My only issue with the limited edition tape of their new Dead Ends EPthat Shroud Eater put out through Primitive Violence Records is that so far I haven’t been able to bring myself to open the damn thing. Oh, I’ve heard the EP itself (review here), so I know it kicks plenty of ass, but looking at the limited packaging — which just seems like it should have a little cutout space near the top so it can hang on a peg in some record and or head shop 20 years ago — I just can’t pull those staples out and open it up.
Primitive Violence is the band’s own imprint — there’s a CD of Dead Endscoming later this month on The Path Less Traveled Records as well — and so I take this tape as kind of the definitive version of the album, what a certain British label seems consistently to refer to as the “diehard edition.” Only 22 were made, they sold out just this past Tuesday (there are more regular tapes left), and here’s what’s included:
No, Pinhead from Hellraiser doesn’t come with it, but everything else in the bottom part of that collage does. It’s one-stop shopping for anyone who’d want to show off their Shroud Eater affiliation, with a sticker, patch and pin, and that rules in and of itself, but there’s also the full-color lyric sheet, transparent red tape and — as you can see in the top right corner of the pic above — also a limited edition figurine made in Peru that actually seems to have been the impetus behind there only being 22 of these made, since the people who made the “Death charms” in turn died and these are the last ones ever. Dead Endsindeed.
All this adds up not only to something really special for collector nerds like me and those converted to the cassette nostalgia cultism, but a complete, every-level experience for what in a lot of band’s minds would probably be a toss-off EP release. Cheers to Shroud Eater for going all out in putting the tape of Dead Ends together (even the regular one looks pretty sweet) and continuing to highlight the appeal of physical media in an age regarded by squares as digital. Awesome.
During the coverage of the first day of Roadburn 2013, in talking about my general sucktitude at existence, I said that the first meal I’d eaten in a couple days made me feel, “like someone had just given me a piece of particleboard with macaroni glued onto it in the shape of the cover to Volume 4, and by that I mean ready to take on the world.”
Well, I got off the airplane yesterday, and The Patient Mrs. presented me with this:
That’s right. It’s the cover of Black Sabbath‘s Vol. 4, made of dried pasta. She glued the pieces to a slab of slate — so much more doom than particleboard — and gave it to me as a homecoming present upon my return from the Netherlands and the UK last night. Rare are the times when I’ve felt more like someone in the universe truly understands who I am as a human being.
I’ve engaged in no shortage of The Patient Mrs.-worship in this space over the years, but seriously, in the days to come when I need an example of how fucking awesome my wife is — when perhaps I’m explaining to somebody about the dynamic of our relationship — I feel like I have a new milestone to work from. It’ll go like this: “I’m a self-absorbed jerk who does nothing that isn’t completely about me, and she made me Macaroni Sabbath. I’m the luckiest man in the world.”
My only hope is that as Backwoods Payback, Supermachine, Lord Fowl and Sun Gods in Exile head out for these four shows, they bring the poster with them. Seems the Small Stone Records bannerfolk have united under the flag of their label and are hitting the Northeast for a bill they’re dubbing “4 Bands, 4 States, 4 Shows, 1 Label.” Call it a tour by the numbers.
Since Supermachine, Lord Fowl and Sun Gods in Exile all live in New England, so with Backwoods Payback tagged on from Pennsylvania, you can pretty well imagine this one’s going to be a debauched-type good time. A long weekend that no one involved will recall by the time it’s over. Nonetheless, if you’ve gotta have something to remember it by, the following Alexander von Wieding poster is a gorgeous reminder.
Octopus reigns supreme among green-lady headwear:
4 bands. 4 states. 4 shows. 1 label.
