Monday, May 16, 2016

Misanthropic Urban Landscape: Creating Polyptych's "Defying the Metastasis" Artwork.

America's extreme metallers, Polyptych, just made available their brand new album,"Defying the Metastasis."



Despite being a self-released effort with budgetary limitations, the band has paid a great deal of attention to every detail related to the album. This includes the cover and layout artworks which were created by Chris Kiesling of Misanthropic Art, who also worked with the band in their previous album, Illusorium.

Exclusively for And Justice For Art, Polyptych's bassist, Frank Lato, explains that "the art seeks to visualize both an individual/population struggle against forces that are overwhelmingly larger than themselves including themes of paranoia and oppression within a fictional totalitarian society."




"My goal with the artwork for “Defying the Metastasis” was to create something different and new that I had never done before in terms of drawing technique and style," Kiesling comments. "I talked with Frank about the album's concept and what the band wanted to express with their music, and I only saw it fitting that I should push myself a step further and kept it very abstract to capture a modern dystopian world."

"It was clear from the beginning that the artwork would be different to "Illusorium," Kiesling adds. He produced the artwork using a combination of mixed/digital media and acrylics. [The city landscapes of] Jeremy Mann among others, were a huge inspiration. The band sent me some example images for mood color scheme and general perspective, I went from there and had basically free hand in doing my thing, which resulted in me also doing the complete layout for the release. I really appreciate that Frank and the band trusted me and supported my creativity. I’m glad it turned out the way it did, and I wish there would be more bands out there with such a great attitude towards painters and illustrators.



“Defying the Metastasis” is now available via Polyptych's bandcamp at: http://polyptych.bandcamp.com/

Friday, April 22, 2016

An Infinite Skull-Filled Landscape: Making Burning Hatred's "Carnage" Cover.

Dutch death metallers, Burning Hatred​, just released their new album, titled "Carnage" via Vic Records​. The album's stunning cover was painted by The Crystallomantic Art​.


"This  artwork is an acrylic painting and was actually created way back in 2014 when Burning Hatred's guitarist, Martin Brakert, approached me and asked if I would be interested in creating the cover for the then still-to-be-recorded album "Carnage". I had previously collaborated with Martin and his other band Anarchos for whom I had created the 'Descent into the Maelstrom' EP cover and we had developed a good working relationship," comments Crystallomantic's mainman, artist Wolven Claws​." 

"The concept brief from the band was to depict a pile of dead bodies shrouded in mud with a pit in the foreground," Wolven Claws comments, exclusively for And Justice For Art​. "I was given links to various concentration camps and POW camps and various massacres for inspiration. I was also pointed towards a particular artwork by the Polish artist Zdzisław Beksiński​ to provoke the overall feel the band wanted as well as its colors and tonal values... The layout of the design was pretty spontaneous and stayed unaltered from start to finish. However, during the final stages, I came up with the idea of painting lots of skulls/ rotting heads disappearing off into the background to create an extra sense of perspective. I messaged Martin and asked 'how many dead bodies do you want in the artwork?' to which he replied 'hundreds!' so I literally added hundreds of heads buried in mud."  

The creative process presented some unexpected problems. "First, the place where I took it to be scanned had problems with its scanners and ended up with colored stripes running down the entire artwork which I had to digitally remove. Then, my computer crashed whilst saving the final image and I lost part of the top of the art which I had to redo digitally. Apart from that I think it turned out pretty good."

The band is also very satisfied with the finished result. Guitarist, Martin Brakert, comments: "We are impressed and proud of the artwork Wolven made for us. It really suits the music and the artwork sums up the lyrical content of the "Carnage" album. You see the somberness, terror and death of the lyrics in this piece of majestic art."

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

PROTECTING THE CHILD: THE STORY BEHIND LELAHELL's "ALIF."

Lelahell is a fierce Algerian death metal band currently recording their second album, titled "Alif" featuring a cryptic-yet-iconic cover artwork courtesy of German artist, Björn Gooßes of Killustrations.


