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Judging by the cover


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Releasing an album today is nothing like it was in "ye aulde days". Any fool with a home computer has access to what would amount to a million dollar studio back in the 80s ... so technically speaking, it's hard to get away with any excuses for poor production these days. It would have to be by choice ... as an aesthetic and artistic preference, because -- as many do -- they like that somewhat rotten, analog sound that you'll typically find on older records (before the music industry went digital). But sound is only one dimension of the release. There's also vision.

Those who can remember Carcass's debut album might also remembet the "debate". How far is too far? Many of us studied the cover art, listened to the album, and went ... hmmm ... I'm not sure what this package is about, but these guys definitely mean business. "Worth keeping an eye on" (although the production was awful) ... and they hit home with the next one. However, the cover art was still a bridge too far for many. As was indeed much of the rest that was being released in the budding new genre of death-black-grind-thrash-whatever that was manifesting at the time. Many could deal just fine with the music, but were freaked out by the lyrics and the cover art. I think they were missing the point.

Digitalisation started picking up pace by the mid 80s ... and ten years later it would be the norm. Nowadays I suppose there are "retro" studios out there, making a gimmick out of only having various vintage equipment ... but other than that, we are at a point in time when it has never been easier to record and release your own material, on account of the low prices on the technical side (although, to be fair, you can still get rid of quite a lot of money if you get into equipment fetishism). Amounting to a lot of people releasing a lot of stuff.

A thing that never changes is talent, though. Even among the more talented, there are levels. 

My opinion is that high level talent will show ... even in the cover art. Which means its opposite will also show. Which brings me to my point: By the year 1988 -- to stick with the Carcass example -- using various "autopsy shots" and whatnot was fairly common, at least along the edgier sides of music. Numerous hardcore bands had used the death motive to death, so to speak ... so it didn't really have the shock value it would have held ten years prior to its release date. What was new was that this sort of thing was seeping into the mainstream. As far as art goes, it's very very hard indeed to come up with anything that's genuinely new. It would have to be contingent on technology that's new.

More to the point: What seems shocking to people is highly relative. It's also a phenomenon that holds high interest in metal. There are certain "tropes" that keep repeating themselves. Often, you can tell what kind of metal this is going to be by looking at the band's name, the album title, the cover art, and so forth. Hammer Smashed Face by Cannibal Corpse isn't going to be symphonic prog metal, for instance. You can just tell. They are trying hard to warn you away if this sort of thing upsets you. (For the same reason, many should probably not watch horror movies, particularly not those on the sick edge.) I have no idea how many death metal albums there are with cover art orbiting various "horror" images of murder and mutilation, death and insanity. The short answer is, too many. So many that I've started to feel dismissive ... it seems too predictable ... not at all bad, that's not what I'm saying, but it comes with an aura of "been there, done that" so what have you got? Oh, another Morbid Death Obituary tribute band ... wonderful. 

Anyway, enough ranting.

I'm fishing for some thoughts about "judging an album by its cover" ... do you feel that you are mostly right if and when you do that? My experience is that sometimes I am wrong ... but more often than not, I'm right on the money about what to expect, musically, after examining what went into making the cover, artistically. Especially death and thrash bands seem to come in any number of clones that all sound pretty much the same ... which is also true in the stoner genre ... which makes it all a little tedious, even though most of these bands are very good at what they do. The problem with "discovering a new band every day" is that as you get older, there will have been a lot of days. Time may be infinite, but life isn't.

Have you developed an "ech" tendency to dismiss things yet ... judging by the cover ... or does the greater metal genre seem open and exciting to you?

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I definitely often judge music by the cover art.  It is usually easy to tell from the visuals, especially in black metal, what kind of music you will be getting into.  I think that when a particular band developed an identifiable sound that others would seek to replicate, that the sound automatically becomes closely tied with whatever visuals it was paired with.  It is also worth noting that the same can typically be said of band logos as well.

etching/drawing = atmospheric/ambient bm

digital art = contemporary "atmospheric" and clean bm

any cover with Kittelsen artwork = Burzum inspired

barbed wire circle = war metal

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and anything with a castle on is Dungeon Synth :) 

I used to buy a lot of vinyl judging by the cover, usually with not too many disappointments.  I guess I still do it now on youtube and have found some real gems. I will also check something out if it has particularly bad or unusual artwork though, I suppose, out of curiosity! Interesting subject.

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I admit to buying a record or CD just by looking at it, but in the majority of cases they have been second hand purchases: in around 80% of these purchases I have not regretted splashing a bit of money out. Liking the cover was after all how I discovered WASP,  Astarte, and Charta 77 (Swedish punk band). 

However I have never been well off financially speaking so when I have had the chance then I have prelistend to a band before buying any of their music, which is a lot easier today with YouTube. In the past most of my CD buying took place after gigs at band stores. 

 

 

 

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18 hours ago, Tortuga said:

in the majority of cases they have been second hand purchases

Like I mentioned somewhere else, you get a lot of good stuff for cheap these days. People seem to be dumping their CDs, so you can find some pretty rare material if you're lucky. I bought the entire Metallica catalogue for 1€ a piece, for example. They were just sitting there on the shelf in the Salvation Army shop one day. It took me 0.1 second to grab it all.

