A Gift to Artwork, taken from the Caligula’s Horse song “A Gift to Afterthought”, breaks down and analyses your favourite album artwork. The first time an album’s name appears, it will link to a large and (where possible) high-resolution image of the cover so that you can take a closer look. Read other entries in this series here.
Hello and welcome to the (definitely not late) September edition of A Gift to Artwork. As we did in July, today will be a rapid-fire edition where we look at a handful of covers from a variety of artists and genres. There’s no particular theme to the covers chosen, just a swathe of gorgeous art that we’ve seen dropped at some point in 2019.
Kicking us off is deathcore outfit And Hell Followed With. Their latest offering Chimerical Reality is adorned by the great piece we see below, courtesy of Caelan Stokkermans. In it we see a cloaked figure sitting atop a rearing horse, evoking the iconic painting of Napoleon crossing the Alps, and commanding the viewer’s attention. Our central figure likewise commands the horse with aplomb amid a tumultuous background with ominous clouds and soaring mountain tops. The golden jewellery answers Napoleon’s golden cloak, though any pretence at a regal disposition is immediately dispelled by the figure’s otherwise rugged and weary appearance. Their head is neatly framed in front of the distant sun, emphasising their horns and begging the question as to whether they’re wearing a helm or are instead some demonic or undead creature.
The horse’s (seemingly) missing eye and vacant, emotionless expression suggests the latter, whilst the embossment of a skull upon the short sword’s hilt only adds to the unsettling figure’s aura. They’re certainly a fitting sight given the band name and album title, and fortunately for us the background also offers some interesting details. Both to the right and left of our demonic destroyer we see big, beautiful buildings with gorgeous spires. They’re tilted to the right, as if our demon has just finished tearing out their foundations, mankind powerless to prevent the toppling of these gargantuan structures. Hell hath truly arrived, and its wrath be furious.
The next cab off the rank is similarly grim in outlook and brutal in sound, namely Consumed By Vulture’s Pseudobiblion. If collapsing cathedrals got your heart swelling then you’ll be on board with this one, with the album title translating to fake, small book. Its cover, courtesy of the fantastic Eliran Kantor (who has produced some stunning covers like Fleshgod Apocalypse’s King, Thy Art Is Murder’s Dear Desolation and Soulfly’s last couple, to name a few), is all manners of madness. It depicts a host of natural disasters occurring simultaneously. The sky is on fire. The sun seems to be exploding. As if being engulfed in a fiery blaze wasn’t bad enough a raging tornado appears to have wrapped itself around the scene, throwing everything into disarray. The flying leaves and debris evoke a sense of chaos and panic, while the giant fireball offers a sense of inexorable doom and destruction that is difficult to match. What’s more, the fireball’s texture suggests it’s full of lifeless craters, foreshadowing what the world is about to become. Given the top-right of the image looks like outer space, it might be what the world has already become.
Further, we see a gnarled, writhing tree snake its way into the sky. Upon closer inspection, we see that its branches are either composed of or have ensnared at least a dozen people, despair writ upon their expressions amid the oncoming apocalypse. Their fate has been sealed, potentially by the last piece of this puzzle: the porcelain white woman sitting with arms outstretched, book and quill in her lap. The quill appears to be writing in this latest religious tome of its own volition, perhaps suggesting its contents are not to be believed or trusted, while the woman sits calmly in the Jesus Christ pose. Judgement Day is her salvation as she condemns the entire world to her own fate. The message seems to shine through quite clearly: trust in religion and false prophets will lead to the world going up in flames.
Now for my favourite record of the day, musically speaking, we have Fractal Universe’s excellent Rhizomes of Insanity. As if mixing equal parts Gojira and Obscura weren’t alluring enough, the cover for their sophomore record is downright beautiful. As its title may suggest, the record’s concept focuses upon insanity and how, in the words of guitarist/vocalist Vince Wilquin, insanity is a necessary part of society “and of every human being, which we’re trying to repress at all costs”. As a starting point, the colour palette is warm and inviting. The pale hues of yellow and orange offer a sense of safety that is neatly contrasted by the stronger, darker and more dangerous hues of red that surround each figure or the barren browns that comprise the desolate landscape.
Linking the artwork to the record’s concept, we can think of the warm upper half as our general sense of calm and rationality. Yet it is fluid and dynamic, unstable and constantly shifting. The occasional fragments of this universe that appear to be falling through the image could represent the cracks in our mirrors and the chinks in our armour, a portal into the barren wasteland of our own insanity. A place where a multitude of figures lie and we do not know who it is that will take hold of us at any one moment. Their outlines are clear yet their images are hazy, a mirage that we hope to be real but we know is not. They are ever watching, ever ready to come for us. Which mask will we wear today? Which creature must we fight to suppress today? Which of these figures will escape the confines we have set for it, stepping through the portal to take charge? Like all great covers, it leaves us with more questions than answers, provoking thoughts and discussions that neatly tie into the record’s sound, lyrics and concept to deliver a fantastic package for fans.
Finally, to finish off we’re going to look at Norwegian prog rock outfit Moron Police and their recent record A Boat on the Sea. Now, I’ll be honest, I have no idea what’s going on in this cover. But who the fuck cares because it’s prettier than your high school crush and more fun than a prohibition-era party. The colours are resplendently bright and boisterous. The cartoonish art style is light-hearted and cheerful. You can’t help but smile with childlike glee at such fantastical sights, as an antlered bear and a candle-horned, cape donning rhinoceros with a tree stump for a foot sit in a boat alongside a spotted turtle boasting vibrant greenery and a lighthouse on its shell, all whilst an angelic flying trumpet and hollowed out owl chill nearby. The levity on display harkens back to Plini’s Handmade Cities and I hope you enjoy staring at this wildly imaginative work of art as much as I do.
That’s all for this month, catch us next time for some more killer covers!