"When Lelahell got in touch regarding a possible artwork, I knew this would be something special," Gooßes comments, exclusively for And Justice For Art. "Guitarist/singer, Aouameur Redouane, approached me with a quite elaborate lyrical concept about a person named Abderrahmane and his tale of woe. I had to convert that into a striking image and I came up with Abderrahmane sitting on desert soil, while drawing a circle of blood around him in order to protect himself from danger. I think it turned out to be a quite unusual image and hopefully captures the feeling Lelahell wants to evoke with their music."

In addition, guitarist/vocalist, Redouane, comments: "Each Lelahell release is conceptually linked to the character of Abderrahmane, yet focusing on another evolutionary step—another chapter in his own book. In the lyrics of our first EP "Al Intihar" Abderrahmane is tired of his own life full of constraints, so he commits suicide. Our first album "Al Insane... the (Re)Birth of Aberrahmane" deals with his rebirth. Our new album "Alif" is now focusing on Abderrahmane's first steps in his new life, just like a child learning to speak, walk, learning about the world around him. Yet this is full of foes and fears, that's why Abderrahmane needs to save himself from those dangers. Killustrations' interpretation of this concept with Abderrahmane sitting amidst a blood circle in a vermin-infested desert perfectly captured the mood we had in mind."

Lelahell is currently running a crowd-funding campaign to raise the funds they need to finish the album. Help them to reach their goal. See more details at Indiegogo.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

New "And Justice For Art" and "Extreme Shots" Exhibit at Florida Metal Fest 2016.

We're proud to announce the exhibit "And Justice For Art Presents: A Look To Some Of Floridian Death Metal's Greatest Album Covers." As the title indicates, this is a short but significant visual journey showcasing in glorious vivid colors, some of the most iconic artworks in the discography of bands like Morbid AngelObituaryHate  Eternal, Deicide, Death (Official)NocturnusAtheistCynic and many more... Next to each artwork there will be exclusive comments by musicians like David Vincent (ex-Morbid Angel) John Tardy (Obituary), Mike Browning (Nocturnus), Erik Rutan (Hate Eternal) and celebrated artists like Eliran Kantor, Dan Seagrave, among others.


The exhibit will take place during the upcoming Florida Metal Fest on January 30, 2016. The "And Justice For Art" book will be also on display. Those visiting the exhibit will enjoy the possibility of winning an autographed copy of the "And Justice For Art" book and talking with the book's author, Ramon Oscuro Martos.

In addition, renowned music photographer, Tim Hubbard, will be exhibiting some of his iconic images for bands like Obituary, Death, Atheist, Nocturnus, and many more. Martos and Hubbard will be also promoting "Extreme Shots", an upcoming book spanning more than 20 years in the Hubbard's career and his involvement with the Floridian Metal scene. You can now follow Extreme Shots on Facebook.

Florida Metal Fest will take place on January 30, 2016. If you're coming, make sure to check out these unique exhibits.






Thursday, September 3, 2015

A British/Ecuadorian Visual Opus.

Earlier this year, British black metallers, Ethereal, unleashed their newest collection of sonically-depraved tracks, titled "Opus Aethereum." The album comes accompanied by an elegant, highly symbolical mixed media artwork spawned by designer, Santiago Francisco Jaramillo of Triple Seis Design.  

Jaramillo already has in his resume imagery created for bands like Pestilence and Deeds Of Flesh, among others. Below, Ethereal's vocalist, Naut, and lead guitarist, M-Inaz, briefly comment about his experience working with the Ecuadorian artist. 


AJFA: Why did you choose Santiago as the designer for cover the cover of "Opus Aethereum"? 

M-Inanz: Santiago has worked on artworks for some of my favorite releases (i.e Pestilence, Amon and Deeds of Flesh) This is one of the reasons I was pleased when he accepted the challenge to work for us. We all saw what he was capable of and he didn't disappoint!

