Features on underground metal and extreme music cover artists, graphic designers and photographers, and other topics related to lesser-known aspects of extreme music culture.
It’s been ages since I’ve featured an artist on here, so I figured I should go through my list and pick someone whose style and subject matter falls a little outside of those typical of the genre. Argentinian artist and illustrator Santiago Caruso definitely doesn’t fit the mold of your usual album cover artist. He produced the striking artwork for October Falls‘s upcoming album The Plague of a Coming Age, but aside from that he hasn’t really done much metal-related work. His portfolio is still quite impressive however; he has created illustrations and covers for books, including an illustrated version of H.P. Lovecraft‘s The Dunwitch Horror, and has produced several other album covers and layouts. He has also done numerous exhibitions of his work in the US and in Argentina.
While the usual skulls, zombies and other horrific elements do make some appearances, Caruso’s subject matter isn’t restricted to the usual metal fare. Surrealist elements show up quite a bit, and in fact Caruso is part of the Beinart Surreal Art Collective. He’s also got an interesting section on his site titled ‘Historic’ which contains his artistic interpretations of things like Easter Island’s original appearance and ancient Egyptian burial practices. Pretty cool stuff.
I’m always a sucker for artists who give glimpses into their creative process, and Caruso delivers with some unfinished sketches that appear alongside the completed works in a few sections of his site. It sort of looks like he begins with rough digital sketches that map out the basic design, colors and shading, and then he slowly adds in details and finer lines to complete the image. It’s fascinating because the textures on some of the close-ups almost look like watercolor with the way that the colors bleed into one another, while others look like they were done with pen and ink. Caruso’s style is an interesting departure from some of the other digital artists I’ve featured whose finished works strive for a more polished, realistic look.
Caruso has a Shop section of his site in which he states that pretty much any of his works can be sold as a print. I’d imagine that if you search around you can find some of the books he’s illustrated for sale as well.
Thanks to German black metal band Infestus‘s latest album E x | I s t, I’ve discovered yet another dark and fucked up artist whose style suits my tastes perfectly. French artist Eric Lacombe‘s specialty seems to be horribly disfigured portraits and distorted figures. Whether working with acryllic paint or simple ink and pencil, his figures often feature huge, cavernous holes where eyes and mouths should be, and his rough, fragmented strokes sometimes make his subjects’ faces look burnt beyond recognition, or worse.
Polish artist Andrzej Masianis bears some similarities to other artists I’ve featured recently both stylistically and in terms of subject matter, so I guess it was only a matter of time before I decided to feature him on this site. He came to my attention as a result of some recent cover artwork he did for the Temple of Torturous label’s reissues of Greek ambient black metal act Spectral Lore‘s first two albums. While browsing through his portfolio some other paintings looked really familiar, so I’m sure Spectral Lore isn’t the only band that’s utilized his services.
What really made Masianis’s work stand out for me is the extreme detail he puts into his drawings and paintings, giving them a very unique, creepy appearance. Also, many of his drawings and paintings seem to center around themes like the apocalypse, and the way he depicts such scenes of battle with clusters of celestial beings really reminds me of some of Doré’s etchings. Masianis also seems to do a lot of fantasy art as well, with scenes from series like Narnia and The Lord of the Rings popping up frequently.
Unlike a lot of the artists I’ve featured, Masianis has a pretty strong internet presence. Not only does he have an official site, but he’s also on Facebook, MySpace and DeviantArt. Both the official site and his DeviantArt have pretty extensive galleries of his artwork. He has some paintings for sale from his official site, but the store is all in Polish, which makes things a bit difficult for those of us in the US.
Anyone else notice this?
The cover art of Diabolical‘s album Ars Vitae…
…looks a lot like the artwork from Orcustus‘s debut:
I’m not sure if they took the same source image and colored / retouched it for Diabolical’s album, or if it’s just an eerie coincidence. I definitely like Diabolical’s version better.
By the way, Diabolical’s Ars Vitae officially came out yesterday, so if you’re a fan of Swedish death metal you might want to check that out. It’s sort of a half live album and half new release, featuring four new tracks and nine live tracks, as well as a remastered version of one of their early EPs.
Since I already posted about Cynthia’s Hell survey I should probably give some attention to her actual artwork. Cynthia is the creative force behind ThornyThoughts Artwork, and lately she’s contributed artwork to bands like Urfaust, Self Inflicted Violence, Der Weg Einer Freiheit, Aosoth, and a few others. She’s designed some pretty sweet band logos as well.
Cynthia’s style is easily recognizable – her works are often in simple black & white and seem to be either etched or sometimes drawn with ink. As with Saint John’s work with Inkshadows, this style works perfectly in the context of black metal, so its no surprise that ThornyThoughts has become one of the main providers of artwork for Urfaust’s releases and merchandise. It also helps that Cynthia’s imagination yields some particularly disturbing imagery, both beutiful and morbid at the same time.
Cynthia was nice enough to provide a little insight into what inspires her and her artwork (and name-drop some excellent bands, a few of which I’d never heard of):
A great source of inspiration is probably failure and the chaos in my head. It’s a mistake to give everyone else the fault for things going wrong. In reality you should work on your own mistakes as well. So what I’m doing is (as long as it’s a personal work) a kind of self reflection or a trial to ‘ban’ the horrors and endless questions of every day life onto a medium, maybe kind of a self-therapy. It’s processing negativity by turning it into productivity through ‘art’.
Of course I find inspiration in music, art, graphic novels, books, films, conversation and dreams. As long as it moves and touches me, gives birth to feelings and visuals inside me, I’m happy with any genre.
If you need ‘proper’ examples: the islandic/swedish BM Band Skendöd inspired me with the album Vanskapt as it meant a real musical ‘illustration’ of a dark time in my life. Listening to it and feeling understood was largely satisfying to me and inspired me to do something similar – processing and banning my personal abyss onto a medium like I explained above. I admire people who have the gift to illustrate a whole train of thoughts and feelings with its ups and downs. Other examples in music I admire are Ikuinen Kaamos: The Forlorn, Self Inflicted Violence: A Perception Of Matter And Energy, Slumber: Fallout, Skogen: Vittra, Totalselfhatred s/t …and many more in other genres.
In art I admire since I was a little kid Hieronymos Bosch, Käthe Kollwitz and Zdzislaw Beksinski and Enki Bilal.
ThornyThoughts currently doesn’t have an online store, but you can buy original etching prints of her work by contacting Cynthia. She also mentioned that Viva Hate Records will be releasing poster prints of her work for Der Weg Einer Freiheit, with each personally signed by Cynthia.
If you’re interested in her work, check out the ThornyThoughts page on MySpace for several galleries of her prints, shirt, album and logo designs!
This is pretty cool for those of you who might be artistically-inclined…
Now that Peaceville owns the rights to Darkthrone‘s Moonfog releases, the label is gearing up to reissue the newly acquired Darkthrone titles, and Fenriz and Nocturno Culto have decided to hold a competition to create new cover artwork to adorn the updated versions of Ravishing Grimness and Goatlord. I’ve never really liked the Goatloard cover art, so hopefully whatever the fans come up with will be a big improvement.
The competition will run through January 31st and submissions should be sent to Peaceville.
If interested, check out the Official Contest Rules.
Even if you’re not interested, it’s kind of funny to read the rules, which are totally Darkthronish in nature and tone, and amusingly non-committal: “Only serious contributions will reach Fenriz and me to decide upon.” “This is not a real competition. There are no prizes.” It doesn’t sound like the band is particularly optimistic that they’ll receive something awesome, but hopefully the fans will prove them wrong.