Visually, 2014 has been one of the most interesting years for Metal in recent history. We’ve had plenty of striking images fronting thousand of album covers. Surprisingly, most of them have showcased both technical finesse and conceptual relevance. In this article (the fourth installment of …And Justice For Art’s mini-series about the subject), we keep exploring some of these works of art. Discover what the people involved in their creation had to say….

01. Judas Priest – Redeemer Of Souls:

The iconic British quintet (now with a fresh addition in the figure of guitarist Richie Faulkner) still reigns and manages to be as relevant and influential as ever. This is clearly demonstrated on their commanding, latest studio opus, “Redeemer Of Souls.”

In fact, the album’s main art somehow feels like a clear effort to come full circle, to bring together different moments of the band’s glorious career. In the words of artist Mark Wilkinson (who has been working with the band non-stop since the mid 80s), the creature portrayed in the cover is “an amalgamation of the angel from [the albums] Sad Wings of Destiny, through to Painkiller and Angel of Retribution. The band suggested I try and design him as if he was a fallen angel – the missing link between the human creature of Sad Wings…to the metallic cyborg of Painkiller.”

Going further into other technical and conceptual aspects of the image, Wilkinson says: “I was asked to try and make the color palette like Painkiller rather than the more muted tones of AOR or Nostradamus. I added the flames on the ground and bolts of fire from the hand as an afterthought to add drama. I tried to show that he had entered a new state of being, regenerating his body from within hell and this was the start of his journey back to earth…offering redemption symbolized through fire…. I wanted to make his costume a little less pure metal and more a hybrid of dark skin and metal…the coat a living, organic component of his body, a second skin perhaps. It appears to hold the fire within, occasionally scorching through and then repairs itself…always on the edge of conflagration!”

02. Unearth – Watchers Of Rule:

American extreme Metal perpetrators, Unearth, are coming back with a menacing new recording titled, “Watchers Of Rule.” It’s hyper-detailed cover art was painted by renowned U.K’s illustrator, Richey Beckett.

The artist became involved with the project when “Trevor (Unearth’s vocalist) initially contacted me about working on the artwork, and right away we started talking about the themes of the record, looking through his lyrics and figuring out imagery that might represent it.” Eventually, they reached a conclusion. Since the central theme and album title are “based around both fact and fictional concepts surrounding the NSA and government spy programs, as well as some conspiracy theory/Illuminati concepts, my idea was to visualize some kind of fantastical overlord, a tyrannical figure.”

Beckett (who did the artwork using pen and ink) says he “liked the idea of making it an almost Biblical character – but in keeping with a lot of religious propaganda, representing the ruler as a beast rather than a man, with serpents also used to represent evil forces.”

03. Polyptych – Illusorium:

Chigaco’s extreme metal collective, Polyptych, recently self-released its imposing new album “Illusorium,” which probably is one of the fiercest and more interesting recordings of 2014.

The expressive, acrylic-on-paper piece fronting for this magnificent piece of metallic madness was painted by the German artist known as Misanthropic-Art. “They provided me with a really elaborated written concept about a human which is transformed into a god by a god of higher power,” comments Misanthropic. “The concept is basically about his struggle with his human and god self and how to act and handle with such incredible powers.”

The band adds: “We needed an artist who could visually bring this to life, but we were careful to have the artwork done in a way that was more symbolic as opposed to literal. “Misanthropic loved our concept right from the start, and immediately began working in conjunction with us to create the artwork.The cover represents the duality of our main protagonist and the constant struggle he experiences in his search for an identity.”

04. While Heaven Wept – Suspended At Aphelion:

Veteran Prog metallers, While Heaven Wept have cemented their position as leaders of the American progressive scene thanks to their magnificent new conceptual album “Suspended At Aphelion,” which gracefully mixes many sonic landscapes and contrasting textures. For second consecutive time they commissioned Brazilian visual maestro, Gustavo Sazes to created the cover art which follows a similar conceptual path as the one featured on the cover of their previous recording, “Fear Of Infinity.”

“I basically gave Gustavo the title and explained its meaning from my perspective, then let him have free reign creatively from there,” explains the band’s mainman, guitarist Tom Phillips. “I think he was especially enthusiastic to work on this one. We experienced some synergy as far as the cosmic background imagery early on, and then I knew whatever he was going to bring to the table was going to be amazing… Gustavo definitely put a lot of heart and thought into this one; he was very excited about the revelation of it… and had taken into account the fact that the “furthest point from the sun” was likely to be a very cold place – something he wanted to capture in the image.”

05. Demonic Resurrection – The Demon King:

Demonic Resurrection is one of India’s hottest extreme Metal acts. The spectacular cover art for their new album “The Demon King,” was designed by artist Michal ‘Xaay’ Loranc. He had already worked with the band on their previous opus, “The Return to Darkness.”

The cover was designed using top notch digital techniques. Regarding to the inspiration behind it, Xaay comments: “The Demon King is a concept album, strongly inspired by the old Hindu epic “Ramayana” and some related legends. The cover artwork illustrates the final battle between two gods, Rama and Ravan. We decided to mix the original style of these Hindu characters with a modern, more realistic look.”

Next Time on AJFA: TBD!
Previously on AJFA: An Interview with Nick Micho Discussing His Heavy Metal Band Renditions