Sensory Abuse

"Noisecore is not music insomuch as it is anti-music. It is a recreation of the sounds in our modern technological society through an abrasive form."
Ishkur's Guide to Electronic Music

This is when the creator defiles the viewer/listener's senses by pummeling them with unpleasant or harsh images, flashing lights, or loud, dissonant noise.

Note: This must be intentional on the part of the creators, otherwise it's just awful. This is not the same as Stylistic Suck. However, they can overlap.

True Artists will also do this, but only if it's symbolic for the futility of modern life, a criticism of mass media, or something along those lines. Dada will sometimes do this just to piss the viewers off. Expect Vulgar Humor for the nastier forms of this.

This can be subverted. Maybe the artist intentionally created ugly, dissonant sights or sounds to beat up the viewer, but the end result is actually pretty cool.

Although there are many more kinds of other Sensory Abuse in Real Life (e.g.: skunks), all media covered in this wiki are limited to sight and sound, so we'll focus on these. The trope will be broken into two sections, with their common tropes listed below them:

Optical Assault

Aural Invasion

Examples

    open/close all folders 

Optical Assault

    Anime and Manga 
  • The infamous seizure-inducing Porygon episode of Pokémon, which was only aired once, and only in Japan.

    Film - Live-Action 
  • A growing problem with widespread adoption of 3-D films and TV sets is that they have a tendency to cause eye strain and even motion sickness in a large minority of viewers.
  • Basically the entirety of Enter the Void; the cinematography is amazing, don't get us wrong, but at times can only be described as an epileptic's fever dream. There are several times throughout the film dedicated to strobing visuals, such as when the camera zooms in on a hexagonal light that just so happens to be flashing red and blue.
  • Word of God says that the whole point of the infamous Sweet Movie was to bombard the viewer with non-stop offensive imagery until they were "reborn".

    Live-Action TV 
  • The outfit worn by the Sixth Doctor in Doctor Who - it's not just that it's brightly-coloured and tacky, but that the pinstripes and checks were specifically chosen to cause Strobing on televisions.

    Music 
  • Cannibal Corpse, full stop. The cover arts of this famous Death Metal band are just... Wow.
  • The music video for Kanye West's All of the Lights. That epilepsy warning at the start is not kidding.
    • Kanye and Jay-Z's video for "Niggas in Paris" contains a similar warning and both videos share a director: Hype Williams.
    • And a fan-made lyrics video for the Kanye West version of E.T.
  • The works of director Chris Cunningham often has shocking images, Nightmare Fuel, Stroboscopic lights and fast editing, his video for Sheena is a Parasite by The Horrors was banned in some places because networks feared it could trigger seizures.
  • The music video for SebastiAn's "Total" consists of a hyper-speed montage of random disturbing images plucked from the internet.
  • The music video for Wang Chung's "Everybody Have Fun Tonight."
    • Also the extra stages "The Great Majority" and "The Way of All Flesh".
  • Similar to the Kayne West video above, there's the video for Nine Inch Nails' Came Back Haunted.

    Video Games 
  • Hellsinker's final battles are full of this.
  • Hotline Miami is a psychedelic 80's nightmare, with all the copious amounts of blood, gore and ultra-violence mixed in with bright neon colors, the game field constantly swaying as you move, and eventually TV-style flickering that can sometimes obscure your vision.
  • rgb, a Canabalt-like game that obscures information on the screen with its painful colour palette.
  • The final boss battle in Siren: Blood Curse takes place in an alien realm full of wildly shifting bright colors flashing in a psychedelic manner. This is in huge contrast to the rest of the dark, drab coloration found throughout the rest of the game.

