Believe it or not, 2015 is almost over and what an exciting year it was for Metal and heavy music in general. Visually, the last 360 days saw loads of stunning new imagery adorning album covers globally, elevating both music and lyrics to new conceptual heights. On this third and final chapter of And Justice For Art's guide to some of the BEST album covers of 2015, we continue to explore some of the graphics that have since become part of Metal's visual legacy. Directly from the artists themselves, let's see what they had to say about their creations.
01. Baroness - Purple: Cover Artwork by: John Dyer Baizley
Keeping with the tradition established on their previous albums, the artwork for Baroness' new recording, Purple, features naked women, flowers, animals and the prominent use of a specific color palette—in this case Purple. This is not a mere coincidence, but rather a crucial part of the band's conceptual path.
As with all of the covers for the band's previous albums, Purple's was designed by frontman and artist extraordinaire, John Dyer Baizley. For him, all of the artwork in the band's discography are "connected, because each one represents growth."
Purple's cover was created using a mix of pencil, inks and watercolors. The book ...And Justice For Art: Stories About Heavy Metal Album Covers features a detailed recount of Baizley's experiences creating Baroness' album and EP artworks. Check it out RIGHT HERE.
02. Ghost - Meliora: Cover Artwork by: Zbigniew M. Bielak
The cover artwork that Polish illustrator/architect, Zbigniew M. Bielak, created by for Ghost's 2013 opus, Infestissumam, was inspired by the iconic poster for the Oscar-winning 1984 movie, Amadeus. For 2015's follow-up, Meliora, Bielak seems to be partly inspired by the aesthetics established in the 1927 film, Metropolis. However, the composition and visual approach are 100% original. This detailed and layered composition plays with the human perception via the iconic motif of Papa Emeritus (the band's vocalist) which is repeatedly presented or suggested in different parts of the artwork.
"To me, working with Ghost has always been among the most rewarding endeavors in the music realm," Bielak comments. "From a illustrator’s standpoint I can hardly think of another active band that keeps on putting so much effort into coherent visuals for their ever shifting concept. Their theatricals call for a vast stylistic coherence, and to me as architect it is always an exciting task to interpret historical ‘costume’ accurately, employing aesthetics from epoch’s original crafts, design, or fashion."
Keeping with the tradition established on Infestissumam, Meliora also includes a stunning collection of black and white illustrations that are conceptually-related to the cover. "Equally ironic as sinister, the entire body of Meliora’s twelve piece narrative offers a tragicomic insight into man’s most innocent era of indulgence, ambition and splendor," Bielak comments. "We keep on spiraling downwards since and Papa Emeritus’ position as High-Shrink of mankind’s weakness and self infatuation, seems to be well secured for many albums to come.... Let’s all stay thrilled to see where they’ll take us next."
03. Ahab - The Boats Of The Glen Carrig: Cover Artwork by: Sebastian Jerke
"The cool thing about creating artwork for Ahab is that their albums are always based on old novels about nautical themes," comments German artist, Sebastian Jerke, regarding his ongoing collaboration with German bringers of doom, Ahab. His latest cover for their 2015 album, The Boats Of The Glen Carrig is probably one of his most accomplished so far.
Before the artist started sketching, he read the book the new album was based on—William Hope Hodgson's horror novel "The Boats Of The Glen Carrig" (published 1907).
Regarding the colorful, almost trippy look of the image, Jerke reveals that, "Chris Hector (Ahab's guitarist) wanted all of the animals to look quite naive - with nothing evil in mind, just led by their minor instincts. So I tried to paint them with an appearance evocative of childlike nature. I hope I accomplished that goal."
Gore-lovers of the world, rejoice! The cover for Skull Grinder (the new recording by death metallers Autopsy) is a feast for the eyes of those who appreciate true visual carnage. Before hearing a single note, the viewer knows—just by looking at the artwork— that this album is going to be a "visceral, grinding experience," literally.
The twisted imagination and undeniable talent of master illustrator, Wes Benscoter, was crucial in order to convey such a gut-punching effect. The band is one of the few extreme Metal collectives that has collaborated with the visionary artist in several opportunities. Previously, he created the covers for 2011's Macabre Eternal and 2013's Tourniquets, Hacksaws and Graves.