Naut: We were all fans of Santiago's work before we contacted him about doing our album, so of course we were excited to have an artist of his caliber involved with "Opus Aethereum."

AJFA: How does this artwork relates with the overall lyrical content of "Opus Aethereum"? 

M-Inanz: It definitely helps to set the scene for the album, which is what artwork should do! It combines religious and mythological imagery set in and around a new paradigm. It appears post apocalyptic with the beast triumphant on his throne at the center of the image.

Naut: The imagery in the artwork mirrors the albums lyrical content, and so I think the image helps to embellish and enrich the listening experience. Cohesion between the sonic and visual aspects of Ethereal is very important to us, and the choice of album artwork was no exception. 

AJFA: Tell us about your reactions about seeing the final artwork integrated as part of the physical version of the album. 

M-Inanz: I remember when we received the first copy of the artwork - It was amazing! We had tried several artists to design our vision but when we received the Triple Seis work - it looked world class. It fitted the subject matter in the lyrics and also sets the mood for the music.

Naut: As soon as I saw this piece of artwork, I knew it was the perfect choice for "Opus..." I had an idea in my mind of how I would like the album to look. However, not being an artist myself, it was very hard to articulate. When I saw the Triple Seis design, it captured perfectly the images I had in my mind. Sometimes, things simply fall into place.

AJFA: Judging your works, it feels that this is the first of many collaborations to come with Santiago. 

M-Inanz:  "Opus Aethereum" has been reviewed all over the world. The artwork is ALWAYS mentioned for looking professional and well designed to fit the music. That has confirmed that our instinct to work with Santiago was well worth it!

Naut: I have heard lots of praise concerning the album art, I would hope to work with Santiago again in the future.


Monday, August 10, 2015

Cattle Decapitation and the end of all things: The making of "The Anthropocene Extinction" cover artwork.

Californian extreme metallers, Cattle Decapitation, and irreverent American illustrator, Wes Benscoter have an uncompromising attitude towards art. That's probably why their longtime collaboration have proven to be so successful. The first time the band used one of the artist's twisted visions was for their 2002 opus "To Serve Man." That was followed by the iconic, over-the-top "Humanure," and the list goes on.

Fast forward to 2015, Benscoter just spawned a new Cattle Decapitation album cover (his sixth for the band), this time for the critically-acclaimed "The Anthropocene Extinction." The disturbing image continues with the alarming socio-political discourse explored on some of their previous collaborations. It also dares to propose a bleak vision of the future. Given human race's self-destructive behavior, such scenario could definitely happen. 

Below, Cattle's maniacal frontman, Travis Ryan, takes us through the process of making this artwork and reveals why the work with Wes Benscoter continues to be so exciting after all these years.  


AJFA: Is there a specific lyrical concept that somehow binds all the songs of the album together while reflecting what we see on the cover?  

Travis Ryan: Yes, actually there’s a loose theme that swims throughout the record that has to do with the album title - that we’re ravaging the earth, that we will most likely be our own undoing and that the industries that are hand in hand with our technological advances and the level at which it takes to sustain the populated areas of the world are what will bring about the extinction of our own species.

AJFA: One more time, you are collaborating with your longtime graphic artist, the one and only Wes Benscoter. At this point this has become one of the most enduring collaborations in the world of extreme music.

Travis Ryan: That’s exactly how I always wanted it to be. I liked the idea of giving our stuff a specific look so you could always tell it was a Cattle Decapitation album. Wes is by no means exclusive to us like say, Vincent Locke and Cannibal Corpse, but we’ve maintained a great relationship. He likes my ideas and I love his art and know he’s the man for the job. Sometimes I miss the mark and he lets me know. And he’s always fucking right. Then we collaborate until we reach an agreement and that usually only takes one simple conversation and done.

AJFA: Tell us about the cover concept for "The Anthropocene Extinction." Who came up with that idea and what exactly inspired it?

