a castle on fire, the stone corpse of a princess, and an elusive resurrection stone that needs to be taken to said princess before whatever is lurking in the lake surfaces — basically an Arthurian legend gone M. Night. Shyamalan.
Coheed and Cambria, "The Suffering"
In this doomed love story between a centaur and a mermaid, things are kind of problematic when one of you has hooves and the other has fins. At least gazing at a potential match through a crystal is way more convenient than online dating. Just ignore the beach scorpions and that griffin on the cliff, but not the writhing tentacles rising out of the sea.
Dio, "Holy Diver"
This is the kind of Gothic church knights ride out of, and not just any knight, but Ronnie James Dio as as skin-clad warrior with a magic sword that glows red. When he's not fighting for honor or glory or something like that, he’s snarling out the lyrics in front of raging flames with his face glowing in the heat of battle. Surrender now — you don't mess with Dio.
Troll Bends Fir, "Ave Celia"
Nothing says magic like people in hoods standing in a circle and chanting incantations in the middle of the night around a fire. If that doesn't bewitch you, the haunting vocals will. The one thing no one can explain is why they're sitting around with pints of beer like Hobbits one moment and whispering spells into the shadows like Elves the next.
Laura Branigan, "Self Control"
You'd probably lose your self-control and and your sanity if things in gold masks were stalking you after dark. Are they beings from a parallel universe? Mannequins come to life? Before you can escape this urban dreamscape, something that looks like the Phantom of the Opera will captivate you as the night gets deeper… until he vanishes with the dawn.
Within Temptation, "Stand My Ground"
Ancient, Elvish-looking text? Check. Abandoned castle? Check. An enchanted pendant that can only be the missing link to a spell? Check. It gets weirder when the princess is in the castle one moment, and in a flash of lightning she finds herself in what could pass for an alt-verse of Gotham City surrounded by crashing waves and howling winds.
It's not every day you find a fallen angel crying blood by the riverbank, but that sort of thing is what often happens at riverbanks in fairy stories. Of course, the townspeople aren't going to react favorably when this celestial being wanders among the mortals, because angry townspeople in fairy stories never do. They predictably storm the place with torches.
Kerli, "Walking on Air"
The creepiest gift you could possibly get is a doppelganger doll of yourself in this bizarre visual nightmare from Estonian pop-Goth singer Kerli. The doll will come to life just as you were trying to figure out if the TV has any other channels than the one with the giant eyeball, until you don't know who is human and who is porcelain anymore…
Sonata Arctica, "Wolf and Raven"
Anything that starts in a dark, misty forest and ends up in an abandoned and very obviously haunted manor is not going to have a happy ending, especially when ravens are your omens. Don't be surprised when someone who appears human but may or may not actually be human is in the bathtub. The door opening on its own should have warned you.
Evanescence, "Call Me When You're Sober"
This modern version of the story all little girls were told to keep them inside after dark sees Little Red Riding Hood grown up, having dinner with a wolf in human skin at a creaky old mansion that is anything but Grandma's house. Even more unbelievable is how she resolves to run away from a lycanthrope more tempting than any of those desserts.
Dream Theater, "A Rite of Passage"
A journey through the clouds takes you into the refuse of a nuclear apocalypse, where a new world order is led by a Lovecraftian cult. Their rite of passage involves something worse than sacrifice, if that's even possible. Initiates have to unleash a powerful magic that was probably what brought on the apocalypse. You're better off on Mars if this is the future.
Within Temptation, "The Howling"
When butterflies turn into scorpions and princesses turn into raven queens, you know you're not in this world anymore. Don't open the magic door, because it will take you from the light realm where little girls twirl in the grass with their dolls to the post-apocalyptic dark realm where those dolls are burnt rubber on fire with warped bikes and crushed cars.
Apocalyptica, "Cold Blood"
Never trust jewelry box ballerinas, because somewhere in the middle of all that mechanical twirling, they can pirouette to life and possess you. You'll be blindfolded and used as their personal stage prop until they've had enough of this dance — for now. If you ever do find yourself dusting off your great-aunt's old jewelry box, just keep it closed.
Elvenking, Draugen’s Malestrom
With lyrics about epic quests and insanely fantastical cover art (never mind their name), Elvenking could have come straight out of the pages of Tolkien. The song is even narrated in a Tolkien-esque font that tells the legend of a horned god whose face flashes from skin to skull. The illustrations that animate among flecks of snow and sparks of fire are just unreal.
The Birthday Massacre, "Blue"
This is the dark side of Wonderland, where you're the White Rabbit with a labyrinth right under your rug and creepy dolls are crawling everywhere. These dolls are indestructible unless you stick your arm through a dark portal, though you might lose it in the process. You've got to love how the vocals unexpectedly go from innocent Alice to the hissing Queen of Hearts.
Symphony X, "Set the World on Fire"
Evil forces are coming — wait, they're here. If this isn't the closest thing to the forces of Gondor storming Sauron's tower, it's hard to say what is. There is even a fiery eye flashing menacingly between guitar blasts. These knights are so badass they can grow metal wings from their armor and soar over gulfs of fire and lava-spewing volcanoes of doom.
Korpiklaani, "Ämmänhauta (The Witch's Tomb)"
When you accept shiny things from random people appearing in the forest, know that there's going to be some sort of bargain involved. Also, not everything dead stays dead in folklore. No wonder Jonne Järvelä keeps drinking from his aleskin. He sings this Finnish legend with an ancient and thrumming power, but sorcery has no language barrier.
Kerli, Tea Party
This party starts innocently enough in a fairytale castle until it falls down the rabbit hole into another twisted wonderland with creatures that would have made the Mad Hatter go even madder. The cake has an eyeball on it, the tea is infused with blood, and (more) creepy dolls are invited. So is this the White Queen or Red Queen's tea party? You decide.
Hammerfall, "Hector's Hymn"
Hammerfall is the band you want to have playing sick guitar riffs behind you as you ride out to battle. No one really cares that the legendary battle here never actually happened when it's an all-out fight for glory that involves Thor's hammer, or what at least appears to be Thor's hammer, since it can pulverize stone and shock the sky with lightning.
Björk, "The Gate"
Only Bjork could conjure up a techno-fantasy like this. She goes from playing a flute among floating purple alien things to morphing into some iridescent space-age butterfly-creature that can manipulate every wavelength of light into multiple iterations of her fairy self. We already know Bjork is a magical unicorn, but this futuristic fantasia is just beyond imagining.