Any music album is doubtless a package in this day and age. It is more than just the music and consists, moreover, of artwork too. Unlike lyrics, which have been companion to music since the dawn of this inimitable human phenomenon, album art provides a rather new form of accompaniment to music and perhaps it is this aspect that gives meaning to a music “album”. We may have never been so dependent on visual cues as we are today; the impact of visuals on the audience is quite inevitable and many artists and producers have used this to their advantage. The listeners, on the other hand, have been aware of this matter as well and have taken it into account and, as a result, kept the cycle going. I, for one, have picked a good number of albums solely because of their outstanding, or at least attractive, art and more often than not, they have proven worthy of my (not-so-)blind trust.
2019 was a year of magnificent artworks and there was an abundance of such grand works to choose from and it was truly much more challenging than I had expected. So I decided to drop the ranking system in favor of a more balanced view to immerse myself in the beauty of art and not be burdened with numbers; instead, I just put them into three groups. Following is the list of my favorite artworks and a brief explanation why they belong here on this list.
Archivist – Triumvirate by Alex CF
Even though this work is mainly circular in nature and rides on a centripetal force, the element which stands subtly out is the element of cosmos running vertically through the center of it, dividing this painting into dark and light halves. It feels as though the universe (or multiverse, why not) pours into the head of this being and then oozes out from its mouth into a rectangular box, which contradicts the angle-less state of objects here. This work is a testimony to the talent of Alex CF who, besides being the artist of this work, is the vocalist of Archivist.
Infant Annihilator – The Battle of Yaldabaoth by Guang Yang
Dark, epic and brutal. That is what Infant Annihilator is and that is what this artwork depicts. Impaled heads and corpses, a river of guts (literally), a dark castle, a fiery sky and two demonic armies at war; can it get any more deathcore-ish? I don’t think so. And oh! I almost forgot, there is also a demonic beast and some light magic to spice things up a bit.
The Ferrymen – A New Evil by Stan-W Decker
Of all the album arts present on this list, this one may be THE most Metal of all, metal in its classic, 80s and 90s, Heavy and Power sense. It depicts a demonic seafarer, sailing on waves of fire, through a heap of corpses and on a skeleton-and-chains-adorned vessel. It could be regarded as the hellish version of the river Styx in Hades’ underworld and the ferryman might as well be Charon as the background bears a resemblance to this infernal land of the dead.
This work has been able to capture the fierce nature of the band’s music and communicate it through imagery. On another level, it reflects the band’s name the album’s title.
Cosmic Entity – State of The Union (artwork: Fate of the Rebel Flag by William Bauly)
Painted around 1861, this painting and especially its sinking ship up in flames has a surreally apocalyptic vibe to it. The vibrant yellow and dead red against the black of the night and the reflection of them all in the water have created a grand visual bundle to enjoy.
Crows in the rain – Sorrow for an Unfinished Dream – photo by Amirhossein Darafshe, Illustration by Kimia Barhemmat
This artwork is meaningful and precise considering the tragic backstory of this album, which is inspired by the life story of a “Japanese girl named Sadako who tried to make a thousand origami cranes to be granted a wish, which in her case, was to live through her disease Leukemia caused by the radiation in the wake of Hiroshima bombing.” (mentioned in CitR interview with MNA)
The album cover puts together that story and the soothing postrock elements which are trademark of Crows in the Rain, a sound for which they have been continuously and deservedly praised.
Nailed to Obscurity – Black Frost by Santiago Caruso
I assume that the artwork is inspired, to a great extent, by the title of the album. Frost is omnipresent in this work and it does incite a certain frigidity in viewer’s mind. That wouldn’t have been a top-ranking album art if it had ended there. The artist’s representation of iciness is one thing, his depiction of an empty skeletal layer underneath the frost is another. I particularly liked how the eye is pictured. Truly impressive indeed.
Ashbringer – Absolution by Luciana Nedelea
This artwork is a snapshot from an acid trip (not that I have ever been on acid, but I suppose it would look something like this). The dreamy colors, the sharp and cutting angles, and the collage of that inverted tree all challenge your perception of reality. It is psychedelic, but at the same time open to interpretation on the side of the viewer.
Ketzer – Cloud Collider by Adam Burke
This artwork could be considered as an expressionistic depiction of a personal hell. Ruthless and ferocious touches of the brush assorted with a disorderly angst have given this work a fiery fist which strikes the soul and the dominance of black and red stir many bottled-up emotions in the viewer, given they take the time and gaze upon this piece in a long, meditative state. Adam has also provided for Angel Witch’s Angel of Light which is another noteworthy piece of art.
Nattverd – Skuggen by Stefan Todorović AKA Khaos Diktator
A lone wanderer treading upon a lonesome, winding path toward some huts. Well, that might not be a foreboding scene by itself; however, when this lone wanderer is wearing a black robe, is somewhat bent, and his feet are positioned as if he is gliding through the mud, it becomes a different issue. This feeling is intensified by the shadowy and murky surroundings, the leafless trees and the hazy band logo and album title. A tenebrous landscape indeed!
No One Knows What the Dead Think – No One Knows What the Dead Think by Josh Taylor
Of all the spacy, stellar, psi-fi-themed album covers, this one stood head and shoulders above the rest. It does so basically because it portrays solitude… on a cosmic level! It is solitariness in the universe. What’s more, the desperation in the astronaut’s condition leads to believing that only Death is victorious.
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