SMALL STONE RECORDS NORTH EAST US TOUR
featuring: BACKWOODS PAYBACK SUPER MACHINE LORD FOWL SUN GODS IN EXILE
04.25.13 – The Dover Brickhouse, Dover NH 04.26.13 – KCs Tap, Pawtucket RI 04.27.13 – The Winchester, Woodbridge CT 04.28.13 – Leftfield NYC, Manhattan NY
They only made 50, and when I was in the process of writing up Romero‘s new album, Take the Potion(review here), I stumbled on the band’s prior cassette single — yes, a cassingle — dubbed Couch Lock/In the Heather. Released through Triceratrax Records last year, the limited pressing comes complete with red tape, a 7″ x 14″ foldout (the kind that would normally house a 7″ record) with 3D graphics and 3D glasses to see them. Sorry, but that’s frickin’ awesome.
Both the included tracks on the tape, “Couch Lock” and “In the Heather,” were re-recorded for Take the Potion, but neither is wanting for production on the single either, even if they’re somewhat rawer than they’d wind up. I’ll admit when I shelled out the cash for the tape (I think it was five bucks), it was the packaging that drew me in — the art is by Miranda Martin and guitarist/vocalist Jeffrey Mundt – but it’s not like the Wisconsin trio put all this effort and detail into a practice tape.
And speaking of detail, even the inside of the tape liner — the J-card, as I learned this week that they’re called because of their bend — has a 3D design:
But the righteousness of the design goes further than just the 3D stuff. The layout of the lyric sheet on the inside of the foldout poster (designed by drummer Ben Brooks) is also well thought out and stylized, not to mention hand-numbered:
Of course, there’s good news and bad news. Taking latter first, the pressing of 50 is sold out. I bought the last tape even before I was done with the album review. So unless Romero decide to do another round somewhere down the line, it’s a goner. The good news, however, is that Couch Lock/In the Heather is still up for a pay-what-you-want download, so if you’re thinking of hitting it up, there’s still some opportunity. They’ve even got the 3D images up in case you have a spare pair of glasses around.
Unless you work at The Onion or are on-set editing new episodes of Arrested Development, this is probably the cleverest thing you’re going to see today. Portland, Oregon’s Rabbits last year made a release called Flexihead in honor of Record Store Day. It’s a postcard on one side and on the other is a playable record with two opposing covers — Minor Threat‘s “Straight Edge” and Black Flag‘s “Wasted.”
As if the pairing of those two tracks wasn’t enough — notice “Wasted” comes after “Straight Edge” — the manner of presentation for Flexihead is what makes it. They even went so far as to include a Dorothy Parker quote on the back. The cleverness is pervasive. Check it out:
They only made 250 copies of the 5″ x 7″ postcard, so I felt lucky to get one, and I’ll honestly say that in the whole of my music connection — by no means the world’s largest archive of riffs, but by no means inconsiderable at this point — Flexihead is a one of a kind. Here’s a closer look at the Coke vs. Coors Light art by Kevin Abell:
Now for the big question: Does it play? Not on my turntable it sure doesn’t. I gave it a couple shots and after that decided I didn’t want to either break the arm on my record player or damage the postcard anymore than shipping already had, bent corners and such. Fortunately others had better luck, and the tracks can be heard below, or at the Rabbits Bandcamp, if you’d prefer something even less of the physical realm:
Five bands, five states. Well, NYC has never been anything if it hasn’t been a melting pot, so when Black Thai (from Massachusetts), Infernal Overdrive (New Jersey), When the Deadbolt Breaks (Connecticut), John Wilkes Booth (Long Island, NY) and Wasted Theory (Delaware) converge on Tobacco Road in Manhattan on April 6, at least it’ll be in the borough’s long-standing tradition. If you’re on Thee Facebooks, the event page is here, and I thought I’d share the poster for the show, since it’s awesome.
Five bands for $7 is a pretty heavy deal, if you’re into bargain-hunting.
…And it looks like they’re not coming back. Can’t say I blame them, what with the social safety net, centuries of cultural richness, and Scandinavian riffing, but even so, wow, this is the longest list of tour dates I’ve seen in a while.
Good for Red Fang and all, but with so many cities and countries being stormed, one has to wonder how on earth they’re going to have time to get a follow-up out to 2011′s excellent Murder the Mountains. Guess we’ll have to wait and see. In the meantime, there isn’t one part of this that doesn’t bleed its excellence:
Red Fang European Summer 2013 Tour Dates Announced!
