...And Justice For Art: A Guide to (some of) the Best Metal Album Covers of 2015... so far - Featuring Byzantine, Hate Eternal, Sirenia, Oceano, Cattle Decapitation

- Jul 02, 2015 at 09:32AM
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Amazingly, the first half of 2015 is already behind us. Over the course of the last six months, many impressive Metal albums featuring stunning cover artwork have come to light (just take glimpse at some of the graphics featured below). These covers have each been brought to life through very distinctive techniques and, in their own way, successfully capture the essence of the music and lyrics featured on each of the recordings they're visually representing. Let's find out what the groups and visual artists behind these soon-to-be-classic works of art had to say about their creations.

01. Byzantine - To Release Is To Resolve:
Cover Artwork by: Christopher Lovell


For the their fifth studio recording titled To Release Is To Resolve, American metallers Byzantine, made sure to leave a jaw-dropping impression on those looking at the illustration adorning the album's cover sleeve. This intricate image combines a labyrinth, skeletal iconography, and copious pseudo-exoteric imagery. "The album cover concept was Christopher Lovell's idea," vocalist/guitarist Chris "OJ" Ojeda, comments. "We sent him the demos we had been working on and he basically worked up the artwork based off of the feeling that the new music gave him."

Lovell—a Welsh artist that is making waves thanks to its hyper-detailed illustrations—comments: "I knew I wanted to have a lot of skeletal elements and probably a skull as the main central feature. I was thinking of ways that could make the skull interesting. After hearing the album demos and to all the melodic twists and turns, a labyrinth seemed nice and fitting. It gave a massive sense of scale to the art that I think compliments the songs in a visual form. I drew out the entire image traditionally in pencil and ink. I like to mix a little white acrylic and various markers with the pencils to create strong contrasts of light and dark."

"The cover was damn near perfect in what we envisioned," Ojeda admits. "I couldn't believe it was pen and ink. I am still finding small hidden details within the artwork, like the ornate patterns on the robes being worn. It's fantastic!"

02. Hate Eternal – Infernus:
Cover Artwork by: Eliran Kantor


The magnificent cover artwork for Hate Eternal's new album Infernus was painted by Berlin-based maestro, Eliran Kantor, whose long list of creations includes illustrations for Testament, Sigh, Iced Earth, among many other Metal heavyweights.

Regarding the inspiration behind the cover concept, Kantor comments: "I got this idea from a Woody Allen (the filmmaker) interview I read a few months earlier, where he argued something along the lines of life being a bit meaningless because at some point our sun will die and all of history, music, art and literature, all of man's greatest achievements - all will be lost forever. So I imagined this scenario where mankind built an artificial sun - that big red sphere on the left - and everyone is trying to get as close to it as possible. The central character is ripping pages from books in order to build a set of wings for him. It's a metaphor for art being used by its authors as means to achieve immortality by cementing their place in history's pages. A demon is included in order to make a stronger connection with the rest of Hate Eternal's discography."

The artwork, which seems to be influenced especially by the Symbolist visual/philosophical tradition, was created using media mix techniques.

03. Sirenia – The Seventh Life Path:
Cover Artwork by: Gyula Havancsák


Renowned artist, Gyula Havancsák of Hjules Illustration, created the highly symbolical cover art for Sirenia's new album The Seventh Life Path.

"I got some instructions from the band for the making of this cover artwork," the European artist recalls. "They wanted the character of death standing behind a white dressed woman. My first thought was: 'How can I show a beautiful girl without face? How can I avoid showing a girl face?' Well, I draw a white hood on her face, with crochet part in front of her eyes. This part looks like as a big eye that watches the fate of humans. She pulls a life thread, but this one soul is lost. We can see this line (could be silver for example) change to disgusting muddy brown between her fingers...and this thread runs into an hourglass...it falls down in the sand."