    Western Animation 
  • Steven Universe has an example of this in the episode "Adventures In Light Distortion". The episode had been largely humorous before, as the gravity engine on the Roaming Eye messed with the proportions of the Hard Light-bodies of the Gems. However, when Steven shuts it off on accident and everyone gets pinned to the walls, the environment turns red and everything gains an effect much like watching a 3D movie without 3D-glasses. The fact that everything starts shaking as well does not help.
  • From the show Codename: Kids Next Door there is the episode Operation: A.R.C.H.I.V.E., which details the creation of adults and the war that children and adults fought so that both could get their respective rights. Granted, the thing is controversial since it should be separated from the general continuity of the series in order to get the maximum enjoyment out of it, but that is not what makes it this trope. What makes it this trope comes after the narrator (Numbuh 1) proves that adults and children do not live happily by using a The End... Or Is It? styled motive and showing after it the presence of schools which should let children forget about everything, after which you get disturbing image after disturbing image with narration detailing how gruesomely children are getting brainwashed by them until the teacher for which the speech is given demands that Numbuh 1 stops speaking so that he can give him a triple F minus for all of the (In-Universe) alleged lies he taught to those children. The show was already known for its outright gruesome imagery and themes, but this is unbelievably hard to watch even by the standards of the very show.
  • Metalocalypse tends to have moments of rapid flashing and close-up shots of gore.
  • The Problem Solverz. The whole thing has no grasp on the idea of "Dominant Color" and is regularly seizure inducing with its trippy visuals and butt-ugly design. If you have sensitive eyes, or any eyes at all for that matter, you won't after watching this. As Rebel Taxi said in his list of the top ten ugliest cartoons.
    "Your average LCD TV can display over 16 million colors, and by golly The Problem Solverz is going to do just that."
  • South Park likes - nay, loves - to explore all the myriad ways of making its audience's eyes bleed. One example is when Cartman is told to close his eyes to find inspiration, cue a montage of real life footage of Nightmare Fuel, including family unfriendly deaths, gorn, and a lab mouse eating another one's brain There is also random footage of a severely starving African man in a parody commercial for Towely products.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants used to have realistic mantel depictions of its characters (Moars Krabs is the most famous one). Thankfully this kind of Nightmare Face dropped out of favor later on but they were intense.

    Other 
  • Certain Op Art works fall into this category - for instance, Briget Riley's "Late Morning", a 12ft canvas of red, green and blue stripes that causes nausea, migranes, dizziness and even epilepsy attacks in viewers.
  • Shock Sites
  • Ouch. Epileptics: You are forewarned.
  • Trolls like this, especially on forums that let them post images. The Garbage Post Kid is a subtype of troll devoted to doing exactly this to the exclusion of anything else.
  • asdfg.jodi.org. Just that. Flashing black and white backgrounds along with a load of absurd ASCII art jiggering around your screen. It's even said it'll become a virus if you visit it a second time.

Aural Invasion

    Advertisement 
  • Many ID bumps and promotional adverts on modern rock radio stations fit here. A favorite is to announce the station name with tons of sound effects and yelling. e.g.: This THIS THIS is K-K-K-K *explosion* *woman screams* KBBLA *sci-fi laser sound effects* *snippets from Family Guy* in the morning *lower pitch* IN THE MORNING!

    Film - Live-Action 

    Literature 
  • The audiobook version of Eden Green contains a grating scratch sound at the moment when Eden is infected with the alien needle symbiote.

