A heavy metal riff roars over black and white footage of grimy industrial equipment that whines over the chugging guitars. It's another clip on the Hydraulic Press Channel, a wildly successful YouTube account that traffics in videos of stuff, well, getting crushed by a hydraulic press.
It's hard to look away. The press—which uses a piston to exert extreme force on a small area—mashed a Nokia 3310 like an old banana. It splintered a bowling pin like a handful of matchsticks, and later in the same clip shattered a bowling ball like a frozen snack. It crushed a Lego figurine's head into a grotesque sheet like the antagonist in Terminator 2: Judgement Day, pulped a Barbie doll into something like a John Carpenter prop, and flattened an old-fashioned alarm clock into what looked unsettlingly like a two-dimensional painting of itself.
Those clips and others on the Hydraulic Press Channel have turned into runaway internet hits in recent months, often climbing to the front page of Reddit and racking up millions of views and 500,000 subscribers. The personality behind them, it turns out, is Lauri Vuohensilta, a 29-year-old student and competitive powerlifter from Tampere, Finland.
Vuohensilta let me ask him a few questions, though his answers were so brusque that I felt as though he'd compressed them in the hydraulic press as well. He did share a few tantalizing details: He films the videos using a press in his family's workshop that they normally use to bend and straighten things, or to install bearings; he was surprised by his channel's sudden viral success; he takes requests for new things to crush, but otherwise tends to squash stuff that he just happens "to have laying around."
It's tempting to see Vuohelsilta's videos as an answer to some fundamental drive to witness destruction—the same psychological force, perhaps, that drives children to demolish ant hills, or motorists to slow down when they pass a grisly wreck.
When I asked Vuohelsilta why he liked to crush things, though, his answer was oddly tautological. Verbatim, he wrote: "I likebto crush things just for fun and I am also quite curios to see what happens to diffrent things under the press."
He did reveal that his hydraulic press videos are inspired by two other YouTube sensations that fixated on playful destruction: the "Will It Blend" series, in which Blendtec founder Tom Dickson used his company's line of blenders to mulch everything from a Nike Air Max 90 sneaker to an iPad—a clip that attracted some 18 million views—and the "Red Hot Nickel Ball" clips, which showed a glowing-hot ball of nickel melt its way through objects including a block of Velveeta, a Rubik's cube and a novelty-sized gummy bear. (The most popular red hot nickel ball clip, strangely, shows the ball melting through floral foam, which drew nearly 16 million views.)
Motherboard contributor Rachel Pick interviewed Matthew Neuland, who creates the red hot nickel ball videos, last year.
"It's probably strictly just curiosity, you know, 'what will happen?" Neuland said. "That's where you get your satisfaction from, actually seeing it done. And if it does something you weren't expecting, that's pretty cool."
The moderator of a subreddit dedicated to Vuohensilta's videos, who goes by the handle Azonata, waxed philosophical about the implications of viral destruction.
"People want to their hands dirty again, and, failing to do that, love to see other people getting their hands dirty," he said. "Seeing a huge chunk of metal flatten every day items seems like a way to demystify them, breaking every known property and exposing what's inside."
Though Vuohensilta was curt with my questions, his videos suggest a dry sense of humor. In perhaps his most ambitious one to date, which has about a million and a half views, he placed a smaller hydraulic press inside the larger hydraulic press. "I think that we must go deeper," he said, before placing an even smaller hand operated press inside that one, and then a tiny plastic one, the size of a pencil eraser, inside that—a feat he called "pressception."
Then he crushed the presses, one by one, starting with the smallest, as an epic soundtrack played in the background. Afterward, as he surveyed the twisted chunks of metal that remained, he chuckled.
"I think that's all for today," he said, with a heavy accent. "Thank you for watching, and have a nice day."