For Skull Grinder Besconter decided to elevate to new aesthetic heights his distinctive mix of horror, gore and frantic violence. "I painted a sort of traditional grim reaper because I wanted to do a timeless Death Metal cover," the artist humbly comments regarding his imposing piece. "It has everything you could want in a Metal illustration: skulls, zombies, cruelty and a bit of textural gore. An instant classic!"
In recent years, Brazilian designer/musician Marcelo Vasco has been leaving his visual mark in the Metal scene thanks to his album covers for Metal heavyweights like Soulfly, Borknagar, and Machine Head. Recently, Vasco's pedigree went through the roof thanks to his latest design: the cover for Slayer's long-awaited album Repentless.
This might not be the most memorable artwork in the band's discography, but it is definitely iconic. It follows the same blasphemous discourse explored on previous Slayer album sleeves and has quickly become synonymous with the album's music.
About the concept, Vasco comments: "Everything I created was based on the album title and also on some ideas that could represent the 'old school' Slayer approach. As a huge fan of the band I just wanted to make it look like one of the classic covers, Slayer being Slayer!"
Regarding his technical/visual approach the artist admits that, "most of my artwork is done digitally through a mixed media process. I work manipulating images and photos, doing collages, working with textures/brushes and even freehand drawing a little bit. I’m constantly evolving on this area and this specific cover was made to look like a real painting, which was a huge challenge to me."
06. Hammer Horde - Fed To The Wolves: Cover Artwork by: Kris Verwimp
Celebrated illustrator Kris Verwimp painted the cover for Hammer Horde's Fed To The Wolves using acrylics and water oils on paper. The American Pagan/Melodic Death Metallers clearly decided to use Verwimp because of his vast experience creating visions of epic scope.
According to the artist, the concept for this artwork was inspired by the album's title track. "This is a song about a clan of Northmen who are betrayed by another clan when their brothers-in-arms do not come to their aide on the battlefield as they have in the past—leaving them to be 'fed to the wolves', so to speak," Verwimp says. He also comments that "the album title also has a few metaphorical meanings since in the past, the band has referred to themselves as "The Wolves of Vinland". Being fed to the wolves is also an phrase used when you put someone in a situation where there is nothing left to protect them... And finally, being "fed to the wolves" may even occur in the literal sense, where it is implied that wolves will scavenge upon the traitor's corpses after they are killed."
"Mexico's Acrania are quite a unique band—mixing progressive death metal with Mexican folk music and brass instruments," says Berlin-based visual maestro Eliran Kantor. He was appointed to create the vibrant artwork for Acrania's mind-bending 2015 release, Fearless.
Kantor decided to use Mexican folklore to illustrate the musical and cultural scope of the album. "I worked hard on avoiding a caricature-like results, that's always a risk when doing folk art for a culture you've never experienced first hand," he admits. "My initial idea was having a lion bursting out of a snake after being swallowed whole, and Acrania came up with a fitting title and also asked for a puma instead of a lion, so it'll have a stronger connection to the region."
08. Bloodway - Mapping the Moment With the Logic of Dreams: Cover Artwork by: Costin Chioreanu
It was a hell of a year for Romanian visual artist/musician, Costin Chioreanu. Any of the many impressive artworks he produced during 2015 could have been chosen for this article. Given the close connection he has with the cover for Bloodway's Mapping The Moment With The Logic Of Dreams (he's the band's frontman), we decided to include that artwork for this article.
The detailed, Dali-esque image captures the dreamy qualities of Surrealism and it ties with the album's inner illustrations. "All of them are hyper personal so is almost impossible to explain [what they mean] in words," Chioreanu comments. No doubt, all those images encapsulate the distinctive mix of black metal, psych-prog and avant-garde music present in Bloodway's material. "Bloodway exist without expectations, and without trying to please anybody but ourselves,” the artist assures. For him and his shape-shifting, surreal visions there's simply no barriers.
And there you have it! Without a doubt, 2016 will see many more stunning album covers and their equally cool stories. Happy holidays and see you soon!