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Decline of the high art of metal album covers

Decline of the high art of metal album covers
April 09, 2013, 04:00:06 AM
Well, not to judge a book by its cover and I know itís only a minor gripe, but there is something seriously lacking in the aesthetics of cover sleeve design, lettering, band names, imagery and so forth with the newer generation of metal bands. Even the resurgence of old school bands are kind of lacking in that department. Everything seems to be slapped together on a computer with no real sense of wanting to capturing some sort of spirit embodied in the music.

Old artists like Dan Seagrave or Necrolord worked wonders back in the day. They really got as close as one could to making Death Metal in a visual form.

Iím even partial to the old school methods of (?) stencilled, white or red on black approach which was particularly favourable by bands in their demo period. Check out the style used by Von or Profanatica even to this day.

The other high point of cover art would be the dark ultra-minimalist photography favoured by Ildjarn or Darkthrone in their classic era (you know the one I mean).

Awesome stuff!

The dark green backgrounds work well as an alternative to black. Minimal with the cryptic stencil has some potential for longevity.

Maybe the explicitly satanic or gory cartoony stuff was no longer an attention getter. Christ and nuns and gore were eventually politically and socially safe targets. Only the newly powerless majority would protest but they had grown silent during the peak political correctness years.

The dangerous targets have long since changed.


Someone beat me to Paolo. That guy's work is great because it looks majestic, beautiful, disgusting and absurd all at the same time. Skillful visual representation of the death metal ethos.

Maybe the explicitly satanic or gory cartoony stuff was no longer an attention getter. Christ and nuns and gore were eventually politically and socially safe targets. Only the newly powerless majority would protest but they had grown silent during the peak political correctness years.

Since when do old school death metal albums necessarily fulfill that criterion anyway?  Most of the best death metal album art (and metal album art in general) has a cavernous graveyard feel without over-the-top cartoonish gore and blasphemy.  That isn't to say that I don't like that kind of art as well but I don't think the change of style has to do with people getting bored with shock value.

The same thing is happening with movies.  People are really into that computer art look right now for some reason and that's why so many movies are almost entirely CGI. 

Of course it doesn't affect my opinion on a band's music but I don't think it compliments it.  I have a hard time understanding how slick shiny computer-made graphics invoke a sense of morbidity.  It's a "modern" look that shouldn't have any place in an underground genre that thrived in the late 80s/early 90s.

Photoshopped artwork is also pretty lame and a lot of bands who have that kind of cover art seem to do a pretty bad job at it (or maybe I just don't like the look of photoshop art). 

The worst thing is when classic albums get reissues with CGI artwork.  Carbonized's For the Security has one of the worst reissue covers I've ever seen.  Do labels/bands do that to try and appeal to a modern fanbase? 

Someone beat me to Paolo. That guy's work is great because it looks majestic, beautiful, disgusting and absurd all at the same time. Skillful visual representation of the death metal ethos.

I had never heard of him before but it seems quite good. Reminds me a bit of the guy that did the Incantation cover art, all of which I dislike except for Onwards to Golgotha of course.

That Paolo fellow is pretty spot on. The artwork he posted for the new Prosanctus Inferi release is exceptional.

https://sphotos-a.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ash3/22010_482663328437089_1546100749_n.jpg

I have found that, in general, there is a fairly close correspondence between the artistic quality of an album cover and its music.  Although there are of course many exceptions.  One particularly striking one for me is The Silence of December by Deinonychus, fairly mediocre album with one of the most beautiful covers ever made.

Weird observation: only two bands arguably held the flame of epic, ambient black metal over the last 10 or so years. But one always has shitty half-assed album covers, the other unfathomably tasteful.

Paolo Girardi is the master of cover art these days. So happy that others have mentioned him already. His work with Blasphemophagher is breathtaking and majestic and violent and blasphemous and FUCKING AWESOME.

The older album covers were true works of beautiful but distorted, unreal, and frightening art.  Twisted angles, distorted geometry, cities neither living nor dead, shades haunting the petrified visages of fearsome evil deities ... carry the content in pictures.

i know, BUT, we have less posers