2014 continues to bring us outstanding cover imagery for many Metal albums worldwide. Using all kind of techniques, from traditional painting to digital design, artists have created exceptional visual marvels that amaze thanks in large to their level of detail, careful execution and, in some cases, profound conceptual ideas. In this second part of our "Best Album Covers of 2014," we keep exploring some of these special pieces of art. Let's see what the people involved in the making of these images had say.
Martin Popoff is beyond any doubt the most productive book writer in the Hard Rock/Metal scene. The best proof of this is his unique capacity of producing two or three books per year. His carefully crafted, glossy-looking volumes usually combine compelling storytelling with first-rate visual material. Some of the most superb examples of this are "Run for Cover" (about iconic illustrator, Derek Riggs) "Fade to Black: Hard Rock Cover Art of the Vinyl Age" and more recently his collaboration with Malcolm Dome and a selected group of writers, in the art book "The Art Of Metal."
2014 is just beginning and there already are a lot of interesting artworks adorning the covers of many Metal albums. We've selected four of the most striking ones to-date and spoke with some of the people involved in their development who in turn revealed numerous interesting facts. We listened, learned and now, we're sharing with you this info! Feel free to do the same...
For some Hard Rock/Metal fans, the best way to support their favorite bands is by buying records, t-shirts, concert tickets, etc. Others go a little further and start fanzines, blogs and websites. There's also a very select group of people that helps to protect and enhance the visual legacy of the genre. British designer, Hugh Gilmour is one of those such people. He's been a true champion in keeping current the visual works of old masters like Black Sabbath, Rainbow, Whitesnake, Dio and by also designing new, original covers for artists like Bruce Dickinson, Orange Goblin, Grand Magus, and the list goes on... Herein Gilmour talks about his origins as a designer, his passion for music and the particularities of creating the visuals for Special Edition reissues, something which he considers a unique privilege.
These days, American Prog Metallers Fates Warning are indisputably busy. They are promoting their most recent opus, Darkness In A Different Light, the cover artwork of which features a rather-simple-yet-iconic digital illustration of a bird-like origami piece. If fans look back; however, they'll discover that some of the most unforgettable cover artworks in this band's discography have been designed by Ioannis. This Greek-born artist has created, for the band, hypnotic and surreal images that stimulate viewers' imaginations to unexpected new heights. Herein the artist reveals the stories behind the making of four of these such cover artworks. Discover the secret....
Picture the covers for Kiss' Destroyer, Rainbow's Rising, or Manowar's Kings Of Metal. These works of art all posses the epic feel and masculinity that only an artist like Ken Kelly is capable of conveying. For more than 40 years the Connecticut-born illustrator has been working non-stop, creating Comics, book and album covers, film artwork, private commissions, and much more. In fact, his KISS artworks have been featured as part of the band's merchandise more than any other visuals in the band's history.
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.
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...."