But there are many "unknowns". Obscure bands I've never heard of ... and TONS of power and hair metal.

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Always judge an album by its cover. Each one a fatal portrait.

A bad album cover usually means a lack of dedication to the arte magicale; a philistinic display of "aint it just about the riffs, bro?" attitude.

There are albums I like with mediocre cover art, and I'd probably value them even more if the cover was better. The 2000s witnessed a never-ending procession of digital recrement; a painful taint-by-numbers found-everywhere-affair.

 

 

 

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Man, I love metal cover art. When I was a teenager the height of my artistic ambition was to do cover art and shirt designs for bands. But generally, even though I love to see "good" art, I find that I don't care a whole lot when it comes to listening; there's a disconnect for me between liking the art and being drawn to the music. I guess I've enjoyed so many albums with cheesy, subpar, or downright bad covers, and been let down often enough by the music behind killer visuals, that it's no longer a big draw for me. I'm sure I've semi-consciously avoided some stuff based on the cover art/logo/general presentation, not because it's "good" or "bad" but because it looks like a genre I'm not into. Not the wisest choice and I very well might be missing out on some stuff I would enjoy, but that's ok too... maybe I'll get around to it someday. And I'm at least mildly sad to say my desire to focus on doing cover art has also faded, I'm at the point where I'd much rather be using my limited time for my own work.

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On 02/02/2021 at 5:16 PM, FatherAlabaster said:

Man, I love metal cover art. When I was a teenager the height of my artistic ambition was to do cover art and shirt designs for bands. But generally, even though I love to see "good" art, I find that I don't care a whole lot when it comes to listening; there's a disconnect for me between liking the art and being drawn to the music. I guess I've enjoyed so many albums with cheesy, subpar, or downright bad covers, and been let down often enough by the music behind killer visuals, that it's no longer a big draw for me. I'm sure I've semi-consciously avoided some stuff based on the cover art/logo/general presentation, not because it's "good" or "bad" but because it looks like a genre I'm not into. Not the wisest choice and I very well might be missing out on some stuff I would enjoy, but that's ok too... maybe I'll get around to it someday. And I'm at least mildly sad to say my desire to focus on doing cover art has also faded, I'm at the point where I'd much rather be using my limited time for my own work.

Father alabaster. Did you ever do cover art for metal bands. For some reason I assumed you did some cover art. Definitely your teenage dream was a good one though. I've heard far worse. More interesting than the  dream people used to tell me about  at school that  height of there dreams was to own a sports car.? 

 When I younger I was not so much into the cover art and would have preferred a photo. But now. It certainly draws me in. Obviously I've still got to like the music and there's fair few albums with killer art that I just don't like the music at all. To a reasonable extent I can tell from cover what the music is like. So I kinda judge from the cover. And definitely I miss out on some great albums which have rubbish or just average cover art. Although there are some exceptions but not many

Here's to one day soon that you can do some metal cover art and that both of us would be slightly less judgemental re cover art. 

 

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1 hour ago, blaaacdoommmmfan said:

Father alabaster. Did you ever do cover art for metal bands. For some reason I assumed you did some cover art. Definitely your teenage dream was a good one though. I've heard far worse. More interesting than the  dream people used to tell me about  at school that  height of there dreams was to own a sports car.? 

 When I younger I was not so much into the cover art and would have preferred a photo. But now. It certainly draws me in. Obviously I've still got to like the music and there's fair few albums with killer art that I just don't like the music at all. To a reasonable extent I can tell from cover what the music is like. So I kinda judge from the cover. And definitely I miss out on some great albums which have rubbish or just average cover art. Although there are some exceptions but not many

Here's to one day soon that you can do some metal cover art and that both of us would be slightly less judgemental re cover art. 

 

Thanks man. I have done some metal cover art, yes, and I'm actually working on a couple of projects right now. After these are finished I'm not planning to take any more jobs along these lines for a while, though. I need to make the time for some personal ideas that I've been putting to the side for too long. Seems like I can do work for other people, or do work of my own, but not both.

Oddly, as much as I like painting, for my own music I've always like photo-based stuff better. Paintings just don't seem to feel right for it. Maybe I'm too close to it. I have an easy time coming up with images for most anything, but trying to paint for my own stuff is like running into a brick wall.

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On 06/02/2021 at 5:32 PM, FatherAlabaster said:

Thanks man. I have done some metal cover art, yes, and I'm actually working on a couple of projects right now. After these are finished I'm not planning to take any more jobs along these lines for a while, though. I need to make the time for some personal ideas that I've been putting to the side for too long. Seems like I can do work for other people, or do work of my own, but not both.

Oddly, as much as I like painting, for my own music I've always like photo-based stuff better. Paintings just don't seem to feel right for it. Maybe I'm too close to it. I have an easy time coming up with images for most anything, but trying to paint for my own stuff is like running into a brick wall.

