Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Best Panoramic Metal Album Artworks Of 2016

Since the release of Black Sabbath's debut, "Black Sabbath," countless Metal recordings have featured striking panoramic-shaped graphics on their front/back sleeves. Usually, the right portion of these images (the front cover) is the one that receives most of people's attention. However, in many cases, the left sections—commonly known as 'back sleeves'—tend to be as visually and thematically important as the front and reveal new layers of meaning and artistic intricacy. Just think about timeless album artworks like Iron Maiden’s “Somewhere In Time,” Saxon's "Crusader," Mastodon's "Once More 'Round The Sun," or the aforementioned Black Sabbath’s debut and you’ll get the idea.

Below, we're exploring six of 2016's most relevant panoramic Metal album covers. We talked to bands and the designers about making-of process and meaning behind these mesmerizing images that have already become part of heavy music's visual legacy.

BEASTWARS "The Death Of All Things" 
New Zeland-based sludge metallers, Beastwars, employed the unrivaled artistic talents of fellow countryman, Nick Keller, for the creation of the amazing artwork that adorns the  front/back sleeves of band's new album "The Death Of All Things." 

The imposing 60cm x 120cm oil on canvas painting is based on the legend of the Phoenix bird—but with a new twist. "In discussions around the visual direction, Beastwars' vocalist, Matt Hyde, revealed strong themes running through the album—songs dealing with trials of life through vice, damnation and possible redemption; a complete sense of running out of time and how, like death, all things can change in an instant," Keller explains. "No ending is perfect, strewn with unfinished hopes, ambitions and dreams. While that does sound grim, we wanted to express an impacting sense of power and optimism with the cover art."

Having designed the covers for the band's previous recordings definitely gave the artist freedom to explore certain themes—including the Phoenix idea. "I thought the idea of a twist on the mythological Phoenix presented an interesting metaphor for a number of these themes. Unlike the classical creature, birthed from the ashes of it's predecessor, our bird should be bursting forth from the belly of the serpent."

"The Death of All Things" is available via Beastwars' bandcamp.

KVELERTAK "Nattesferd"
Kvelertak collaborated on their first two album covers with American musician/illustrator, John Baizley of Baroness. For their third full-length, "Nattesferd," the Norwegian combo decided to change their visual aesthetics and joined forces with legendary artist, Arik Roper. The American visionary would develop a haunting, Sci-fiction-inspired landscape that also incorporates Nordic motifs.

"I came up with the concept, though I asked for input from the band," Roper—known for his artworks for Sleep, High On Fire, among others—reveals. "They suggested the Owl because they apparently use owls as an ongoing theme. I liked the idea of combining Norse mythology with Science Fiction elements. So I thought of a futuristic character within a fantastic environment and the tree of life, Yggdrasil, as part of the world."

The alluring, blue-dominated illustration was created with ink, gouache, and pastel. "Nattesferd" is available via Roadrunner Records.

Italian fierce quartet, Hierophant, combined efforts with fellow countryman, Paolo Girardi, to create the artwork for their new album, "Mass Grave." The wild visionary painter delivered a chaotic, red/crimson-dominated piece that features most of his visual trademarks—including apparent disarray in the composition, exploration of apocalyptic themes and a confluence of grotesque, violent and supernatural visual elements.

"Hierophant wanted a totally red artwork," Girardi comments. "For the front side (right) I've thought of Italian crypts under churches (columns and vaults), Italian cemeteries  mixed with the hill of crosses in Šiauliai, Lithuania  Many corpses as in many war (or drug trafficking) scenes. The big eyeballs give a human, deep, sick, insane, obsessive, delirious accent to the scene."

The artist used oils to create such apocalyptic vision. He confesses that the left portion of the artwork (the back) was mainly "inspired by Luis Rojo's apocalyptic landscapes with water and post-atomic ruins, joined with Turner's romantic views of Venice or London. The tower of houses in the middle  has been inspired by many Italian southern picturesque villages, clanged to spurs."

"Mass Grave" will be available via Candlelight Records.

TEMPLE OF EVIL "The 7th Awakening"
Released on CD early this year, "The 7th Awakening"—the debut of Cyprus-based black metallers, Temple of Evil—features a cover art depicting an obscure, cryptic ritual. It was crafted by the artist known as Khaos Diktator Design. "The main ideas for the artwork came into existence several years ago," the band comments. "It was obvious to us that the artwork needed to reflect the general atmosphere of the songs, conveying the appropriate dark feelings and ideas on to the listener and viewer, as both music and art need to be equally complementary and representative of each other."