May 31 Madrid, ES Auditorio Miguel Rios, Sonisphere June 01 Barcelona ES Parc del forum,Sonisphere June 04 Athens, Greece Gagarin 205 June 05 Thessaloniki , Greece Eightball June 06 Istanbul , Turkey TBA June 08 Kiev, Ukraine Bingo June 09 St. Petersburg,Russia Zal Oghidania June 10 Moscow, Russia Plan B June 11 Krasnodar, Russia Arena June 12 Rostov, Russia Podzemka June 13 Murg-Oberhof , GER Cafe Verkehrt June 14 Interlaken,Switzerland Greenfield June 15 Sliedrecht,Netherlands Elektra Tuinfest June 16 Donnington, UK Download June 17 Belfast, Northern Ireland Limelight June 18. Ireland, Dublin Whelans June 19 Bristol, UK The Fleece June 20 Jaworzno, Poland Metalfest June 21 Geneve,Switzerland Fête De La Musique June 22 Clisson FR Hellfest June 23 Gigors et Lozeron FR Gigors Electric June 25 Rome , IT Traffic June 26 Milano , IT Solo Macello June 27 Salzburg , Austria Rock House Bar June 28 Roitschzjora, GER Full Force Festival June 29 Osnabrück, GER Bastard Club June 30 Dessel , Belgium Graspop Metal Meeting July 02 Eindhoven, Netherlands Effenaar July 03 Marburg GER KFZ July 04 Bochum GER Matrix July 05 Sulingen GER Relaod Festival July 06 Bingen GER Bingener Open Air July 09 Feldkirch, Austria Poolbar Feldkirch July 10 Esslingen, GER Komma July 13 Neskaupstadur, Iceland Eistnaflug Festival
Whatever else German retro heavy specialists Kadavar do, they take a good picture. Fortunately they also rock, so you can imagine that once Abra Kadavar, their Nuclear Blast label debut and second offering behind last year’s self-titled, drops, it’ll live up to the high standard set by their facial hair below. If such a thing is possible. The album cover was unveiled today, and it goes a little something like this:
Moscow-based heavy psych outfit The Re-Stoned have sandwiched the bulk of the material on their new album between two massive 11-minute tracks, opener “Faces of Earth” and closer “Alpha Rhythm,” but that’s really just the beginning of the story when it comes to how Plasma is put together. The instrumental band led by and mostly comprised of guitarist/bassist Ilya Lipkin released their last record, Analog(review here), through R.A.I.G. in 2010, and Plasma sees issue through the same label as well, but instead of a jewel case arrives bundled in a folded cardboard box — almost like a miniaturized vinyl mailer with the logo printed on the front and the album info on back. It may not prove the most durable packaging option when it comes to standing the test of time, but it certainly is creative.
Lipkin, who is joined by drummers Vasily Bartov, Pavel Voloshin and Evgeny Tkachev throughout Plasma‘s eight tracks/58 minutes, employs a host of effects on his guitar and bass to add flourish to the tradicionnyj stoner riffing that lies at the heart of the band’s sound, and while the cardboard packaging doesn’t seem to have any direct correlation to what’s happening musically or thematically with the album or its titles – though one does unfold the package and the flow of the album unfolds as well — it does grab the attention as only intricate physical media can. I’ve never thought of cardboard as particularly groovy, but maybe that’s what Lipkin is going for. I couldn’t really say.
The album boasts two covers — an extended jam on Jefferson Airplane’s “Today” in the first half and one on Pink Floyd‘s “Julia Dream” in the second — and with guest vocals from Veronika Martynova, they stand out in the tracklisting immediately and wind up as some of the record’s strongest material, incorporating elements of psychedelic folk with Lipkin layering acoustic and electric guitar. Elsewhere, the standout soloing of “Moon Dust” seems to be surfing with Joe Satriani‘s alien, while the riffs on the earlier “Grease” remind of some of the Karma to Burn-isms that showed up last time around. Fittingly titled, “Acoustic” is no less rich than any of the other material, given depth by Arkady Fedotov‘s synth and Tkachev‘s percussion, and as it occurs directly toward the middle of the album, it too seems to fall in line as another well-placed element at work to the benefit of Plasma.
