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.
This piece has been rolling around in the back of my mind for the best part of four years. The moment the light from Paradise Gallows’ artwork hit my retina and my brain began to process what lay before me I knew we simply needed to write about it. It’s one of the coolest album covers I have ever seen. The problem is, I don’t really like the record – or the band for that matter.
Nothing against Inter Arma, from all reports they’re one of the preeminent bands in their genre, but the genre as a whole and its crawling, laborious tempos do little for me. In the words of Noyan, I’m simply not that interested in “boring metal”. And so it is that I asked around our internal blogosphere demanding that someone who loves the band (they usually feature in our AOTY list, so a lot of us do) write a column on its stunning cover art, but alas those calls fell on deaf ears. Now, almost four years on, I have taken it upon myself to at long last dedicate a chapter of this column to what truly is a Gift to Artwork.
The most striking thing about this piece is its colour scheme. The blacks, browns, and greys of its lower half are what we often come to expect – but the striking orange and blue/green hues of the sun and sky are breathtaking. At a single glance, we already know that there will be a duality to the record. Dark contrasting with light, heavy contrasting with soft.
The cover’s darker lower half embodies the core of their sludge/doom sound: crushing riffs to go with crashing waves, shrieks and screams as raw and jagged as the deadly rocks, power and destruction to match the splintering ship. The influences of abrasive drone that filter through are borne out in the murky waters, abrasive, oppressive and unyielding. The chaos and the violence of the scene are fitting; and yet, the very nature of a still image also evokes a sense of timelessness. It almost feels as if the scene is playing out in slow motion, such is the detail with which we can characterise the single scene, suiting the frequently funereal tempo and representing the core of their sound with aplomb.
Turning our attention to the brighter upper half of the cover, hints of the more psychedelic side of their sound come to the fore. While the gorgeous colour scheme evokes equal parts psychedelia and post-rock, upon closer inspection the liquid and smokey texture of the turquoise sky and the wispy nature of the clouds screams the former. As well as representing a key tenet of the record’s sound, the beauty of the upper half is neatly juxtaposed against the violent and tragic scene below. Adding to this beauty is the starry sky in the top left corner, the main shining light the visual equivalent of a siren’s call: sucking the ship onto the rocks with its guiding light.
The glaring detail we haven’t discussed so far, and the one you might not even notice at first glance, is the person hanging from the proverbial gallows. Hanging from the masthead, transposed atop a cloud, the person is suspended in mid-air with their hands and feet firmly bound. The pose, despite its obvious submission, is one of complete peace. The head still stands proudly above the shoulders – there is nothing to suggest a broken neck or the struggle of asphyxiation. Instead, they calmly await their fate, staring into the sunset, underneath bright stars and a soaring sky. Contemplating the sky’s paradise from their gallows. All in all, a stunning piece. Bravo Orion Landau, bravo.