Regarding to the artwork's other symbols, Gyula also comments that the Norwegian band "wanted to see some roots and tree branches on the cover and the scythe that looks as the number 7 and a mountain with a path in the background. The mountain symbolizes life; the top of the mountain is the end of life—the highest point where you can look back your whole life. This is the meaning of the flexuous path... The 7 number appears as 7 ravens, 7 snakes, 7 roses on the dried out wreath."

04. Oceano – Ascendants:
Cover Artwork by: Dusty Peterson


"The artwork for Ascendants was definitely me stepping outside of my comfort zone," comments American illustrator Dusty Peterson (Six Feet Under, Bloodbath). "I normally do not work with such a wide color palette and I am not used to balancing so many colors at once, so this was absolutely a learning experience for me."

Peterson (who also illustrated the cover for Oceano's 2010 album Contagion) admits the concept for the exquisitely-crafted visual behemoth "was fairly deep. It was very important that the left side of the piece was 'light' and the right side of the piece communicated 'dark'. I wanted this to be a very high-contrast piece that really popped to the viewer. This was a piece that I really wanted to break down into a million parts and then build back up because it was very complicated in my head and I wanted to make sure that I could correct myself at each stage if I needed to.... Creating artwork, to me, is not about holding to my own rules. It's an evolution and a process and I will change my mind many times from start to finish. In my head, I can see a blurry version of the end product. But I have to discover the details with the actual creation of the piece."

05. Cattle Decapitation – The Anthropocene Extinction:
Cover Artwork by: Wes Benscoter


Irreverent Californian extreme metallers Cattle Decapitation and their longtime illustrator Wes Benscoter (who has designed most of their album covers, including the infamous Humanure) once again joined forces to create the artwork for the band's upcoming album, The Anthropocene Extinction.

The artwork (apparently created via a mix of photography, digital and hand-drawing painting techniques) conceptually deals with man's voracious attitude towards consumerism and its potential consequences.

"I came up with the idea a year or so ago," comments vocalist Travis Ryan, exclusively for And Justice For Art. "I had been paying a lot of attention to the great Pacific Garbage patch in the North Pacific Gyre, reading up on what's going on and of course the devastating trailer for the yet-to-be-released documentary 'Midway Film' which hit me very hard. I've always done my best to stay away from single-use items as much as possible but the real cause of the problem is overpopulation and the populous' desire for convenience. These are just topics I wanted to cover on this album."

The book "And Justice For Art: Stories About Heavy Metal Album Covers" includes a chapter detailing the collaborations between Besncoter/Cattle Decapitation and is now available here!

06. Rivers Of Nihil – Monarchy:
Cover Artwork by: Dan Seagrave


Over the last few decades, Toronto-based artist, Dan Seagrave, has been able to build an impressive portfolio that includes iconic artworks for albums by Dismember, Demon Hunter, Hypocrisy, Decrepit Birth, Rivers of Nihil, and many more. He collaborated with the latter for their 2013 debut, The Conscious Seed Of Light and 2015 follow-up, Monarchy.

Seagrave admits that the cover for Monarchy continues "the theme from the previous record. The season is now based around summer. In the text of the narrative we have shifted significantly forward in time, many thousands of years. The image depicts roughly the same location as the last album. The middle eroded tower holds on the top left, the steps which had led up to the life form 'pod'—a very small detail. In the background are the now heavily eroded and sand covered structures seen in that last artwork. The small statues dotted around depict the new life form that had succeeded us."

The British-born artist painted this piece using Acrylics. No doubt, this is an outstanding addition to his already illustrious collection of twisted visions and haunting scenarios.

Well, there you have it... for now. There are more awesome Metal covers to come in future editions of And Justice For Art. Be on the lookout!

Next Time on AJFA: Novel Visual Artists - Part 2
Previously on AJFA: ...And Justice For Art: Five Up-And-Coming Metal Visual Artists Featuring Luis Sendon, Rafael Tavarez, Nikos Markogiannakis, Ink4rt, and Christian Giuseppe
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