Really, rather than be fed into by the music as part of an overarching theme, the uncommon packaging option for Plasmaserves as an example of how intricately the record as a whole is constructed, be it the space-rocking jam of “The Clay God” or the more open, airy musicality of “Alpha Rhythm,” slowly developing over the calming course of its 11:26. The Re-Stoned and in particular Lipkin as the driving force behind the band impress on all fronts, and if it’s the package housing the CD that gets you to notice the album first, it’s one more thing to be thankful for after you’ve heard it later.
I’ve spouted off plenty of times about what a difference physical media can make in giving someone an impression of a work, so I’ll spare it, but in a case like this, the artwork — Lipkin also designed the logo — and the presentation to the audience becomes a part of the experience, and every time I reach for Plasma, it will be a different feeling than anything else that might be situated on that shelf, including Analog. If the record wasn’t up to par as a listen, it would be gimmicky, but The Re-Stoned have even more tools with which to satisfy sonically than they do in terms of the aesthetic in their choice of casing, so in addition to being a nice package, Plasmais also a complete one.
To be perfectly honest, I don’t really even have a good excuse for posting this flyer, I’m just psyched for the show. On Saturday, Feb. 23, Acid King will return to the East Coast for the first time in I don’t even know how long it’s been, and Maple Forum alums and all-around excellent human beings Kings Destroy have signed on to support along with Blackout on the three-band bill. I guess at that point, I don’t need an excuse. It’s just awesome. All hail crushing February:
Currently based in L.A., psychedelic desert rockers Blaak Heat Shujaa will make their full-length debut on Tee Pee Records with The Edge of an Eraon April 9. Today I have the pleasure of hosting for your check-it-outs the cover art by the Paris-based Arrache toi un oeil! collective. Below, artist Emy Rojas give some background on the inspiration for the pieces. The Edge of an Erawas produced by none other than Scott “Yes that Scott Reeder” Reeder and follows on the heels of BHS‘ Tee Pee debut EP, The Storm Generation(review here).
According to guitarist/vocalist Thomas Bellier, The Edge of an Erawill have two separate covers — one for the digipak CD release and one for the vinyl, both courtesy of Rojas, who offered the following:
“Arrache toi un oeil! made many silk screened gig posters in Paris, that’s how Thomas from Blaak Heat Shujaa discovered my work and then asked me to work on the cover of the album. The title “The edge of an era” inspired me a lot, something psychedelic, mystical, cosmic that flies away…and, at some point, ends but then announces something new. So I tried to have an image of this idea which also matched the style of the band. When I draw a cover, I always listen to the band to get closer to its universe, that’s very important for me.”
Here is the artwork in hi-resolution. Please click either image to enlarge.
The Edge of an Era is due out April 9. Stay tuned for more on the album ahead of the release.
Dutch heavy psych outfits The Machine and Sungrazer just a couple minutes ago unveiled the cover art for their upcoming split release to coincide with their “Strikes and Gutters” tour. Of course, it’s a little late to include it in the Albums to Watch for in 2013 list, but I’m still really looking forward to this one. Art is by Maarten Donders and it’s pretty manic. Check it out:
Ahead of the Aqualamb Records release of Black Black Black‘s self-titled debut on Feb. 5 (details here), the label was kind enough to send a promo of the NYC-based heavy/noise rock band’s album. Included as well in said promo was a copy of the limited 40-page artbook designed by vocalist Jason Alexander Byers (ex-Disengage), also a visual artist who’s had gallery showings in Miami, his native Ohio, and current residence in Brooklyn as well.
