The fallible nature of mankind. It’s a topic that’s no stranger to the world of heavy metal, with many artists and bands offering their musings on just what life and humanity are all about. Well, Deathwhite is here to share their own take on said topic, exploring the twisted state of the current incarnation of human beings, as we continue to only look towards short-sighted needs, impose our willful ignorance on certain regions, and deplete the world of its irreplaceable resources. And what’s worse is that this is all done with complete and utter hypocrisy, often coming from our so-called leaders of the world.
Taking all of this into account, Deathwhite has surmised on their new sophomore album, Grave Image, that the state of the globe could not appear more grave and bleak. The album was just released on January 31st via Season of Mist, putting forward ten new tracks that are heavier and combine to form a more orchestrated presentation than its predecessor, For a Black Tomorrow. Grave Image is led by an embracement of clean, emotive vocals, a style which is becoming increasingly rare in current heavy metal which mostly features harsher styles of wails and growls. This is just one of several characteristics that differentiate Deathwhite from other current members of the metal scene. What’s also new about this record is the addition of a second guitar, which offers a larger wall of sounds and a more melodic approach than what you heard on For a Black Tomorrow.
Aside from the music and subject matter, one of the best features of Grave Image is the unmistakable cover artwork, handled again by the incomparable Jérôme Comentale who also created the art for Deathwhite’s previous releases. Comentale’s deep and dark visuals have helped contribute to the band’s overall aesthetic and will continue to act as a contributor to how they present themselves artistically. With Deathwhite carrying on with spreading the word and promoting Grave Image, we spoke with the band and artist Jérôme Comentale to get the full story on the creation of the album’s artwork and how it is very much tied to the record’s overall concept.
What was the inspiration for the album’s cover artwork?
Jérôme Comentale: “Every time I make the cover of a Deathwhite album, I’m lucky enough to have the lyrics of each song to try to understand the universe of the album. It’s while reading the lyrics that the inspiration came and I understood that the universe was very dark and mysterious. That was a key element for the artwork. I really felt the journey into the unknown.”
Deathwhite: “The inspiration behind the Grave Image album title and subsequent artwork is that our interpretation of the world at large is of a fraying, decaying state. Truth is no longer an absolute, and, we seem to be eager to destroy the planet rather than improving it. The cover represents a solitary figure who upholds values such as truth and empathy, a metaphor for the diminishing number of people who actually do practise these ideals. The central figure on the cover is the Italian philosopher Giordano Bruno. He was ahead of his time in science and often dismissed typical Catholic doctrines. Because of this, he was burned at the stake. Bruno represents progression, free-thought and the pursuit of knowledge, things that sadly, are now being forsaken.”
Please elaborate on the medium(s) used when creating the art. We’d love to know how the artwork was created.
Comentale: “For the realization of the artwork, there is no surprise, everything was done using Photoshop. This software, which is no longer presented today, is a must!”
What were the partnership’s dynamics like? For example, was a specific look given, or did the artist have full free range?
Comentale: “Working with Deathwhite is always very interesting and enriching! There is a real exchange and ‘trust’ is the keyword in our collaboration. I have to say that Deathwhite gives me great freedom once they send me all the elements of the album. But I have to admit that it’s above all a teamwork. It’s thanks to their confidence that I can move forward and I do my best to make them move forward as well.”
Deathwhite: “This is our third album working with Jérôme and never once have we given him specific direction. As he noted, we simply provide him with the lyrics and album title, he does the rest. We had the Grave Image album title for a while and provided it to him before the lyrics, so that likely helped him get a head start on the visuals. To that point, we cannot recall an instance where we asked Jérôme to correct something. Every time he has provided us with a rough sketch, we have come away amazed by his attention to detail and most importantly, his creativity. Jérôme has also given us a thread of consistency between our last three covers, they are each unique, but are tied together by several key features, notably, the hooded figure that has graced the last three covers. We are lucky to have him in our orbit and consider him integral to Deathwhite’s overall vision and scope.”
Would you consider the artist an additional band member, or someone contracted for just this piece?
Deathwhite: “Jérôme, along with our producer/engineer Shane Mayer, is considered to be the unofficial fifth and sixth member of Deathwhite. We have gotten to know Shane on a more personal level because he is in close proximity to us, but Jérôme is across an ocean in France, making interactions less frequent. This has never been an obstacle, though, for Jérôme is always responsive and eager to work on whatever projects we throw his way. We didn’t have much in the way of established visuals before we started working with him in 2015, we had a logo we liked, but nothing else. Jérôme has since made the visual aspect of Deathwhite much stronger and in line with our music.”
Check out this early draft of the album artwork:
Have you ever purchased an album solely because of its album artwork? If yes, did the music live up to the artwork?
Deathwhite: “Several times, particularly in the day and age where you had to purchase music in an actual store and not online. The internet wasn’t the hulking behemoth in the early 1990s as it is today, so you either had to read about a band, see them at a show, or have a friend tell you about them before making an informed purchase. You can take the most prime of examples: Iron Maiden, Cannibal Corpse and Slayer as bands whose album covers make you want to explore what’s inside. There is nothing quite like the rush you get when you put on an album and not know what to expect. This is still possible in today’s world, although it’s likely no money is invested when taking a calculated risk on a band.”
When people look at the album cover artwork, what do you want them to see/think?
Comentale: “When people look at the album cover, I would like them to feel a totally unknown place, a place that doesn’t exist, a place lost and full of mystery. It’s not life or death, but something in between. I would like people to think that here there is a journey into the unknown that awaits them, and this journey will not be indifferent to them!”
Deathwhite: “We have already had an array of people inquiring about Bruno and wanting to learn more about him. We were previously aware of his works, but it wasn’t until Jérôme placed him so prominently on the cover that we wanted to learn more. The life and imprisonment of Bruno hold a valuable lesson, knowledge and the truth can oftentimes be viewed as a threat to the establishment. The legacy of Bruno will hopefully outlast the obfuscation of such polarizing and regressive entities.”
Was the album art influenced by any of the themes explored on the band’s album?
Comentale: “Of course! I was inspired by a lot of tracks on the album to make the album cover! I have to admit that there are a lot of elements of Grave Image that inspired me and luckily, it’s also the title of the album. Everything was put together to go headlong in that direction, and I hope it worked! Deathwhite still has a special universe of its own, and I think it can inspire a lot of us.”