2016 has been a very interesting year for Metal, both musically and visually. Album covers, in particular, continued to flourish, showing plenty of aesthetic and thematic diversity. In this new And Justice For Art episode, we continue delving into the fascinating details behind some of these arresting images. Join us and discover what the bands and visual artists have to say about some of 2016’s TOP album covers!

01. Opeth – Sorceress:
– Swedish Prog Metal masters, Opeth, and visual maestro, Travis Smith have been successfully working together for more than a decade. They recently added to their extensive mutual portfolio the cover for the quintet’s latest full-length, Sorceress.

Neither Opeth nor Smith have revealed much regarding the cover concept and the creative process behind it. Undoubtedly, this image proposes a well-balanced mix between the beautiful and the grotesque. In addition, its blend of opposite visual motifs (a peacock on top a pile of humans remains) suggests several cryptic meanings. Opeth’s mainman, Mikael Akerfeld has expressed that the album draws “inspiration from the negative aspects of love and everything that comes with what’s ultimately a beautiful feeling… but it really can have a damaging effect on you.” With this in mind: Could it be possible that this peacock is representing Love as a beautiful-yet-destructive entity capable of leaving its victims in a helpless, dismembered condition? That could be (or not) a plausible interpretation.

In addition, there’s something in the Sorceress artwork, that’s reminiscent of the cover for 2011’s Heritage. When compared side by side, similarities can be noticed. Both visual compositions are divided in two distinctive sessions (top and bottom). Sorceress‘ top area is dominated by the peacock’s green feathers—reminiscent of the central tree on Heritage. In contrast, the bottom sessions of both images feature a pile of human remains and vibrant red tonalities. Could this be a clue regarding a possible conceptual similarities?

“[There are] no intentional similarities to Heritage,” Travis Smith assures. “That’s just what fit the pic this time.”

02. Testament – Brotherhood Of The Snake:
– The cover for Brotherhood Of The Snake marks their third album artwork collaboration between American Thrash lords, Testament, and Berlin-based artist, Eliran Kantor (Atheist, Iced Earth).

Regarding the concept for the cryptic graphic, Kantor comments: “[Guitarist] Eric Peterson told me of the title, referring to a secret society group—and I wanted to focus on the occult aspect of it without leaning on the already available myths. I pictured a ritual involving blindfolded figures coming out of chalices of black oil, holding scythes forming the teeth of a 3-headed snake.”

Going deeper, the Israeli-born artist explains: “Looking for ways to incorporate the masonic pyramid felt like a great opportunity to use the classic Testament logo, while adding something new to it, and also give it an active part in the plot. There are many tiny details adding to the atmosphere: red tongue bookmarks in the books, two more ancient-looking figures in the shadows hinting at the brotherhood’s lineage, two serpent-shaped fountain tubes pouring the black oil etc etc. The latter two were suggested by the band.”

03. Giant Gutter From Outer Space – Black Bile:
– With the release of their new recording, Black Bile, Brazilian experimental metallers, Giant Gutter From Outer Space continued expanding their own visual tradition: using striking photographs as album covers.

“The cover photo was taken by a friend of ours,” comments drummer, Johnny. “All I know about it is that it was taken with a cell phone here in Curitiba (South Brazil). We selected it because it represents the melancholy we’re conceptualizing in our last work.” The artwork’s layout was put together by Cesinha Marin, who has already collaborated with the band in their previous recordings.

04. Psychobolia – Chiaroscuro:
– “The inspiration for this painting comes from Rome architecture (Piranesi), assemblages of Arcimboldo, Michelangelo and something epic from Frazetta/Vallejo,” comments fearless Italian artist, Paolo Girardi. He created this visually-challenging piece adorning the cover of Chiaroscuro, the new album by French metallers, Psychobolia.

“Everything has been interpreted under the Psychobolia meaning,” Girardi assures. “So it’s an ‘anatomized’, humanized, decayed, ancient architecture with my usual touch of an eternal, inexorable, powerful nature/time that always win on us men.”

05. Venom Prison – Animus:
– Another Eliran Kantor artwork made it to this list. This time we’re referring the cover for the album, Animus by extreme metallers, Venom Prison.

Stylistically, the gruesome-yet-beautifully depicted scene seems to be influenced by classic chiaroscuro aesthetics. According to Kantor, he found plenty of inspiration for the concept in the album’s lyrics. “When I got the lyrics from the band, a song called ‘Perpetrator Emasculation’—about castrating a rapist and force feeding him his own genitalia—struck me as the number one visual we could extract from the album carrying the biggest impact as an art piece.” The achieved gut-wrenching effect will satisfy fans of extreme visuals for years to come. Guaranteed.

06. Inter Arma – Paradise Gallows:
– Inter Arma’s Paradise Gallows marks the third cover collaboration between the Richmond-based band and veteran designer, Orion Landau.

“The previous covers were very bleak and almost monochromatic,” Landau comments. “This time around we discussed early on that we all wanted to work with color, lots of color. The album is so dynamic and the art had to somehow portray that visually.”

“I think Orion did one hell of a job with the cover,” says vocalist, Mike Paparo. “It’s serene, yet treacherous. It’s beautiful, yet macabre. I feel like his art works supernaturally well given the dichotomy of the title.”

According to drummer, T.J. Childers, this image, “was kind of the brain child of Mike and I. He had come up with this water kind of idea that was cool but wasn’t quite jiving.” The introduction of some autobiographical elements helped to enhance the concept. “I grew up around the water (sandwiched between the ‘Nomini’ creek and the ‘Potomac’ river) so I would see sunken boats fairly often and I thought that would make for a good focal point on the cover and still look kind of eerie and fucked up. We thought the captain hanging himself from the mast while the ship was going down would work well for the idea of ‘going down with the ship’ as well as tying in with the title of the album.”

07. Rebaelliun – The Hell’s Decrees:
– Fierce Brazilian Death metallers Rebaelliun and fellow countryman, artist Marcelo Vasco, have developed a new vision of the underworld for the band’s new record, The Hell’s Decrees.

“This art is so grotesque and fierce! And it brings this amorphous, ugly, and blasphemous figure at the center. Really terrifying,” says bassist/vocalist, Lohy Fabiano. “It fits perfectly with the songs and lyrics. It works as if you could “see” what The Hell’s Decrees is, musically.”

According to the musician, the concept was the result of teamwork. “Everyone came up with some sick ideas, and the concept of a wasteland totally devastated, chaotic, and lawless was born. We sent some visual references and some few words to Marcelo and after that, he was totally free to make his magic happen. And the result is this killer art.”

For Vasco (who has worked with Soulfly, Borknagar and Slayer, among others), “the cover art carries that traditional Death Metal vibe, proposing a surrealist perspective with a little fresh touch on the color palette.”

*Be sure to also check out:
A Guide to (some of) the Best Metal Album Covers of 2016 (Part 1) – Feat. Sourvein, Incite, Ihsahn & More

“And Justice For Art” – The Book
– If you want to know more about the making of some of Metal’s most iconic album covers—including Black Sabbath’s 13, Metallica’s …And Justice For All, Sleep’s Dopesmoker, Obituary’s Cause Of Death, Opeth’s Heritage, Neurosis’ Times Of Grace, Skid Row’s Slave To The Grind, and more—check out the book “…And Justice For Art: Stories About Heavy Metal Album Covers” and dare to explore this fascinating topic even further. The book is available exclusively at: BigCartel.