According to Khaos Diktator, he got "brief instructions from the band concerning the concept and atmosphere which was expected from me to achieve with my art. After that I listened to the album tracks while trying to create clear visions which will be transformed into painting later. This album was pretty inspiring and it was easy to translate it on canvas.Temple of Evil creates occult, ritualistic atmosphere, so I figured out that fusion of baroque technique and images that I achieve while listening to their music came out as perfect recipe."

 "The 7th Awakening" can be streamed and downloaded at Temple Of Evil's bandcamp.

MAZEMATH "The Illusion Of Freedom"
"Creating this cover was really challenging in terms of bringing to life the different views and ideas of the band," reveals Scotland-based artist, Gabriel Hernández regarding his artwork for "The Illusion Of Freedom." This is the debut album by novel Chilean metallers, Mazemath

"The main concept they asked me to illustrate was a human timeline from baby to a defeated man, was only the starting point," Chilean-born Hernández says. "There were other ideas they wanted to incorporate: a group of girls in fetal position and a burning city. Since all these elements needed to have their own level of importance, I suggested them to create an extended cover, basically to enhance the main concept and give coherence to all these elements and build a consistent world.

Expanding on the cover concept, the band comments: "The lyrics [of the title track] talk about growing up and realizing that the game of life is not what they told and you are not free at all. The classic image of the monkey evolving into man came to mind. Every element in the art has to do with some track of the album: the bombers, the numbed bodies, the tree and the crows, the sun is really Apophis 99942 (an asteroid that may clash the earth), the burning city has some iconic building of Chile’s capital and the iron necklace was a torture device that was used on slaves." 

Hernández adds that "working digitally allowed me to manipulate elements at every stage of the process such as sketches, line art and final color, until they were happy with the result. I like to state that this project was definitely a collective effort rather than an illustrator’s vision."

"The Illusion Of Freedom" will be released on September 30, 2016. 

ARKONA "Vozrozhdenie"
Originally released in 2004, "Vozrozhdenie" ("Revival") has become a landmark in the career of Russia's premier Folk Metal collective, Arkona. Fast forward to 2016, the band decided to re-record the album and appointed celebrated illustrator Kris Verwimp with the task of painting a new cover art.

Verwimp (well known for his involvement with many Folk and extreme Metal projects and as the creator of mythical character, Odoric) started painting the ambitious panoramic artwork in 2015, using acrylics and water mixable oils on paper. "The moment is etched in my memory when I heard "Vozrozhdenie" for the first time," he comments. "I was awestruck by the phenomenal vocals and wonderful songs. Who would have known back then, that I would one day be painting a cover for a re-recording of this album?"

According to the artist, "the painting itself is a re-imagining of the original artwork in my own style. It depicts a Pagan celebration scene with a Slavic princess, warriors, priests and idols. Unfortunately I wasn't able to find out what the little insect creatures at the bottom represented, so I left those out. I also did illustrations for each song on the album."

"Vozrozhdenie" will be released on November 11th by Napalm Records.

USURPRESS "The Regal Tribe"
The eerie panoramic artwork for Usurpress new album, "The Regal Tribe," was painted by Marald Van Haasteren of Marald Art.

Exclusively for And Justice For Art, the Swedish metallers reveal that they "sent Marald the lyrics and the synopsis for the storyline of the album and gave him freedom to create something based on one of songs of his choice. He chose the track "Across the Dying Plains" and the painting is his interpretation of what it would look like. Those who are familiar with his art know that the skeleton, and especially the skull, is a recurring theme in his paintings. I think it's very important that the artist feels that he/she are allowed to do what he/she wants to do instead of just doing something that the band has already decided. The result will always be more alive and inspired."

"It was an absolute pleasure working for [the band]," Marald recently said. "Thanks again for all the artistic freedom and trust."

"The Regal Tribe" is available via Agonia Records.

IHSAHN "Arktis"
The cover for Ihsahn's "Arktis," is basically a rework of old photo of Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen, taken during his three-year expedition to the North Pole. Such stark visual approach is a continuation of the photography-based aesthetics Ihsahn and Spanish graphic artist, Ritxi Ostáriz have developed on the covers of the musician's previous albums. "As always, it's been an amazing pleasure to work for Ihsahn," enthuses Ostáriz. Before "Arktis," he designed the artworks for "Eremita" (2012) and "After" (2010), among others—usually using a similar aesthetic approach.

Regarding the relationship between the panoramic image and the album's music/lyrics, the visionary Norwegian metaller comments: "The whole atmosphere of facing the cold, immense unknown fits rather good with the general lyrical concept of the entire album. It paints a sense of doubt, hopelessness and frustration yet celebrates curiosity, free will and the choice to avoid conformity. It is, at best, an observance of one’s insignificance in relation to time, nature and space yet each individual’s ability to make things matter even if only to themselves.”

