In today's musical landscape many people believe that physical formats aren't as relevant as they use to be. Truth to be told, many have succumbed to the temptations of consuming music by just clicking a button on their computers, cell phones, iPods, or whatever gadget they have. That's maybe why, in order to compete, physical formats have become more interesting than ever, featuring alternative artworks, exclusive content, videos, and in some cases, even out of the ordinary packaging.
Without Judas Priest, Heavy Metal wouldn't exist as we know it today. Their influence in the development of the genre has been well-documented thanks to their four decade-long career. The same can be said about the mostly iconic covers accompanying each of their album's cover artworks. Whether they’re are portraying a fallen angel, a hand holding a razor blade, or an eagle ready to attack, the truth is that their impact on Metal aesthetics and popular culture in general is both undeniable and revolutionary.
If there's one band that has never been lured by the temptations of mainstream commercialism or false musical trends, look no further than Darkthrone. The Norwegian old school black/death/extreme metal duo has always been faithful to their own set of rules while constantly delivering albums of solid and sometime tremendous musical quality. Of course, this music is not for everyone and nothing demonstrates this better than the band's uncompromising cover artworks. We recently asked drummer and founding member Fenriz about four of Darkthrone's most interesting album covers, including their 2013 full-length The Underground Resistance. This is what Fenriz had to say.
After publishing more than 7,000 album reviews and 40 Rock/Metal-related books, Martin Popoff can easily be considered one of genre's ultimate writers. The Toronto-based author has also professed on many occasions his love for the visual imagery used in Metal and Rock music. In fact, he's already written several books about the subject, including "Run For Cover", a look into Iron Maiden's iconic illustrator Derek Riggs and "Worlds Away", a book centered on the visuals created by Voivod's drummer Michell "Away" Langevin.
Bristish illustrator Mark Wilkinson’s work has been adorning the cover sleeves of Rock and Metal albums for decades. His work for bands like Judas Priest and Marillion, as well as for posters for the Monster of Rock Festival, Star Wars movies, and book covers is widely recognized. His refined technique and unique fantastic visions have made of the artist a legend within the world of commercial illustration. To celebrate his career of more than 30 years, Wilkinson recently published the book "Shadowplay", a recount of most of his work to date. In this interview the artist talks extensively about the new book, his influences, and his ongoing collaboration with artists such as Judas Priest and Marillion.
German visual artist Andreas Marschall is widely known as one of Metal's quintessential illustrators, his works having adorned album covers for decades. Bands like Blind Guardian, Kreator, Sodom, and In Flames, among many others, owe Marschall big time for helping them to establish crucial aspects of their visual imagery. Over the last few years the artist has also been exploring another passion: film making. In fact, he recently premiered his second feature film, a horror/fantasy tour de force titled "Masks", which is expected to arrive on North American shores soon. While promoting the film worldwide, we had the opportunity to talk with Marschall about the origins of his career, his vast body of work, and movie making.
In 2012, ten years into their career, California’s As I Lay Dying released their sixth studio album titled Awakened. With the help of legendary Black Flag drummer and producer Bill Stevenson, the group successfully refined their blend of Metalcore adding sudden slabs of neo-Thrash and occasional melodic catchiness. "We really needed to make sure that we are still progressing and showing that we’re only getting stronger with our sound. We’re always trying to throw in new elements and always expand our sound somewhat," says long time guitarist Phil Sgrosso about the band’s mindset while recording the album. Indeed, tracks like the opener "Cauterize", the frantic "A Greater Foundation" or the sonically dense "Overcome" only come to confirm that this is probably one of the quintet’s finest recorded efforts to date.
Despite the mainstream success and commercial appeal of Van Halen's 1984, this mega-selling album was released with some accompanying controversial issues. For instance, though the album featured muscular Heavy Rock cuts such as "Panama" and "Hot For A Teacher", it also proposed dramatic stylistic challenges in the keyboard-oriented hit singles "Jump" and "I‘ll Wait". Additionally, the cover sleeve depicting a little angel smoking a cigarette while naughtily smiling was indeed, a polemical subject, even though it never caused major issues for the quartet’s successful career.
This is the second part to our "A Guide to (some of) the Best Metal Album Covers of 2012" posting last week. As we know, cover artwork was a big thing for Metal music in 2012. Many of them were epic, cryptic, nightmarish and more importantly, artfully executed. They helped to both enrich many listeners' imaginations and to enhance the music itself; and this is why we're covering them! In the second part to our guide, we keep exploring the stories behind some of these magnificent visual pieces. We've interviewed some of the designers and musicians involved with said art and they in turn opened for us new worlds of imagination an awe. Check it out!
As far as Metal music goes 2012 was one of the most interesting years in a long time. Masterful albums such as Sigh's In Somniphobia, Ihsahn's Eremita, Enslaved's Riitiir, Katatonia's Dead End Kings, among many others, kept the quality and innovative spirit on the genre at supremely high levels. Cover artworks were also a big thing. They went from being epic (Testament), to nightmarish (Sigh), and even to minimalist (Ihsahn). Most importantly though, they helped to enhance the music and general aura of each album while introducing fans to new worlds where the power of imagination seems not to have limits. Through 2012 PureGrainAudio interviewed some of the designers and musicians involved with the creation of some of these amazing cover artworks and what we learned was, as with the music itself, totally fascinating!