    Music 
  • "L.A. Blues" from Fun House by The Stooges where Iggy Pop moans, grunts and growls while the musicians go berserk.
  • "Weasels Ripped My Flesh" from Frank Zappa's Live Album of the same name, consisting of one harsh tone. Near the end the audience is literally stunned. There's some applause, some booing and Zappa closes the show.
  • The Beatles' "Revolution 9" from their White Album.
  • Most Death Metal and Black Metal, with the worst offenders being Internal Suffering and Cryptopsy for death metal, and Anaal Nathrakh and Burzum for black metal.
  • Industrial Metal. Ministry, Fear Factory, Marilyn Manson and Strapping Young Lad are among the most notable offenders.
  • Grindcore, more specifically the subgenres of noisegrind, deathgrind and electro/industrial grind
    • Anal Cunt - With a name like that, it comes as no surprise.
  • Brostep can come across as this, thanks to the treatment of Dubstep's characteristics. Drops become pretty noisy, 2-step-influenced drumbeats turn into brutal caricatures of themselves, and synthesizers sound more metallic than in old-school dubstep.
  • A number of Futret's tracks are this.
  • Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, with "Bring Back the Apocalypse" being of particular interest.
  • Some of the more extreme metal subgenres, particularly grindcore.
  • A lot of hardcore electronic genres are based on this, including noisecore, power electronics, Harsh Noise, speedcore, splittercore, glitch, breakcore, raggacore, hellektro/aggrotech, and some hardcore techno/gabber. Venetian Snares is one of the worst offenders.
  • Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music is basically a double record set of nothing but guitar feedback noise. It has to be heard to be believed.
  • IDM artists sometimes do this for fun.
    • Autechre uses this heavily. "Gantz Graf" is one of their more famous examples, and even their most innocuous songs have a fair bit of harshness to them.
      • Even better (or worse), "Confield."
    • Hvratski, too.
    • Aphex Twin's "Come to Daddy (Pappy Mix)" would certainly qualify. And generally, any track he has where the beats go so blazingly fast they practically fall all over themselves, which was a lot in the late 90s and early 2000s.
      • He also has some noise tracks that fit this category, like "Ventolin" which has a constantly high-frequency noise throughout (do not listen if you're prone to migraines).
    • Squarepusher's Steinbolt. Good song, but definitely an acquired taste. Even a YouTube comment claimed that the song itself is pretty much like if Dubstep is having a stroke.
  • The end of Captain Beefheart's "Bat Chain Puller" from Shiny Beast played at high volumes, goes straight here. But in a good way.
  • Starflyer 59's "Dual Overhead Cam" features an eardrum-piercing guitar feedback shriek right after the second chorus.
  • When the Melvins are playing to a particularly unappreciative audience (especially if they're playing at a festival where everyone's really waiting for the big name acts), they've been known to just break into an endless, deliberately irritating noise jam in order to get everyone to leave. If only a few people are left, then sometimes they start playing actual songs. The Colossus of Destiny was essentially their attempt to replicate this on record, complete with the cacophony eventually turning into a performance of their song "Eye Flys". Chicken Switch, a remix album heavy on contributions from experimental noise artists, also probably applies.
  • James Leyland Kirby, aka 'V/Vm' is known for the incredibly distorted remixes of popular music that he records, one example including his album "Sick Love", which consists of disgusting, mutated recreations of love songs like Billy Joel's "Just the Way You Are", Berlin's "Take My Breath Away", etc.
    • A stand-out piece is "Hate You", from the compilation of the same name. It's 17 minutes, and is a noise jam consisting of a loop of the chorus of The Beatles's "Hey Jude".
  • The psychedelic lo-fi noise dub group Black Dice have this trope in every one of their albums. It's not just their music that is amazingly nauseating (e.g. Repo, Broken Ear Record), but their music videos too, which feature cut up found footage, along with intentional distortion.
  • Some of Mike Patton's more out-there material, most notably the album Adult Themes For Voice, which is nothing but 40-odd minutes of Patton making strange and often abrasive and/or startling vocal noises into a tape recorder and warping the results.
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic's album Off The Deep End: 10 minutes after the last track ends comes "Bite Me", the "most annoying six seconds of audio ever recorded" to scare the listener who forgot to turn off the CD player. It was also interpolated into the Vanity Plate for Al's production company, Ear Booker Productions (who made The Weird Al Show), which is Sensory Abuse in its own right. View here.
  • The Sad, Sad Tale of Finnsworth, Private Eye In Space. Video. HE'S A PRIVATE EYE IN SPAAAAACE!! AND HE'S GOT SCALES ALL OVER HIS BODY!! HE'S A PRIVATE EYE IN SPACE, FIGHTING FOR HIS LIIIIIII-FE!!
    • To put it bluntly, God help you if you're listening to this in Stereo!
  • Present in Flywrench where the background music is mostly distorted noise.
  • Alice in Chains has a track on their Sap album called "Love Song." The song starts off a slow piano melody with vocals coughing and snorting for the accompaniment while a back up vocalist makes wailing sounds. When the lyrics start, they're sung through a megaphone while the rest of the band wails on their instruments.
  • Nirvana has "Endless Nameless" on the album Nevermind, and "Radio Friendly Unit Shifter" and "Tourette's" on their followup In Utero.
  • Depeche Mode's opening track to their Playing The Angel album, "A Pain That I'm Used To", opens with a prolonged, blaring siren that repeats a few times over what is otherwise a fairly subdued song. If you keep the volume adjusted to the siren, you can barely hear the song itself so you have to acclimate to it. The siren becomes a pain that you're used to.
  • The Piz and their VST instrument plugins.
  • KMFDM's hidden track on Nihil (skip to 3:41).
  • Old-school industrial music, such as Discipline by Throbbing Gristle.
  • "Lower State of Consciousness" by ZZT. Harsh Atari 2600 style bleeps and buzzes set to techno beats.
  • Many of R.A.E.D.'s songs fall into this.
  • Japanese industrial band Dissecting Table.
  • The Flume remix of Disclosure's "You & Me" off the special edition of their debut LP Settle is pretty damn awesome, except for the fact that the chorus involves an irritating, high-pitched ring that sounds for a brief moment. Some have complained that it causes headaches, and someone had to step up and make a version of the song with the ring greatly lessened.
    • Kind of mixed with optical abuse in the video; the footage played over the ringing sound often involves flickering backgrounds or straight-up flashing images.
  • A relatively subdued example, but R.E.M.'s "Leave" features a distorted, siren-like loop that starts playing about a minute into the song and plays continuously for about the next six minutes, at which point the song is nearly over. It's not mixed too loudly though, and the song seems purposely structured in such a way that you repeatedly forget the siren noise is there until suddenly there's a breakdown where you hear nothing but drums and sirens.
  • Most of their music is pretty melodic, but My Bloody Valentine have a habit of inserting a ten-plus-minute segment of pure noise, which according to Word of God is meant to induce hallucinations in listeners, into their song "You Made Me Realise" during live performances. The band refer to the segment as "the holocaust", which is a pretty good indicator of what it sounds like.
  • Funeral doom is a different take on this trope from most Death Metal and Black Metal. It's played at a glacially slow pace with pretty much the gloomiest instrumentation possible, and the only vocals are incomprehensibly low growls. It's a good example showing that music doesn't have to be fast to be heavy. Take a listen to the song "The March and the Stream" from pioneering funeral doom band Skepticism.
  • Dir en grey are no strangers to this trope, both in the visual department and in the actual music as well. Particular notorious audio examples include Kyo's ear-piercing screams in "Agitated Screams of Maggots" (the entire song), "Kodou" (right after a brief pause), and "Pink Killer" (Kyo sounds like he's being brutally tortured during the last 30 seconds or so as the music fades and what remains is his very loud shriek.
  • Porter Robinson directly addresses this in the lyrics of "Fellow Feeling," wherein the girl singing asks the listener to "hear what she hears" before they're graced with synthetic beats and distorted sound, as a parody of modern EDM. She then proceeds to call it "ugliness" and "cruelty." While it's not extremely painful to listen to, it's diegetically considered as such.