"Arktis" is available via Candlelight Records.

If you want to know more about the making of some of Metal's most iconic panoramic album artworks—like Black Sabbath's "Black Sabbath," Sleep's "Dopesmoker," Obituary's "Cause Of Death," Neurosis' "Times Of Grace," "Cathedral's "The Carnival Bizarre," Skid Row's "Slave To The Grind,"—check out the book "...And Justice For Art: Stories About Heavy Metal Album Covers" and dare to explore this fascinating topic even further. The book is available exclusively via our online store at BigCartel

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Bloodstock's Rock And Metal Museum honors Motorhead's Lemmy Killmister.

"The term legend is often overused but not in this case. Lemmy is a legend to so many fans and bands—an inspiration and character the like of which we're not likely to see again." These words by celebrated British painter/illustrator, Paul Raymond Gregory, clearly reflect his admiration for Motorhead's late vocalist/bassist, Ian 'Lemmy' Kilmmister. As the runner of UK's Metal fest, Bloodstock Open Air, Gregory had the opportunity of meeting Kilmmister in 2010. They had "a long conversation that left me feeling honored to have had. When I heard Lemmy had died I was both shocked and saddened. Motorhead also played Bloodstock which made me feel we had to honor his memory."

The artist (who has created artworks for bands like Dio, Saxon, Blind Guardian and is also known for his Tolkien-inspired canvases) took very seriously the idea of honoring Motorhead's frontman, whose unexpected passing last year shocked Metal fans and bands alike. "A fan came up with the idea of renaming the [festival's] main bar which we now call Lemmy's Bar." In addition, "I decided to create a painting of Lemmy for the bar sign, which I did." 

The imposing, oil on canvas portrait will be displayed this year at the Rock And Metal Museum (RAM). This exhibit is taking place during the celebration of Bloodstock's 2016 edition, from August 11th to 14th at Catton Park, Derbyshire. The exhibit includes many Rock/Metal related-art pieces, including some of Gregory's works. However, this year, it's going to be Lemmy/Motorhead-centered. "I decided to create a Lemmy wall that has the original Lemmy artwork in a bespoke hand-carved frame I designed that was made by the framer John Davies, responsible for framing all of my Tolkien inspired work." 
Paul Raymond Gregory's Lemmy portrait.

Gregory even commissioned regular RAM gallery exhibitor and great luthier, Oliver Andrew of Cynosure Guitars, with the creation of two hand-carved bass guitars which will sit either side of Lemmy's portrait. One of then, pays homages to Motorhead's iconic mascot, Snaggletooth. “Though stylistically very different from one another, both bass guitars represent the iconography and mise-en-scene of perhaps one of the most prodigious and pioneering rock/metal acts in musical history”, Cynosure proudly comments. 
Cynosure's Snaggletooth-inspired bass guitar
For the gallery, Paul Raymond Gregory also promises "a stunning poster designed by Christian Sloan Hall plus a plethora of framed Motorhead vinyl and much more." This includes the new revised edition of the book "And Justice For Art: Stories About Heavy Metal Album Covers" which features a chapter about the making of some Motorhead's most iconic artworks. "I wanted to make this all it could be in his memory," says Gregory. Definitely, it's a mission 100% accomplished.  
The new edition of the book "And Justice For Art" includes a chapter about Motorhead's artworks. Pre-order here.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

WORLD EXCLUSIVE: Unveiling artwork for the poster of the documentary "Home Of The Wind. A History Of Moonsorrow."

Independent film-making proposes many challenges—including finding proper financing to make your ideas a reality. Young filmmakers, Leo Aragon and Abel Grilo Do Demo, know this and are currently embarked in a titanic crowd-funding campaign via Indiegogo to raise the funds they need to finish their epic documentary "Home Of The Wind. A History Of Moonsorrow." 

As the title indicates, this film will be a recount of the career of Pagan Metal heroes, Moonsorrow. The filmmakers have the complete support of the Finnish band, who are helping them in their efforts to raise funds for the documentary. So far, their combined efforts have raised 70% of the campaign's goal.
The film's official poster was painted by seasoned illustrator, Kris Verwimp, who is well-known for his epic album covers for bands like Absu, Marduk, Suidakra, among others. He previously collaborated with Moonsorrow on the creation of the cover for the EP, "Tulimyrsky." In the following interview Verwimp talks about the creation of the poster for the documentary. His impressive, evocative Nordic-inspired landscape can be seen for the first time below in its original form—without any lettering or band logo. 