Fantastic you've done some cover art  and achieved a youth ambition plus  your doing some now. Great stuff. Too many people never achieve there youth ambition so I doff my hat to you.    Interesting how you can either do other people's work or your own stuff. Who knows why tbh. Probably only you can work that out. But maybe both require so much concentrated attention that it's really really tough to do both. 

with re finding it difficult to paint for your own music it's probably very healthy that you do more photo based stuff and have the variety of that. Doing the photo stuff may help when your Painting. Your right probably hard to do your own cover art when you compose it too. Makes sense as you've probably got stronger opinions about what the music means which makes creating original painting really hard.  Also do you ever Photoshop a painting. Or is this cheating. ? 

Also what genre of music do you write? 

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4 hours ago, blaaacdoommmmfan said:

Fantastic you've done some cover art  and achieved a youth ambition plus  your doing some now. Great stuff. Too many people never achieve there youth ambition so I doff my hat to you.    Interesting how you can either do other people's work or your own stuff. Who knows why tbh. Probably only you can work that out. But maybe both require so much concentrated attention that it's really really tough to do both. 

with re finding it difficult to paint for your own music it's probably very healthy that you do more photo based stuff and have the variety of that. Doing the photo stuff may help when your Painting. Your right probably hard to do your own cover art when you compose it too. Makes sense as you've probably got stronger opinions about what the music means which makes creating original painting really hard.  Also do you ever Photoshop a painting. Or is this cheating. ? 

Also what genre of music do you write? 

 

Oh for sure, I use Photoshop all the time. It's a necessary tool. Mostly for getting the photos I take of my paintings into a final, print-ready state, but also for logo designs, t shirts, digital "painting", and sometimes photo composites that I use as reference when I'm painting. I don't think there is any "cheating" when it comes to illustration, as long as you're doing your own original work. I don't use Photoshop to try and fool people into thinking I'm a more capable painter, if that's what you mean. 

As far as art for my own music, I think you're right that I'm probably too close to it, and I also think photos capture the mood better. Most of what I play generally falls into the black and/or death metal category.

 

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On 2/10/2021 at 5:57 AM, FatherAlabaster said:

Oh for sure, I use Photoshop all the time. It's a necessary tool. Mostly for getting the photos I take of my paintings into a final, print-ready state, but also for logo designs, t shirts, digital "painting", and sometimes photo composites that I use as reference when I'm painting. I don't think there is any "cheating" when it comes to illustration, as long as you're doing your own original work. I don't use Photoshop to try and fool people into thinking I'm a more capable painter, if that's what you mean. 

As far as art for my own music, I think you're right that I'm probably too close to it, and I also think photos capture the mood better. Most of what I play generally falls into the black and/or death metal category.

 

Father alabaster good to hear from you. Tbh that's interesting what you say re tweaking pictures in photo shop to create an improved picture. I've certainly used basic photo edit in the past to good effect when I was part of a art group but wasn't sure if it cheating. I guess it's just another tool to utilise abit like using an iPad to draw with. I know someone who does really good stuff on that. 

Your music sounds interesting. Have you posted on this site.

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36 minutes ago, blaaacdoommmmfan said:

Father alabaster good to hear from you. Tbh that's interesting what you say re tweaking pictures in photo shop to create an improved picture. I've certainly used basic photo edit in the past to good effect when I was part of a art group but wasn't sure if it cheating. I guess it's just another tool to utilise abit like using an iPad to draw with. I know someone who does really good stuff on that. 

Your music sounds interesting. Have you posted on this site.

The thing with photographing paintings is that it's really hard to get good lighting for focus and accurate color without also getting a bunch of glare. I have to shoot my paintings outside and it's almost never optimal. Tweaking the photo is about getting the photo to match the painting, rather than "fixing" something in the painting, which would probably be more difficult for me than just fixing it in the painting to begin with. I draw on my laptop with a stylus when I need to, but I kinda hate it. I'll definitely use color filters and do digital graphic design work on top of pictures of my paintings if it's called for... it's all in the name of making a nice cover image. Whatever it takes, you know? As far as posting my own stuff, I used to but I don't have anything up on the forum right now.

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On 2/14/2021 at 8:02 PM, FatherAlabaster said:

The thing with photographing paintings is that it's really hard to get good lighting for focus and accurate color without also getting a bunch of glare. I have to shoot my paintings outside and it's almost never optimal. Tweaking the photo is about getting the photo to match the painting, rather than "fixing" something in the painting, which would probably be more difficult for me than just fixing it in the painting to begin with. I draw on my laptop with a stylus when I need to, but I kinda hate it. I'll definitely use color filters and do digital graphic design work on top of pictures of my paintings if it's called for... it's all in the name of making a nice cover image. Whatever it takes, you know? As far as posting my own stuff, I used to but I don't have anything up on the forum right now.

Father alabaster thanks for the technical details. Very  interesting. 

Definitely agree with you that using the tools to do a great job is essential and especially for cover art as I can imagine it's very competitive area of work. 

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