    Video Games 
  • The CrazyBus title theme, which outside sources indicate was constructed using a literal random sound generator.
    • Older Than They Think: A similar random sound generator was included in one of Microsoft's BASIC demo programs that accompanies certain early PC compatibles. They're also taught as part of the syllabus in BASIC programming classes in the 80s.
  • Giygas' well-known theme "music" in EarthBound.
  • Axel-F from the PC port of the Beverly Hills Cop tie-in game. Sure, it's no CrazyBus, but it's more like Ear Rape Hills Cop. The Spectrum 48K port fared a little better, sounding more like autotuned farts instead.
  • Much Silent Hill music.
  • When this trope is applied to video game remixes, you get this.
  • Most music in pirated Nintendo games, which some serves as Copy Protection.
  • Level 3 of Lollipop on Action 52 is an unintentional example, especially when mixed with glitchy sound effects.
  • In Hammer Brother, because the samples weren't inserted correctly, the track that plays in Secret 4-3 (which is supposed to be Cascade Capers) has glitched, high-pitched sounds that change the volume of the sound effects.
  • Shows up twice in Corpse Party Blood Drive, where the game plays music so loud that it actually sounds distorted in the gym and once while wandering Heavenly Host. Considering that it's recommended that you play with headphones to give it a more eerie atmosphere, it will destroy the ear drums of anyone unfortunate enough to actually use them during that moment.
  • While playing SCP - Containment Breach, it's recommended to lower your volume whenever you encounter SCP-066 (Eric's Toy). As mentioned on the SCP article, the damn thing will blare Beethoven at super high decibels, and the game is no exception to that.
  • Right before the Final Boss song in Chrono Trigger loops, the music dims out for a moment, then a bloodcurdling scream plays, much louder than anything else in the game. If it's your first time hearing it, don't listen with headphones.
  • The City theme from the 1997 game POSTAL. Specially when remastered in Redux. NOT. EVEN. BETTER.
  • Many Horror games are prone to this, regarding the use of Screamers. Obviously, they're literally ear rape.
  • Metroid: Fusion has a lot of loud sound effects in general, but Neo-Ridley definitely takes the cake.