Travis Ryan: I came up with the idea a year or so ago. The problem was, what to call it? That took a little longer, but I knew what I wanted. 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.

AJFA: Were there any other concepts/ideas that were considered for the cover that were eventually discarded?

Travis Ryan: No, actually. I haven’t had that problem since [the album] "Karma.Bloody.Karma!" Haha… Wes and I have really just honed our chops of working together and its like he crawls inside my head and knows exactly what to do. I did have many titles though, which found their way onto the album in the form of song titles but I’ll keep those to myself. 

AJFA: One of the nicest-yet-more ominous details in the complete panoramic artwork is the presence of the monolith already featured on the cover of your previous album "Monolith..." Is this new vision somehow a visual/conceptual continuation of that previous cover?

Travis Ryan: Yes, when going over the idea, it dawned on me that it would be nice to show the viewpoint of looking down the beach and if that’s the case, then lets make it cover two panels instead of the usual one to give it that epic feel and then right away the idea of having a peninsula of trash with the monolith from the last album cover on it. Oh, and while we’re at it, might as well throw in the building from "The Harvest Floor," the album before it, in there too! Kind of just like an avalanche of ideas, really.

These three records I feel tie together nicely as they deal more with the environment, something that my father always taught me to respect. Just kinda wanted to throw an Easter egg in there for the fans and it worked well conceptually. I always like that about Derek Riggs’ work with Iron Maiden. That shit was always the coolest so I wanted to impart that to the fans as album art still is an important role in our stuff, even if the industry is starting to move towards a cleaner, more frequent output that may not call for art in the future.  

AJFA: As usually happens with your album covers this one contains a strong socio-political commentary about where we are heading as a society hyper-focused in consumerism. Visually and thematically, it's your bleakest cover art, and definitely  reflects an utterly hopeless vision of the future. 

Travis Ryan: Yep, that’s basically what’s going on here. We wanted something dark, but still modern and rather relevant. Living next to the Pacific Ocean like I do, you don’t get much more relevant than that, and the fact that overpopulation, sustainability and waste is very much an issue.

AJFA: Some of the details that really make emphasis in the physical/social degeneration of our society are the pollution, the presence of what it seems to be large amounts of pills, plastic and ultimately the decay of human and animal life. Was there any specific criteria that you followed in order chose these elements as part of the concept or were just elements that came out during the creative process?

Travis Ryan: I just wanted to focus on the fact that what you do matters. Collectively and independently. Each of our actions, as small and insignificant as they seem, do add to the greater whole and it appears that our existence has only led to the breakdown of ecosystems - and here, the ocean is the target - the vast ocean, the most unknown parts of planet earth. Just one big toilet for us to piss away, which is how it seems its treated, along with all other life on earth. The human as the cancer.

AJFA: Of course, the artwork is also a throwback to classic apocalyptic imagery. Was there any specific movies, comics, etc. that influenced the look and atmosphere of this artwork?

Travis Ryan: Not really. I told the band the concept, they dug it and all collectively agreed that we should go with blues and greys and make it as DARK and foreboding as possible. I was down, just as long as we could distance it enough from "The Harvest Floor" because it sounded like they were sharing the same color palette. That’s always something that Wes and I take into consideration. I mentioned “coke bottle green” as a color I’d like to see in there. Just reminded me of “sea glass”... tarnished, weathered, beaten by nature. That’s what you see here, but its our own nature that eventually did us in. 


AJFA: Did the art suffer too many changes from beginning to end? How did you/the band reacted to the finished art?

Travis Ryan: Not at all. EVERYONE knew what I was looking for and when we got it, I remember Josh looked at me and said “Well… YEAH. That’s it alright!” It was obvious that this was the one and I knew it would be, I mean come on, its Wes we’re talking about here, haha. 

I was stoked when I first saw it but I knew what to expect more than anyone and there were a few tweaks that needed to be made composition wise and a few other things we had him change but there wasn’t much this time. This probably had the least back and forth between us. 

