2014 is just beginning and there already are a lot of interesting artworks adorning the covers of many Metal albums. We’ve selected four of the most striking ones to-date and spoke with some of the people involved in their development who in turn revealed numerous interesting facts. We listened, learned and now, we’re sharing with you this info! Feel free to do the same…

01. Cynic – Kindly Bent To Free Us:
Cover Artwork by: Robert Venosa

As occurred with their previous recordings, Floridian Prog Metal masters Cynic, chose a painting by late artist Robert Venosa as the cover artwork for their 2014 album, Kindly Bent to Free Us. The piece’s original title is “Atomic Blossom” and was created by the visionary painter in the late 70’s.

“I’ve always been attracted to Venosa’s more organic, centered pieces and “Atomic Blossom” in particular, felt closest to what the record sounds like,” says guitarist/vocalist, Paul Masvidal. “I chose the painting because in the image I see three things; and I believe Venosa painted it with these ideas in mind… I see an atomic explosion, a cross section of the human brain and a tree of life. The new record explores who we are when we’ve been pushed to our edges and have nothing to hold onto. This image has a direct correlation to these ideas in that the human brain is essentially the source of all our existential and psychic troubles, the explosion represents the imploding potent energy of life itself, and the tree of life equaling wisdom/knowledge/history. A tree also kindly bends to the wind (a metaphor from the Tao Te Ching) and the brain (mind) must eventually yield to the wind which in many ways involves truly letting go and dying into life itself.”

Masvidal adds further: “I also see sort of a Rorschach test in that the negative (darkness) aspects of the work representing fire and parchment… There’s all kinds of metaphors at work in the painting, and it’s classic Venosa in that it’s ambiguous without being pretentious; it’s virtuous but it isn’t ruled by technique.”

02. Behemoth – The Satanist:
Cover Artwork by: Denis Forkas

The Satanist seems to be destined to become Behemoth’s magnum opus. Not in vain, both the fans and specialized press alike have pointed out this recording as the #1 contender to win the Metal Album Of The Year category in 2014. A similar accolade could go to its intriguing cover artwork, a work of cryptic beauty created by Russian artist Denis Forkas. The artist partially painted it using Nergal’s (the band’s mainman) own blood, partly as a way to produce an statement about the the musician’s personal struggles and views of the world.

The Satanist’s layout designer, Valnoir, also imprinted the rest of the album with arresting visual finesse. Here’s his opinions about Forkas work: “Nergal came to me with Denis’ work in hands and told me ‘I have this’, and I just shut my mouth, considering the quality of his work. Really stunning. A master. And I don’t say this often, especially for painting, that is a discipline I’m REALLY picky with, and even more when it touches Metal. The work that Denis Forkas achieved convinced me… We’re supposed to be part of an extreme art scene, and the blood because of its spiritual symbolism, is a central axle of our world. Concerning Nergal, this choice has probably been motivated by many things, but I’m sure that his near-death experience is part of it.”

03. Orpheus Blade – Wolf Cry:
Cover Artwork by: Eliran Kantor

“Orpheus Blade and their debut Wolf’s Cry are the brainchild of vocalist Adi Cohen Bitran, who also wrote the lyrics based on her own concept, dealing among other things with the struggle of the creative process,” says the mighty Eliran Kantor (Testament, Sigh, Iced Earth) who designed the rapturous cover for this recording, which promises to be a real feast for Prog Metal enthusiasts.

“The story itself is quite plot-based and not as abstract as the cover,” he comments. “But we said right from the start ‘we don’t want any wolves on the cover or tell too much of the plot.’ So the cover relates more to the actual essence behind the story told in the lyrics. My idea was to illustrate this inner conflict and struggle in the form of a naked human figure, trying to tame the monster she creates which is also a part of her—notice the hair turning into the monster. The monster is also shaped like audio waves to focus the ‘creative process’ specifically on composing music, even if the viewer won’t really notice it, it was meant to work on a more subtle level.”

04. Alcest – Shelter:
Cover Artwork by: Andy Julia & Valnoir

Alcest is a band in constant evolution. This French collective, lead by singer/multi-instrumentalist, Neige, has managed to go from playing Black Metal to Indie Rock-oriented soundscapes with relative ease – their recent album Shelter being a perfect example. The dramatic-yet-ethereal character of their music is clearly reflected in the album’s cover, created by the band’s longtime collaborators, designer Valnoir and photographer, Andy Julia.

“The picture was taken on a beach in the south of France near the original region of Neige. He likes the beach and to spend time there to enjoy the view and to be in his thoughts,” says the band’s drummer, Winterhalter.

“There are several meanings for this picture, most of it can be found in the lyrics, but mostly it’s about the feeling of Summer. It goes deeper than that, but I, alone, cannot fully answer the question. Neige has his own views on things, we do remain separate people. This is the partnership between us and our music, we have similar views and ideas, but different ways to see it sometimes, and it is this culmination that creates Alcest. For me personally, the album cover picture sometimes makes me think about a tipi – the triangle shape of the arms and hands and the fingers for the wooden parts etc. It’s a totally different way to look at it, but for me, it’s a kind of symbolism, another form of a Shelter.”

Next Time on AJFA: An Interview with author Martin Popoff about the book, ‘The Art Of Metal’.
Previously on AJFA: Interview with British designer Hugh Gilmour