One of the most impressive aspects of Black Black Black‘s Black Black Black(review here) is how widely the band’s personality varies between tracks, whether it’s the strong hooks of “Wisdom, Knowledge and Fucked,” or the raging NY-style noise of “Pentagram ON,” on which Dave Curran from Unsane contributes guest vocals, or the later despondency of “Lexipro Devil,” memorable for its melody even as it feels detached from reality in a manner befitting its chemical allusion. Elsewhere, chugging riffs like that of “Night Moves” and the even-more-plodding “Light Light Light” give a modern heavy sensibility offset by touches of ’90s alt rock, but no matter which angle you try to approach it from, Black Black Blackshows little interest in easy categorization.
So it goes as well with Byers‘ work in the artbook, which ranges from horror schlock to the target-minded interpretations that form the basis of a lot of his style and indeed, the band’s logo above, which draws the eye toward the center and the heart of the work. Also including the liner notes credits, a table of contents and thanks, pages are broken up by each song, with lyrics handwritten over culled and distorted images:
“Mishandled Cult Funds”
“Soar Like a Spider”
You can see in the sample shots above that the mood is pretty dark across the board, but that the images themselves vary, and I’d say that’s true of the album as well. If nothing else, the book makes an excellent companion to the tracks on the record — which aren’t exactly lacking atmosphere on their own but are made even more vivid all the same. This being Black Black Black‘s first full-length, I hope the blend of aural and visual is something Byers and his bandmates, Jacob Cox (guitar), Johnathan Swafford (bass) and Jeff Ottenbacher (drums) continue to experiment with, since it offers a level of engagement with the material rarely seen in these days of digital minimalism.
Very much looking forward to this one. 2013′s already got a few releases I’m dying to hear on the docket, but I don’t think I’m looking forward to anything quite as much as Clutch‘s Earth Rocker, because you know that no matter what turns the band makes, they’re going to deliver. The album art just came down the PR wire and I wanted to post it right away, so you’ll find it below, followed by their first round of North American tour dates to support it. You know there’ll be plenty more of those coming.
CLUTCH Reveal Album Artwork for Earth Rocker
Announce Initial North American Tour Dates
First Taste of New Music to Come on Christmas Eve!
With a little bit more than three months left before the release of CLUTCH’s highly anticipated new studio effort Earth Rocker, the band has officially unveiled the album’s artwork and has announced the initial dates for the first leg of the North American Earth Rocker world tour.
The artwork was created by Nick Lakiotes, long time CLUTCH art director, who has worked on previous efforts including: Robot Hive/Exodus and Strange Cousins From the West.
CLUTCH has announced the initial dates for the first leg of the North American Earth Rocker world tour. The dates kick off March 8th in Cincinnati, OH and are currently slated to run through March 24th in Anaheim, CA. Support on these dates will be provided by Orange Goblin, Lionize and Kyng. Tickets for fan club members go on sale today via Pro-Rock.com and tickets go on sale to the general public this Friday December 21st. Look for more dates to be announced in the coming weeks.
Before they hit the road for their annual Holiday run, CLUTCH will be headlining the KBPI “When Hell Freezes Over” show this Friday night December 21st in Denver, CO at the Fillmore Auditorium. To get more information on the show and to purchase tickets visit http://bit.ly/SyLxpD.
CLUTCH’s Holiday tour dates kick off December 26th in Washington, DC and conclude with a special New Year’s Eve performance in Worcester, MA at The Palladium.
Fans can keep up on the progress of Earth Rocker by visiting the new website www.earthrocker.com. The website is a hub dedicated to all things Earth Rocker. This Christmas Eve www.earthrocker.com will debut a live video of the title track Earth Rocker, which was recorded live at The Machine Shop. Fans can expect to see frequent updates including photos, videos from the studio, song title announcements and samples of new songs.
In addition to the new website CLUTCH has joined the world of twitter. Follow CLUTCH on Twitter @ClutchOfficial.