In 2005, legendary North American illustrator Joe Petagno published via Feral House the book "Orgasmatron: The Heavy Metal Art of Joe Petagno". The impressively-illustrated volume compiled some of the most outstanding, eye-popping works the designer had produced for bands such as Vital Remains, Angelcorpse, and of course, Motorhead.
Veteran visual artist Paul Raymond Gregory seems to be one of the busiest personalities in the world of heavy Metal. The British painter and illustrator recently completed the cover artwork for Saxon's upcoming album Sacrifice (his 12th for the band), as he continues producing large, detailed canvases based on Tolkien’s literary works. Also, he’s preparing the 2013 edition of the popular UK festival "Bloodstock Open Air", a massive Heavy Metal gathering of bands and fans that Gregory helped to create more than 10 years ago. On top of all this, Gregory just published a book titled "Beyond Time And Place". These glossy, 176 illustrated pages showcases the artist’s visual works and achievements over the past 35 years of his career. It includes most of his major Tolkien-inspired pieces and many artworks he has produced for bands such as Saxon, Dio, Molly Hatchet, and Blind Guardian among others. A true feast for the eyes, no doubt about it!
Let’s compare the first half of Guns N' Roses' roller coaster-like career with a winning hand in a card game. We have the mega-selling, game-changer Appetite for Destruction (1987) and the twin behemoths Use Your Illusion I & II (1991). Then, stuck in the middle we find their 1988 EP Lies, a sort of well-placed wildcard between a trio of aces. Despite its apparent lesser importance, this EP spawned the now-classic acoustic ballad "Patience" and the polemic track "One In A Million". It also exemplified to perfection, everything the band was about at the time. This included a previously released faux live recording and cover artwork that had many things to say, even if they weren't true.
"To follow your own vision without compromising and conforming to other people’s demands and expectations would make you a king in what people would just define as a dead end", says Katatonia’s guitarist Anders Nyström when referring to the title of the band’s ninth full-length album Dead End Kings. Despite being around for more than 20 years, these Swedish purveyors of heavy, gloomy soundscapes and dark, melancholic lyrics still keep pushing their own musical boundaries. "Stylistically", Nyström acknowledges, "it continues where the last album Night Is The New Day ended, but once again we've tried to sharpen the sword in terms of performances and the sound. The rest is up to our listeners to discover...."
In many ways, Cynic’s 1993 debut full-length, Focus, was such a revolutionary recording that even by today's standards it still sounds as current as ever. Its unparalleled uniqueness still produces amusement, especially among the legions of Progressive Metal enthusiasts. Could this album be the product of the musical maturity the young Floridian quartet found after recording their early demos? Was it maybe, the wizardry showcased by producer Scott Burns in one of his finest studio efforts ever? Or perhaps, could it be the result of a "butterfly effect"-like cosmic event happening on the other side of the galaxy? Whatever the case, the truth is that Focus rapidly became an instant musical landmark that established new standards within the world of extreme music. As founding member and guitarist/vocalist Paul Masvidal acknowledges: "We had something we were proud of. It succeeded and survived as a creative work and that's really all that matters from an artistic standpoint. It also served the greater purpose of inspiring other musicians."
This is it! Unlike our mix-up last week, we present with the fourth and final episode in our And Justice For Art mini series dubbed "Metal Artists' All-Time Favorite Album Covers". We're ending it with a bang and bringing you fave covers from some of Metal's big hitters. Grab a brew (alcoholic or non) and check out what these 10 metal musicians (including members Of Lamb Of God, Enslaved, Tombs and As I Lay Dying) had to say about album artwork that left them with a lasting impression.
Welcome to the third installment of "Metal Artists' All-Time Favorite Album Covers". While last week we were under the impression that this would be the final part of our mini-series, we realized that we actually had enough sick content, to bring you a fourth part! So sit back and relax, 'cause you still get to do this once more! For now, read on and see what members of Attika 7, Black Tusk, Phobia and Tragedy, among others, have to say about those album covers that forever changed their lives.
Last week both veteran and upcoming Metal artists talked about some of their all-time favorite album covers and the long lasting impressions and influences that many of those visuals have imprinted on them. Today, we keep exploring this subject and asked another slew of mighty metal musicians: "What's your all-time favorite Rock/Metal album cover artwork and why?" Let’s see how they answered...
Everyone, metal musicians included (unless of course you are Devin Townsend), has a favorite album cover. At some point in their lives, these musicians have fallen in love with a particular cover art that has long-since resonated with them and in some cases, even influenced their very own musical careers. Bearing this in mind, we asked a handful of metal's leading musicians one simple question: "What's your all-time favorite Rock/Metal album artwork and why?" Well, most of the responses were very detailed and enthusiastic, yet for some this proved to be a difficult subject. Let's see who they were and what they said....
Vulgar Display Of Power was definitely the album that catapulted Pantera into the role of quintessential American Metal band of 90's. Between Dimebag Darrell's towering riffing and superlative solos, Phil Anselmo's vicious vocal delivery and Vinnie Paul and Rex Brown's groove-oriented rhythmic session, the face of extreme music changed forever. Among others, songs like "Mouth for War", "New Level", "This Love", "Walk" and "Hollow", cemented the end of the musical metamorphosis this Texan quartet had begun to undergo on their previous full-length, 1990's Cowboys From Hell. All this, combined with top-of-the line production values courtesy of Paul and recording guru Terry Date, helped to finally conjure the definitive Pantera sound... the sound that still today is so often imitated, but never replicated. The sound that is responsible for finally installing this fierce entity in the sacred and exclusive pantheon of Metal music, once and for all.