Written by Kep
We here at the ol’ Noob love visual art, and we love supporting visual artists. In fact, you might have seen our official statement on AI art, but if you haven’t I’ll summarize: AI art is a fun little gimmick, but we endorse supporting real human artists, especially when it comes to commissioning album covers. And what do you know, here’s a list of killer album covers created by real humans for albums released in the year 2022!
First up, a bunch of art we love that didn’t quite squeeze into the top 10, in alphabetical order by artist:
And now for the good stuff, the Noob Heavy top 10. A quick point of order: the list is limited to one entry per artist (the one I think is best, which is of course as subjective as it gets), but we’ve included a number of their other notable 2022 works for eye candy’s sake.
10. Eliran Kantor, Immolation – Acts of God
Kantor is a metal album cover superstar at this point, and the Kreator cover below really pushed for this spot. I give the place to the Acts of God cover, though, because the way he uses the shadows as something that feel like they have a physical presence is special. It’s like vampires in the sunlight, but reversed, as the darkness burns and melts through flesh like acid. That darkness feels alive here; the piece’s vision is clear and brilliantly executed.
9. Jean-Luc Almond, Conjurer – Páthos
Perhaps the most “simple” work on this list, and yet also perhaps the most thought-provoking. The dark, dreary portrait with that visceral, tactile assortment of grotesque mess obscuring its features feels like an exploration of self-loathing, or is it a portrayal of feelings toward someone else? Perhaps it’s the visual representation of depression or some other struggle that makes one feel like their true self is hidden behind. Whatever the meaning, it’s an impressive, deep piece that suits Conjurer‘s album perfectly.
8. Adam Burke, Light Dweller – Lucid Offering
Burke is everywhere these days and for good reason. Out of a slew of his 2022 works the Lucid Offering cover hooks into me the most, because that shit is utterly terrifying. It’s that burning, baleful gaze, searingly painful, that bares your faults and failures to the world. The rawness of the strokes is ideal for the subject, and it’s agonizing the longer you gaze at the broken skin of the person on the right. This one hasn’t left my memory since the moment I saw it.
7. Tom Roberts, Ueldes – Foreverer
This album was described to me as “sounding like the cover art looks”, and that’s a compliment of the highest order for Roberts’ piece. The gilded appearance of natural elements, the sketch-like quality of the many detail lines, the tangled points of the antlers, the fantastical feathers that adorn the deer’s body: it all feels like an ode to the music of Ueldes, gorgeously authentic and strange at the same time.
6. Saprophial, Hammers of Misfortune – Overtaker
I’m gonna be very honest: I couldn’t care less about the music of Hammers of Misfortune. Regardless though, the first time I laid eyes on this cover I was blown away. This feels remarkably distinct, especially within the scene. The level of detail is flat out astounding, but it’s more than that; it’s about the patterns of lines built into the marbled background and alien landscape, and the way the light of the sun glows into the space around its sphere, and the tendrils and veins within that massive sci-fi android whale (or whatever you’d call that). We’re only judging the cover here, but the full size artwork that wraps to the back of the LP is a sight to behold.
5. Smerdulak, Morkera – Entangled Excavations
This is easily my favorite cover by Russia’s Smerdulak, partly for its disturbing surrealism, and partly because of the way it feels perfectly tied to the feeling of the record. There’s something very cold about it, something dusty and unearthed, something unfeeling and horrible. I wonder about the indent on the inside of the open face; it must be meant for a hinge or pin. The way the skin(?) of the collarbone area and chest seems to be a layer above the shoulders. It’s eerie as all hell and the kind of thing that won’t soon fade from haunting your memory.
4. Petri Ala-Manaus, Epitaphe – II
There’s a certain balance between detail, color, and the blurring of those details and colors that I really enjoy in Ala-Manaus’ pieces. The ground seems almost obscured beneath a haze, even as the sky fills with billowing plumes of smoke and the orange glow of fire. There’s so much brightness, even though the scene feels somewhat grim. The stand of trees, proud and unbroken, draws the eye to the upper center, and the shadow it casts creates a clear dichotomy from left to right. Beauty only just tinged by violence, it seems.
3. Artem Demura, Grima – Frostbitten
Demura has done some of my favorite covers ever, including the one for 2020’s What Lasts Forever by Nyktophobia, my favorite of that year. Here, for Grima‘s frigid Frostbitten, it’s like he took the very essence of a bitterly cold winter and created this image of a dark-hooded wanderer between two monstrous icy woodland figures that draw the eye like a magnet. Is he…melting the snow as he walks? Could those giants be alive beneath that ice? The scale and perspective are flawless, and I’m chilly just looking at this.
2. Mariusz Lewandowski, Tómarúm – Ash in Realms of Stone Icons
We lost the great Lewandowski in July of this year, may he rest in peace. His distinct visual style is synonymous with much fantastic music, and I think this work is one of his finest. Death and the question of an afterlife are as vividly imagined here as ever, and the color scheme feels cold and harsh even though there are hints of warmth. The depiction of the spirit leaving the body, reaching desperately, hopefully even, upwards as the heavens part and reveal a reaper. Check out the figures in the waves in the lower right!
1. Jon Chan, Wormrot – Hiss
This is the young Singaporean painter’s first album cover, as best I can tell, and it’s utterly fantastic. Striking in both its overall design and its outstanding detail (especially in the water on the face), this work will live in my mind for years to come. It grabs you straight away, bold and bright in its colors and lines, outstanding in its realism but still haunting and strange. It’s immediately arresting, and it feels alive right before your eyes. You can’t drag your gaze away even as staring at the image unnerves you.