KBPI “When Hell Freezes Over” Radio Show 12/21: Denver, CO @ Fillmore Auditorium
Holiday Tour With Mondo Generator, Saviors and Wino 12/26: Washington DC @ 9:30 Club SOLD OUT! 12/27: Asheville NC @ The Orange Peel 12/28: Lexington KY @ Buster’s Billiards & Backroom 12/29: Columbus OH @ Newport Music Hall 12/30: Allentown, PA @ Crocodile Rock on Sale Friday 12/31: Worcester MA @ The Palladium
Earth Rocker European Tour 1/21: Press Day in London, UK 1/22: London, UK @ Koko SOLD OUT! 1/23: Amsterdam, NL @ Melkweg 1/24: Press Day in Paris, FR 1/25: Paris, FR @ La Maroquinerie SOLD OUT! 1/26: Stuttgart, GER @ Universum 1/27: Munchen, GER @ Backstage Club 1/28: Press Day in Berlin, GER 1/29: Berlin, GER @ Lido 1/30: Press Day in Cologne, GER 1/31: Cologne, GER @ Luxor 2/1: Brussels, BE @ VK 2/2: Hamburg, GER @ Logo SOLD OUT! 2/3: Copenhagen, DK @ Amager Bio 2/4: Press Day in Oslo, NO 2/5: Oslo, NO @ Parkteateret 2/6: Press Day in Stockholm, SWE 2/7: Stockholm, SWE @ Tyrol
Earth Rocker North American World Tour 3/8: Cincinnati, OH @ Bogart’s 3/9: Nashville, TN @ Marathon Music Works 3/10: Sauget, IL @ Pop’s 3/11: Little Rock, AR @ Juanita’s Cantina Ballroom 3/12: Tulsa, OK @ Cain’s Ballroom 3/14: Dallas, TX @ Palladium Ballroom 3/18: Colorado Springs, CO @ The Black Sheep 3/19: Salt Lake City, UT @ The Depot 3/21: Los Angeles, CA @ House of Blues 3/22: Tempe, AZ @ The Marquee 3/23: Las Vegas, NV @ Hard Rock Café Las Vegas 3/24: Anaheim, CA @ House of Blues
Whatever medium you enjoy music through, LPs, CDs, digital, tapes, reel-to-reel, Edison cylinders, the fact of the matter is that artwork — the visual representation of the album — makes a huge difference in the overall impression a record makes. There are bands who slave away for months negotiating fine details with artists and there are bands who snap a picture of themselves and throw it out front on their way to grab their next beer. Both methods have yielded classic results.
As 2012 winds down, I thought it might be fun to go back to the start of the year and take a look at some of the best album art that accompanied some killer albums. This isn’t the Best Albums list, just some of what I think is the Best Art. I’ll try my best to keep my reasons short as we go along alphabetically:
Alcest, Les Voyages de l’Âme
The sort of gloomy lushness that artist Fursy Teyssier brought to the cover for Alcest‘s Les Voyages de l’Âme was breathtaking from the first glance. Teyssier (also of Les Discrets; interview here) wonderfully captured the morose beauty in Alcest‘s music and painted a masterpiece that transcended “rock art” as much as the album itself transcended black metal or any other genre in which one might try to pigeonhole it.
The sentinel that has now graced the cover of the last couple Conan releases has mirrored the British act’s ascent in joining the ranks of great heavy metal mascots. Tony Roberts, who drew the piece on the cover of Monnos, has become an essential part of the band’s mythology, meeting their ultra-crushing tonality with visuals that seem to work in atmospheres no less oppressively brutal. If art was ever heavy, it was heavy here.
A pretty simple idea, but wonderfully executed, the front of Portland neo-traditionalists Doomsower‘s debut EP, 1974, came from an EPA photo documentary project that took place the same year. I picked it for this list not because it was so intricate or anything like that, but proof that sometimes something that seems basic can also be just right for the songs — the rails parallel, but joining, seeming to indicate Doomsower‘s journey undertaken.
Electric Moon, The Doomsday Machine
The question wasn’t so much would there be an Electric Moon cover on this list, but which one? The prolific German heavy psych jammers have a cache of treasure in the work of bassist Komet Lulu, and when it came time to choose from among the several recordings the band released in 2012, The Doomsday Machine stood out as a departure from the bright colors and classic psychedelia, being a painting by Lulu‘s father, Ulla Papel. Here’s to genetics.