AJFA: On this artwork you keep exploring other themes that apparently seem to be unrelated to the animal-based scenarios of your previous artworks. Is this a conscious approach or is it something just happening as part of your natural development as a band?

Travis Ryan: Things happen for a reason and I think there’s just more stuff to talk about. I do circle back though on every album with songs in there addressing more animal-focused themes. For example, Clandestine Ways (Krokodil Rot) is about busting into a cosmetics testing facility and taking control, injecting the scientists with Krokodil just to be dicks. To show them how ridiculous it is to make animals suffer for other’s vanity. Turning the tables, its what we’re known for, lyrically. BUT, I do have an album cover in mind that I’ll use one day, and I believe I even have the title for it, that will come full circle, but again, I’ll just have to keep that to myself. 



AJFA: What makes to always come back to Wes every time you need a new cover art? 

Travis Ryan: Besides the stuff I already listed, he’s just THE MAN when it comes to making ideas into reality. And I’m always taken aback by them. Sometimes, it doesn’t even register that this is a piece of gold he’s given me because it will be so different from what I had in my mind - BUT… it will always be better. 

"The Anthropocene Extinction" can be ordered here. 
The book "And Justice For Art" includes the whole story about Cattle Decapitation/Wes Benscoter collaborations and can be ordered here.
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Saturday, August 1, 2015

Visual artists show their support for "And Justice For Art."

Since the publication of the "And Justice For Art"  book, many visual artists from all over the world (both illustrators and album cover designers) have shown an amazing level of approval and interest for it. To demonstrate how much they like the visual and written content, some of them even took the time to be photographed with the book. Such level of support definitely rules!!! Check out some of those portraits below.

                              ELIRAN KANTOR (Testament, Iced Earth, Sigh, Soulfly) 
"In my spare time ALL I do is reading the book. I can't take it off my hands.  
This book brings me so much joy!"

PAUL RAYMOND GREGORY (Blind Guardian, Dio, Saxon, Bloodstock Festival founder)
"The book looks great. I placed it in pride beneath my original artwork for
 Saxon's album 'Sacrifice.'"


TRAVIS SMITH (Death, Opeth, Katatonia, Nevermore)
"A beautiful document of some of the best and most significant album 
artworks in heavy metal history."


FURSY TEYSSIER (Les Discrets, Alcest) & VALNOIR (Amorphis, Paradise Lost, Ulver)
"The book looks good! Great work."


PETE ALANDER (Yngwie Malmsteen, KK Downing, Michael Schenker)
"All I can say is thank you for the hard work, it looks amazing!!"


BAHRULL MARTA (Sinister, Carnivored, TON)
"Great book, so many great artist featured, full of information and history          
behind the album covers from the artists themselves. That's so inspiring!"


GARY RONADLSON (Kreator, Napalm Death, Misery Index)


For more information about the book's availability visit "And Justice For Art" official store.  


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Wolven Claws Spawns Austerymn's "Sepulcrum Viventum."

The Crystallomantic Art is a small design boutique dedicated to produce twisted graphics for many underground Metal bands around the world. The man in charge of developing such visions works under the moniker of Wolven Claws. One of his latest projects is a series of grotesque illustrations created for the album "Sepulcrum Viventum" by Death Metal collective, Austerymn. Below, the artist reveals details about his collaboration with the Greek musicians and the creative process behind the "Sepulcrum Viventum" cover art and inner illustrations. 


AJFA: How did you became involved with Austerymn and this particular project?
Wolven: I have worked with Austerymn before. In fact I have created a number of artworks for them over the last couple of years, cassette covers, shirts etc. Most of these are now featured in the rest of the packaging for this release. It's kind of like a CD sized Wolven Claws art portfolio haha! 

