The 9th of October marked Skynd’s release of their newest single “Columbine”, featuring Bill $Aber, alongside a music video. Before I go further into it, I want to put a small warning: both the video and the song deal with traumatic, violent events that could be triggering to people, and I suggest proceeding with caution when approaching these subjects.
Following albums Chapter I and Chapter II, this release marks the transition into their newest era, Chapter III. Usually the first paragraph of a review is where I would introduce you- the reader- to who the artist is. But, in this case, we have no idea. The identities of the members of SKYND are kept a secret; we know nothing of where they’re from, who they are- we only know them through the music they write and interviews they have given. The singer- who goes by Skynd- has dedicated her music to “trying to get into the heads of the most vicious, cruel killers”. All of their songs are about violent murders. While some like “Elise Lam” are about the victims, others are from the point of view of the killer themselves. From Katherine Knight to Richard Ramirez, SKYND have studied some of the most horrific human tragedies of the modern age. And Columbine is no different.
The Columbine Highschool Massacre is known as the deadliest school shooting in America’s history. Two students had planned the massacre for over a year, aiming to kill more people than in any previous mass shooting. In total, they took the lives of 12 students and one teacher, and subsequently took their own lives after, bringing the total deaths to 15. Alongside the shootings, the students had created homemade bombs powerful enough to kill or seriously injure anyone around them, but they failed to detonate. Since the massacre, several copy-cat shootings have taken place, and school-shootings have become a serious issue in American society. Because of their suicides, there’s little to be known aside from what they wanted people to know about their attack. The shooting has sparked musical and dramatised responses, and SKYND have decided to attempt their own song.
The music video, unsurprisingly, takes place in a high school, but the entire video is monochromatic. At the beginning, we see Skynd. She has traded her usual Victorian style dress for a hoodie and blends easily into the background. She becomes one of the students, only coming up every now and again. This is a real difference to her other videos, and I do like the simplicity of her being another one of the people there. The first few minutes are normal, mundane, simply documenting the experience of high school. A young girl and her boyfriend walk up the stairs, having an argument. When she sees him then talking to a different girl, she decides enough is enough. After throwing his hoodie onto the floor, she walks into the library. She sits there for a moment, struggling to come to terms with the supposed break up. And then, all hell breaks loose. People start to hear gunshots, and the girl runs backwards in panic as the gunmen enter. We see her hiding behind a bookshelf, crying and holding her head as the murders are taking place. She manages to escape, running through the halls, and the screen transitions back to Skynd. Back in her usual clothing, she walks down the staircase seen in the first image.
While the lyrics are about the killers and from the perspective of the killers – “Down, we shoot you down, we come around, and when we pull the trigger get down” – the video is very much focussed on the victims in a tasteful way, and yet doesn’t hold back. The images are disturbing, intense, and emotional. While some were worried the song might indirectly glorify the killers, it instead focuses on the fear and distress of the victims.
The song is written perfectly. Following their classic dark industrial/electronic mix, it ebbs and flows in a way that creates an insane amount of tension and suspense, while also managing to be genuinely nice to listen to. It sounds good, deals with an intense subject in a tasteful way, and it is recognisable as a classic SKYND song. I’ll admit, I first heard “Columbine” played when SKYND played in Islington last December, and I hadn’t forgotten it since. The pure genius of this song is a good indicator that Chapter III is going to be just as good as the first two, if not better as the band mature in their sound. And, maybe one day, we’ll even find out who Skynd is.
Perhaps the intrigue is in not knowing.
Warning – video contains graphic content