Groan, The Divine Right of Kings
Having also handled Groan‘s split with Finnish trad doomers Vinum Sabbatum, W. Ralph Walters outdid himself with Groan‘s full-length follow-up, The Divine Right of Kings. With strong References to Hieronymus Bosch‘s vision of hell, Walters visualized the band’s move into classic metal and mixed it with manic get-stoned-and-stare kitchen-sinkery much as Groan continued to consort with brash heavy rock and doom. Walters‘ work on Blue Aside‘s The Moles of a Dying Race was no less distinct an achievement.
Larman Clamor, Frogs
Aside from thinking frogs are awesome in general, I was stoked to see how incredibly well Alexander von Wieding‘s art for his band Larman Clamor‘s 2012 offering fit the music. Otherworldly, darkly psychedelic and caked in haze, the dead stare of the frankenfrog on the front of Frogs perfectly matched von Wieding‘s swampy, bluesy style and looked even better on vinyl. Having also contributed to records by Lord Fowl, Wo Fat, Cortez and others this year, von Wieding has made himself one of the most essential heavy rock artists the world over.
Neurosis, Honor Found in Decay
Were it not for the discussion about the process of putting it together in the interview I did with Neurosis guitarist/vocalist Steve Von Till at the end of October, Josh Graham‘s cover for Honor Found in Decay — especially being so similar in idea to his work on Soundgarden‘s King Animal — probably wouldn’t have made this list, but knowing the level of construction that went into making the piece, from painting the jawbones to using artifact arrowheads from Slovakia, I couldn’t help but see it in a different light. Graham‘s ended his association with Neurosis, but if this is how he went out, they couldn’t have asked for more.
I had spent some serious time with Summoner‘s Phoenix by then, had been in talks with the band about releasing it on The Maple Forum, but it wasn’t until I held the LP in my hands at SHoD and really saw the Alyssa Maucere cover in-person that I realized what I was looking at. And once you see it, it’s not really subtle at all. Get it yet? There’s a cock and balls on the right side. I gotta give it to the Boston outfit and to Maucere for sneaking and yet not at all sneaking that one in there. Hey, if you don’t appreciate some phallic humor every now and again, you’re probably not going to start a website called The Obelisk.
Ufomammut, Oro: Opus Primum & Oro: Opus Alter
Is it cheating to include both covers from Ufomammut‘s Oro two-album series? Probably. Do I give a shit? Not in the slightest, because the Italian collective — who for visual purposes go by the name Malleus — tapped into new territory of psych art with the pieces for Oro: Opus Primum and Oro: Opus Alter, manifesting the idea of “psychedelic metal” in the actual style and inks used, while also contrasting dark and light and conveying the permanent nature of gold itself and the notions of hypnotic ritual that show up in their music. These covers were proof that Ufomammut are more than just the masters of their sound.
Another Tony Roberts creation, but in a completely different style from Conan‘s Monnos above, the bleak cover of UK nautical doomers Undersmile‘s 80-minute debut LP Narwhal seemed to embody everything the band had to offer on the album. It was dark, with hard drawn structural lines, but also sprawling, encompassing every panel of the digipak and running into the liner much as Undersmile‘s oceanic themes ran into every minute of the music, crushingly heavy or minimalist and ambient. Less about the titular creature within and more about the sea itself, it conveyed an utter hopelessness and the smallness of humanity when set against something so massive as the sea.
There were plenty more I could’ve included here — records from High on Fire, Om, Graveyard, Wight, Caltrop, Ancestors, Samothrace, Vulture and several others all are worthy of honorable mention, but for one reason or another, these were the standouts to me and I hope you agree that even in this go-ahead-and-download-it age of immediate convenience, the visual art remains pivotal to an album experience.
Someone you think got left out? If you’ve got any suggestions to add, agreements or disagreements, I’d love to get a discussion going in the comments, so please, have at it.