Who says that visuals are not as important as they used to be for Heavy Metal music? Just take a look to some of the amazing artworks that have adorned album covers over the course of 2014. Not only have they been created via a plethora of distinctive techniques but also feature enough conceptual depth to be considered as serious, soon-to-be-classic works of art.

On this fifth and last episode of And Justice For Art’s guide to some of 2014’s best album covers, we continue to explore some of these fine graphics and how they were created. Let’s find out what the bands and visual artists involved had to say.

01. At The Gates – At War With Reality:

At War With Reality was beyond any doubt, the most anticipated album of 2014. After all, it’s been almost 20 years since the last time the mighty Swedish quintet, At The Gates, released a brand new recording.

For such a glorious occasion, the band employed the talents of powerhouse Romanian artist, Costin Chioreanu, who had previously collaborated with the band on T-shirts and the artwork for guitarist Anders Björler’s solo project. “We felt that Costin’s artwork style would be the perfect visual contribution to this new album, so he became the natural choice,” Bjorler comments.

According to vocalist Tomas Lindberg, what inspired the hypnotic and monochromatic cover was the album’s overall concept. “At War with Reality is based on the literary genre called Magic Realism,” he says. “The main style within this genre is the notion that ‘reality’ is ever-changing, and needs to be constantly re-discovered and re-conquered.”

Still overwhelmed by the opportunity of collaborating with At The Gates, Chioreanu adds: “I have been waiting for this album for almost 20 years and it’s the biggest honor for me to illustrate it – as there is no greater achievement for a dreamer than the moment when the dream becomes reality.”

02. Siberian – Modern Age Mausoleum:

Young Swedish metallers, Siberian, recently released their new album Modern Age Mausoleum. The recording’s highly symbolic cover art was painted by seasoned artist, Mattias Frisk, who has previously collaborated with bands like Ghost B.C., VANHELGD, and King of Asgard among others.

The rawness, gloominess and progressive mysticism featured in the album’s music was captured by Frisk on the album’s complete panoramic art. “The band wanted an artwork that could be used as a gatefold/digipack,” the artist comments. “Their idea was very specific: they wanted a swan on the back surrounded by an industrial complex and on the front a wild forest with moths flying around. They wanted it to be hand painted but in the end there were some digital touch ups.”

Regarding the concept, the members of Siberian add: “The artwork is a romanticized depiction of nature up against society. One of the core concepts of the album is how in our modern age we humans are moving away from our origins. We have to work faster and faster, we only think in terms of future and we are getting less and less aware of the present moment. The artwork shows these two sides. The back with the dystopian view of society. A big brother swan, always watching over us maggots as we work for the machine. The front shows a hidden place in the forest, we’re the maggots has bloomed out into moths, and nothing is touched by humans.”

03. Illdisposed – With The Lost Souls On Our Side:

Illdisposed’s 13th album, With The Lost Souls On Our Side, came accompanied with a soulful, stunning photograph courtesy of photographer/filmmaker, Lasse Hoile. Surprisingly, the image wasn’t specifically originally created for the Denmark’s death metal collective.

“Basically, the photo was from one of many sessions originally done for the new Anathema album, which was supposed to have a more human approach,” explains Hoile. “But, I think it ended up a tad darker than intended so when Illdisposed’s guitarist, Jacob Batten, asked if I had something laying around, I sent it to him and it just seemed to make sense for ‘Lost Souls’!”

04. Satan – Trail of Fire: Live in North America:

Berlin-based visual maestro, Eliran Kantor, nails it again with his arresting cover art for Satan’s new live album Trail of Fire: Live in North America. This is in fact the second time the legendary Speed/Heavy metallers collaborated with Kantor – after the art for last year’s Life Sentence.

“As fire sets the tone of the last album cover, I wanted to focus this one on what you usually get afterwards – ashes left behind. Hence the burnt coal frame,” Eliran comments. “The band came up with the title ‘Trail of Fire’ probably referring to being on the road, and it’s symbolized by the judge’s wig morphing into a trail of burning wooden logs, and the trail of fire actually leads to a trial by fire. I wanted the story told on the band’s covers to move forward too – ‘Court in the Act’ was a trial scene, ‘Life Sentence’ showed the incarceration stage, and now we’re witnessing the execution.”

05. Wizard Rifle – Here In The Deadlights:

American purveyors of stoner/doom/atmospheric sounds, Wizard Rifle, made a lot of noise when they released their latest EP, Here In The Deadlights, in October, 2014. The recording’s minimal-yet-intriguing cover art was conceptualized by Emily Adams and photographed by Audrey Nguyen of Fenetre Photography.

“Emily photographed the skull on the mirror on her phone. My job was to replicate it, just in higher quality with my camera,” comments Nguyen. “In my first attempt, the clouds were too puffy and serene. So the next couple times I tried around sunset to match some of the colors in the image with the burning painting. This was hugely unsuccessful! The sun was always impossible to ‘catch’, since it sets in the west and didn’t show in the mirror when I laid it down flat on the ground. I drove around like crazy, tried angling the mirror and having my sister hold the skull on top. I found the situation of going around with the skull very comical. He became my driving buddy. I was always so paranoid about damaging him, but actually it was the mirror that broke. I tried several different versions but the final image ended up being blue sky, only this time the clouds were less puffy – more dramatic! Eventually, I took separate images of the sky and skull and merged them in Photoshop.”

The photographer also confesses that during editing she “made a layer using Emily’s original photo and worked on a transparent layer on top of it to make sure it was close as possible to the original.”

Well, there you go, some of (but not necessarily all) of 2014’s TOP Metal Album Covers. Do not despair though, 2015 is almost here and certainly will usher in more awesome pieces featuring exciting new imagery!

Next Time on AJFA: A look to some of Metal’s most promising visual artists.
Previously on AJFA: A Look at Dan Seagrave and Zbigniew M. Bielak’s Latest Projects