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Omotai Cut Deeper Than Skin On “Last of the Green Vial”

Omotai_Photo_by_Angela_Lee_

Film, music, and the human body are machines whose parts obtain “being” by their arrangement. Taken individually, they are lifeless; an eye is just a wet sack of carbon — a riff a collection of notes — a frame a loose organization of colors and shapes. Strung together and connected to a larger whole, these parts take on meaning, form, and function.

This is an ugly and disquieting reduction of human life. No one likes to imagine that they can be taken apart and reassembled. We want to believe that we are complete wholes, whose meaning comes from something more than electrical currents and nerve endings. Violence against the human body forces us to acknowledge its fragility, especially when the violence seems inexplicable. The less tangible the cause of the tragedy, the more jarring the wake it leaves behind.

Omotai‘s “Last of the Green Vial” tackles this existential threat head on. The song, whose NSFW music video you can watch below, describes a communal disaster where an entire town is reduced to body parts, each person now only a “skull and ribs and a spine.” Like the rest of Omotai’s Ruined Oak, the song is explicitly about the colony of Roanoke, an island off the coast of North Virginia where 115 colonizers vanished under less than clear circumstances. However, “Last of the Green Vial” works just as well as a lament for any community wiped out by a force greater than them. Omotai are no strangers to this kind of widespread calamity, having contributed to Making Waves, a compilation whose proceeds go toward hurricane relief in the band’s native city of Houston, Texas.

I bring this fact up not just because it’s a good cause worth supporting, but because it gives context to Omotai’s interest in tragedy. Their point of view is sympathetic, not exploitative nor cruel. That sympathy is an important counterweight to the harsh images of their “Last of the Green Vial” music video, which uses sampled footage of surgery to challenge our images of bodily integrity. Eyes are pierced with needles, hearts are made to pump by machines (the video’s most clever moments when this pumping is synced up with a monster drum fill), and lungs collapse and expand with air from tubes. The video’s chopped found-footage style, usually a bit of a cop-out for music videos, is an inspired choice here, as it mirrors the surgical process. Just as the human body is chopped up and repurposed, images of that dehumanization are all the more jarring for sitting side by side with more innocent footage. Even those selections help point back to the song’s focus, depicting the absent protectors that the villagers of Roanoke called for.

In the video, the knight is victorious in fending off the dragon, but the video plays this victory as a joke. Only in staged combat is the human body sturdy enough to ward away its own destruction. In reality we are a needle away from meaninglessness.

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Ruined Oak is out now. Follow Omotai on Facebook.

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