Kris, you have been painting artwork for metal albums for over 20 years. How did you start? Was it your own initiative, and did you decide to do it continuously already at that time?
Kris Verwimp: Actually, it all started way back in 1993 when I was trying to find a publisher for my Odoric comic book. At a local convention, the owner of a small underground label called “Midian Creations”, asked me if I would be interested in painting an LP cover for Ancient Rites’ “The Diabolic Serenades”. I had always been into Metal, but I never imagined I would ever get the chance to actually design an album cover. So I jumped at the opportunity and tried to create my best work ever. 
I didn’t think I would ever get such a chance again, but soon after the Ancient Rites album was released I got a call from Osmose Productions from France. A while later I was painting CD covers for Marduk’s "Opus Nocturne" and Absu’s "The Sun Of Tiphareth” along with numerous T-shirt designs for bands like Immortal, Enslaved, Angelcorpse, etc…
It was never a conscious decision. In the following years I just kept getting artwork requests from great bands. The music is always my number one source of inspiration. So when the music is great, it’s not hard to find the motivation. 
You painted the artwork for Moonsorrow's Tulimyrsky almost nine years ago, and it became a popular painting, that was even made into a huge poster in 2014. What are your memories about that one, concerning inspiration and the painting process itself?

Kris Verwimp: Well, I must start by saying that I was a fan of Moonsorrow ever since their first album “Suden Uni”. It was a blind purchase at the time, but I loved it immediately and bought all their releases ever since. I’ve spent many hours painting while listening to their music. To my surprise, one day I got a mail with the message that it was my turn to create an artwork for them! They presented the idea to do a very wide artwork. In fact, it was the same amount of work as 5 regular covers. The front cover would be this calm scene of only water and mountains, with only a hint of what was really going on. It was such an inspiring idea that it wasn’t difficult for me to come up with several rough compositions to choose from. The painting process itself took quite a while, but I remember enjoying it a lot. I love epic historical scenes, so this was a great opportunity. 

What was your reaction when you got a request about a Moonsorrow documentary—which needed pretty much the exact opposite of an epic historical action scene?

Kris Verwimp: Actually, I thought it was a great idea! I believe that nature can also be pretty epic and I think that the concept fits the title very well. There’s also the fact that the illustration has to serve as a backdrop for the logo. So it was something a bit different than usual and it required a different approach. I thought it would be a nice challenge.

What inspired you to paint this particular image? Were you given a clear description, just a few guidelines, or did you have complete freedom?

Kris Verwimp: I was given the title and some guidelines. It had to be a nature scene in a DVD size format and there should be enough room for the logo. Everything else was up to my own imagination. The title itself creates a certain expectation, so I wanted to go for a sweeping landscape with a lot of open space and a lot of sky to convey the concept of the wind. The warm colors were meant to add a sense of belonging. The animals were painted to make the composition a bit more dynamic. The main source of inspiration was of course Moonsorrow’s epic music itself!     

What technique did you use in the "Home of the Wind" artwork, and why did you choose it?

Kris Verwimp: I used acrylics and water mixable oils on paper because it’s my favorite technique at the moment. In the past I mainly used gouache, but then I started experimenting with airbrush and other techniques. After a while I stopped using airbrush and switched to acrylics. It’s a constant evolution. I never went to an art school, so I’m discovering all those techniques on my own. I think it’s part of what keeps it interesting for me. It’s like a journey… 

Now you've just made a painting for a film, even if music-related. Have you made artwork for films before? Is it different for you, and if so, in what ways?

Kris Verwimp: A few years ago I also worked on “Death of a Shadow”, a Belgian short movie directed by Tom Van Avermaet. I created concept art and credits illustrations. The movie featured actor Matthias Schoenaerts and it was even nominated for the Oscars in 2013!

The big difference with painting album covers is that you get to see your drawings turned into reality at some point. Which is very cool of course, even if the final result could look a bit different.  

I’ve always been very interested in movies. After all, the reason why I started drawing in the first place was because of my love for movies such as Conan The Barbarian, Excalibur, Mad Max, Dune, etc.. In those days a movie could only be experienced at the cinema. So the only way for me to recreate the experience at home was by trying to draw what I had seen. It was also the reason why I started drawing my own comics. A comic is actually very similar to a movie storyboard and you get to be writer, director, photographer, costume designer, etc… And the best thing is that the budget is only limited by your imagination. 

Those interested in supporting the film can check "Home Of The Wind" official Indiegogo campaign and the official Facebook. The campaign offers all kind of perks, from digital copies of the documentary to rare band-signed items.

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:

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


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.