    Web Original 

    Other 

Both

    Anime and Manga 
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion practically has this down to an art form.
    • Perhaps the most infamous example is in episode 22, when Asuka is Mind Raped by the Angel Arael.
    • Then there's episode 26' (part 2 of The End of Evangelion), which features an entire minute of lightning-fast images from the series and a cacophony of voices and sound effects.
    • Shinji also shares one with the viewer in episode 4 when he is surrounded by the harsh, constant buzzing of cicadas.
    • The previews for episodes 14, 19, 22/22', and 25 feature a lot of rapidly cycling images.
  • Michael Cusack, an animator known for the 'Questions for Ted' series, also has two sub-channels, Flusack, and TedAnimationStudio containing videos that are less Newgrounds-friendly than expected. One classic is "tedshow1", which contains MS-Paint style art, jarring 8-bit music, and horribly, HORRIBLY distorted speech.

    Film - Live-Action 
  • Irreversible is never particularly pleasant (what with the Infrasonics in the soundtrack and the at-times assaulting cinematography), but the ending elevates this up to an art form. The last minute or so is the screen flashing rapidly from black to white while a positively sickening sound plays. Even if you aren't epileptic, you will not be feeling great after the ending.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Room 23 from Lost. It's so bad it's designed to literally erase the short term memory of the unlucky victim.