In fact, this is not the original artwork that I made for the album - the original art was entitled ‘Hallucination Du Sabbat III’ and featured two gnarly undead extraterrestrial females about to go down a goat phallus which also doubled up as their nipples as they were conjoined twins, joined at the breast . It sounds rather bizarre but that is the art that drew the attention of Rik Simpson (Austerymn guitarist/vocalist) and I have done their artwork ever since. That art was created for Austerymn over two years ago but when the recording was almost finished the other guys in the band had a change of heart about the cover, for whatever reason. So instead, they chose another one of my existing artworks.
AJFA: What inspired the concept for this artwork?
Wolven: I created the artwork over a year ago. I tend to go through spells of creating similar themed art at the same time, such as the different Baphomets. For example, I am currently working on a series of works simply entitled ‘Impalement’, which is pretty self-explanatory. The ‘Sepulcrum Viventium’ artwork, or ‘Triskull’ as it has become known, was one of a number of artworks I did using conjoined skulls as a theme. I did one artwork which consisted of two skulls facing each other with an inverted cross between them but as I looked at it I realised that if I pushed the two skulls together they would actually create the illusion of a third skull facing the viewer in the middle so I created another drawing using that idea and that is the one on the Austerymn cover.



AJFA: What technique/medium you used to create this particular artwork?
Wolven: The actual art is created with ball point pen on art paper, as is all of the Austerymn stuff which I have so far created. After the band chose that art, I combined it with some already existing skull borders which I had also drawn in ball point pen and whizzed it all up on the computer and hey presto; ‘Sepulcrum Viventium’.
AJFA: Are there any other illustrations made by you for the album's booklet?
Wolven: Yes, some of the other artworks that I have made for Austerymn have been reproduced in the packaging for this album, making it a 'bumper pack' of my art. The original cover I mentioned is partly featured on the back of the CD case. The ‘Masticating upon the Entrails of the Undead’ art which I made for their ‘Dead’ t-shirt last year is in there too. The ‘Riven’ artwork which I made for the cover to their official ‘In Death…We Speak’ cassette is featured behind the lyrics as is the fold out art of the cassette. The track ‘Riven’ on the album was actually inspired by the art. I also made a couple of exclusive artworks for the album, one of this was used for the disc tray, the other one seems to have disappeared up its own arse. 


AJFA: Have the band sent you any impressions about the finished artwork?
Wolven: The band loved it as it was actually chosen by them. I have seen the printed version and it looks awesome.
AJFA: What are your next projects?
Wolven:am currently working on a number of projects. I have just done the shirt for the Farmageddon Open Air Festival in Canada, and I am working on some designs for Demonic Extinction (US). There are a few artworks coming out later in the year. Burning Hatred's ‘Carnage’ is one to look out for as well as some others but unfortunately I can not disclose them yet.

Monday, July 13, 2015

OF TENTACLES AND ANIMALS: THE MAKING OF GYRE'S "MOIRAI" EP COVER ART.

Gyre is a band that, little by little, has been building a solid musical reputation as fine purveyors of modern extreme/prog Metal. Their latest (and for some finest) recording effort is the EP titled "Moirai." This new material showcases the American collective as it most sonically aggressive and comes accompanied by a cover artwork rich in cryptic animal iconography. 

In the following interview, bassist Ian McCartney, reveals the details behind the creation of this cryptic visual by American illustrator, David Paul Seymour.


AJFA: Would you consider this new EP as the band's most important recording to date?

Ian McCartney: We think all our releases are very important to Gyre’s musical development.  For this EP, we conscientiously tried to create and do what came naturally to the song while it was being created. I believe we became better at recognizing when a song needed to breath, when a song needed a bridge, when a song needed to rock and when a song just needed to roll. It comes down to understanding what the song is calling for as you're creating it.

AJFA: Who came up with the concept for the cover artwork?

Ian McCartney: As with most of the things we create, the idea for the cover was a collective endeavor.

AJFA: How did illustrator David Paul Seymour become involved with project and why did you choose him for the artwork's design?

Ian McCartney: I had been researching different artists through Instagram, looking at other bands artwork and ran across David’s work. The two things that instantly drew me to his work were the ‘70s feel/vibe/undertone to a lot of his art and the detail.  He was one of the first people we reached out to and his willingness to breathe life to our idea and consistency of communication sold us.

AJFA: This artwork is both intriguing and appealing.  What's the meaning behind this mingling of animals and cryptic imagery?  

Ian McCartney: The triangle with the dot in the middle is a very old symbol that represents the womb, the primordial Goddess, bringer of life. The dot in the center represents creation.  It is also part of the third chakra, the manipura (which correlates with our first two albums covers that have the first two chakras represented within them). This third chakra represents the origin of your confidence, your willpower and determination. The energy of this chakra is thought to allow you to transform inertia into action and movement. It allows you to meet challenges and move forward in your life. 

The animals represent our individual wills, wants and desires. They are trying to break away from the cycle of birth, life and death or Moirai (the sisters of fate in Greek mythology) that rule over the lives and deaths of gods and men, alike. The tentacles are symbols of the Moirai’s inescapable control over our fate no matter how much we yearn, work and desire. In essence, the triangle represents creation (Clotho), the animals represent life and the will to live (Lachesis), and the tentacles represent our inevitable end (Atropos).

AJFA: How does this image represent the EP’s music and lyrics?

Ian McCartney: All of the lyrics on this album, in some way, connect with the idea of determination, willpower and trying to get as much done with the time we have here - fighting against the inevitability of death. No matter how much we struggle against the inevitable - the inevitable will eventually come to be, so learn and create as much as you can with the gifts and time you were given.

AJFA: Besides the eye, the presence of tentacles reminds of the previous EPs cover arts. Was that a way to relate all your recordings?

Ian McCartney: Yes, the tentacles are a theme we have intentionally included in all our releases. As stated before, they are a representation of our most base survival instincts to live and keep living, but also, the ultimate and inescapable fate of all that does live.  




Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Norwegian Rituals: Truls Espedal brings to life Enslaved's "In Times" album artworks.

Norwegian painter, Truls Espedal, has been collaborating with extreme/prog metallers, Enslaved, for more than a decade. By now, he has consecutively created eight of the band's album covers. That includes their new opus, 2015's "In Times." 

Both ominous and highly symbolical, the paintings adorning the album's front and back sleeve enrich Enslaved's and Espedal's visual lore. However, it also retain the human motif already explored on recent covers for "Riitiir" (2012) and "Axioma Ethica Odini" (2010). 

After revealing all the details about his successful relationship with the band in the critically-acclaimed  book And Justice For Art, Espedal now discusses the making of the "In Times'" artworks in the interview below. 

AJFA: Who came up with the concept for this cover, was it you or the band? 

Truls Espedal(Guitarist) Ivar Bjorson and (bassist/vocalist) Grutle Kjellson came up with the concept. It ties in really well with their theme and the lyrical content of the album.

AJFA: By now, you and the band have established a very peculiar work dynamic and creative process. First, you talk on the phone. Then, you meet, eat, drink, have a good time and brainstorm about the themes of the new album. Was the initial creative process for "In Times" similar to previous opportunities? 

Truls Espedal: The process was more or less the same 'traditional' one that we have done on all the other covers. Ivar and Grutle first tell me about their ideas, theme and express which visual elements they want included in the cover. Then I spend a week or so getting my head around it and come up with some visual ideas before the three of us meet. But some things we did slightly different this time around. Instead of just a first phone call, we meet up backstage of the Enslaved/Wardruna concert at Eidsvoll, Norway. A brillant concert by the way! The second thing different this time around was that I actually did quite a few sketches before we met up (Usually I just have all the ideas in my head and the first sketches are done when we meet). I had rough pencil sketches for both the front and back cover, the inside of the Gatefold vinyl as well as color sketches.