    Music 
  • Nine Inch Nails has been known for this in both their music and their videos. Most infamously were the "Broken" videos of the early '90s.
  • Dir en grey is very well known for doing this in their music, their lyrics, their music videos, and their lives. Agitated Screams Of Maggots which developed the "I'LL RAPE YOUR DAUGHTER ON YOUR GRAVE!!!" meme, is but only one example.
  • The last few seconds of Lady Gaga's disturbing but watchable video for "Alejandro," in which her face suddenly melts inwards with a loud bubbling/screaming sound. It's supposed to be the "tape" ripping.
  • Many, MANY songs by by Dir en grey. Demons fucking the shit out of geisha women until they bleednote , an animated story drawn in the style of Cannibal Corpse covers (which features a maggot that evolves into an Eldritch Abomination)note , the band playing Death Metal while they slowly rot note , surreal depictions of tentacle rapenote , among others, combined with Scare Chords, Last Note Nightmares, bouts of deafeningly loud banshee screams, and other forms of auditory Mind Screw.
    • Live performances are just as disturbing, maybe even worse; the vocalist sometimes screams out of nowhere while he vomits and bleeds, and speaker volumes are amplified to deafening levels.
  • Sunn O))) live performances. Colored fog, druid robes, Drone of Dread, and volumes Up to Eleven to make your ears ring and bones and internal organs vibrate.
  • During the 1980's, the Butthole Surfers (an already disturbing band) would turn this into an art form. For starters, the band would be playing at absurdly loud volumes, flashing strobe lights at the audience at speeds that would induce nausea and seizures in some members of the audience, and displaying a combination of 16mm films frontman Gibby Haynes had fraudulently obtainednote  of things like male to female sex change operations, autopsy footage, driver's ed gore, medical examinations of people with sexually transmitted diseases, and even "innocent" things like episodes of shows like Charlie's Angels - played upside down in reverse, of course. The band would then compliment this with a series of props/stunts (flaming cymbals, dual-drummers, papier-mache dummies being ripped to shreds, copious amounts of fog, a naked dancer...), and improvised various other stunts on top of that to create a complete hellscape of a live show.

    Tabletop Games 
  • A Vampire: The Requiem sourcebook makes mention of how Chicago's members of clan Mekhet have devised an art style known as "maximalism." One such example listed is a work on the decay of the earth; the display consists of day-glo painted rocks, a sand-covered floor, and a voice screaming "Dead earth! Dead earth!" over the speakers. For mortals, it comes across as abrasive, but for the Mekhet, who make good use of Auspex, it's supposed to be mind-blowing.
  • Devotees of Slaanesh in Warhammer 40,000 will violate all your senses at once (and then the rest of you). Noise Marines in particular use, well, noise, hideously distorted sounds and sirens and turning the volume Up to Eleven (in earlier editions, they used actual electric guitars) and destroy their foes with “deafeningly loud, psycho-sonically and pyrotechnically explosive attacks.". The Emperor's Children's senses are so dulled by centuries of excess only the clashiest of colors get their attention (hence their black-and-hot-pink colors).

    Theatre 
  • The Rite of Spring by Igor Stravinsky is possibly the earliest example of both auditory and visual Sensory Abuse working together. Made in 1913, when this ballet debuted the discordant music, disturbing jerking motions of the dancers, and bizarrely jarring sets caused the audience to boo within the first 15 minutes, then riot before it was over. This Ballet is only half an hour long.

    Video Games 
  • Acid Couch, a Journey to the Center of the Mind of a character having a bad drug experience.
  • Video games that are deliberately corrupted frequently fall into this territory. Either by messing with graphical/model data which can cause flashing textures or large, spastic polygons. Same can go with sound bytes stored in the game, either distorting horribly or becoming plain (if rather painful) white noise.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Word Party has Kip's Boppin Beetle toy in the episode "Kip Comes To His Senses". Flashing lights that can potentially cause seizures? Check. Obnoxious beeping sounds that gives CrazyBus' music a run for it's money? Check. If it were real, the CPSC and UL would've swiftly banned it from sale.

    Other 
  • Screamers.
  • In Real Life, this can happen accidentally to people who have issues with sensory overload. It often accompanies autism or related disorders and it can affect any of the five senses, not just vision or hearing. While the vast majority of sensory abuse these people undergo is unintentional, a very sadistic person could use it for deliberate torture.
  • Most production logos from the 1970s and early 1980s, particularly those by Viacom ("The V of Doom"), Columbia/Screen Gems ("The S From Hell"), and Paramount ("The Closet Killer" or "The Peak of Fear"). The combination of bombastic synthesized jingles and symbols that seem to charge toward the screen caused no end of distress for young children.

Alternative Title(s): Sensory Rape, Ear Rape, Eye Rape

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/SensoryAbuse