AJFA: Did the band give you any materials to get you inspired, like lyrics or the recording, like happened with "Riitiir"?

Truls Espedal: Like last time around ("Riitiir"), I got both lyrics and songs almost from the get go. So I listened to the album the whole time I was working on the paintings and the layout for the full cover.

AJFA: Visually, this is a sort of departure compared with your previous artworks for the band, especially the last two for "Riitiir" and "Axioma..." Was this change a conscious approach or was it something suggested by the band?

Truls Espedal: I always try to go for the approch that I feel will compliment Grutle and Ivar's music and ideas the best. And I also want people to recognize the artwork as Enslaved, without repeating myself too much.  Ivar and Grutle are the ones with the original concept and ideas, but I have a lot of creative freedom in the choice of technique, form and composition.

AJFA: Stylistically, "Riitiir" and "Axioma..." were somehow related to the personal painting style you were doing at that time (using people, parts of the body, hands). Is the "In Times" cover also related with the new painting style you're doing right now?

Truls Espedal: My personal paintings are still much more similar to the style of the cover for "Riitiir."  But the front-cover for "In Times" is just part of the 'package'. The back-cover can be described as more figurative, and the inside illustration are much more abstract. This makes the new artwork more diverse than any of the previous covers, while still keeping the more realistic style a part of the expression.







AJFA: The "In Times" painting seems to have influences from Expressionism and Symbolism, especially in the treatment of color, lighting and subject matter. What's your opinion about this? Were there any artists, paintings or styles that served you as references? 

Truls Espedal: I think the work for Enslaved always have been full of symbolism, but as you mention, the use of lighting and color are even more exaggerated and expressionistic this time around. I wanted more atmosphere, mood and contrast. The contrast and choice of colors also serves as a reference to elements in mythology associated with Enslaved.

AJFA: What's the meaning behind these human-like creatures and why one of them is disintegrating? And what about the red sun-like symbol?

Truls Espedal: The figures are two Giants which can be seen as either disintegrating or coming together, and the symbol is a graphic representation of a Portal.

The  booklet's inner illustration

AJFA: What's the conceptual significance of this artwork and how it relates with the album's music and lyrics?

Truls Espedal: To me this artwork depicts a point of creation and represents a journey ahead: An exploration both inwards and outwards This might be more obvious when you see the full cover; front/back/inside. There are stark contrasts, details and atmosphere relating to the music, and visuals echoing the lyrics.

AJFA: Can you tell me about the medium/technique you used to paint this, how long it took you to finish it?

Truls Espedal: The original painting is 50x60 cm in size, and is done with oil painting on canvas. It took quite a while to finish, but I don't have an exact amount of hours. I paint layer upon layer, and each layer needs days to dry.

AJFA: Where's the original painting? Who has it?

Truls Espedal: The original paintings for both the front- and back cover are still in my studio in Oslo (back in early 2014). But I'm probably giving them to Grutle in April of 2015 when I meet up with the band before Enslaved's concert at next years Inferno-festival in Oslo.


AJFA: Your works for Enslaved always take audiences to unexpected paths. Audiences know they are going to get something striking but don't know exactly what until they see it. Probably, this lack of predictability is part of your longtime successful relationship.  Do you agree? 

Truls Espedal: Enslaved is a constantly evolving band, pushing musical boundaries and their own creativity. So I'm trying to do the same. I want to create something that is visually striking, layered and most importantly something that can represent the music and lyrics. If people appreciate the work and thinks that I achieve this, you could say that it is successful.

AJFA: Both Grutle and Ivar have said that you are pretty much the band's sixth member. That says a lot about the respect they have for you and your work. 

Truls Espedal: I've always wanted to be in a band, so that's really cool haha. But, seriously, I really appreciate their gesture. We have been working together for about thirteen years now, resulting in artwork for eight album releases. The collaboration so far has been great, which I think is because of good chemistry and mutual respect for each others craft and creativity.



                                                     Truls painting the back cover art.