Masha Scream, photo by Greg Shanta
Russia’s Arkona have completed a new album named Yav. It will be released on April 25. I’m very interested in hearing it, not only because I’ve enjoyed previous recordings but also because I’ve enjoyed the hell out of the two live Arkona performances I’ve seen so far in Seattle. The frontwoman Masha Scream is a force of nature on stage, in addition to the fact that she has a great dual voice (both harsh and clean).
I’ve read that for the new album she wrote almost all of the music and almost all of the lyrics, which was the first time it dawned on me that her role in Arkona goes well beyond that of vocalist and magnetic stage presence. But this post actually isn’t about her, or anyone else in the band. It’s about Gyula Havancsák, the Hungarian artist who created the artwork for Yav.
In addition to creating the album cover, which you will see in a minute, he also created pieces for each of the album’s 9 songs. Beginning last week, Arkona began posting the song illustrations on their Facebook page, along with poetic translations of the Russian lyrics into English. So far, five of the illustrations have appeared, and they’re very cool. You can see them next, along with the album cover. To hear a teaser of the new music, go to this location.
(In this post, guest writer This Is The News hands out some personal awards for the best metal album cover art of 2013. Please leave your thoughts — including your own favorite cover art of the year — in the Comments.)
It’s time again for year end lists, which boils down to two things for most of us:
- No surprises. Decibel, Revolver, and Metal Sucks will publish lists that we probably could have predicted back in June.
- We will want to argue with their choices anyway.
As much fun as that is, let’s take it a step further with a look at some of the best album cover art of 2013. Good artwork can be the incentive to hear an unknown artist, or a small consolation to a disappointing album. Even if you’re bummed out that the new Avantasia album isn’t actually about gnome wizards, at least you still have a fun bit of fantasy art to admire. So look, argue, give your own list of favorites. You know the drill.
Sales of music CDs in the US are in a state of “terminal decline”, and are projected to continue dropping by an average annual rate of 13% from now through 2017 and will probably never see “any kind of sales increase again”. Ironically, as some believe, they could be saved from complete extinction only by consumers who come to see them as a “nostalgia niche product”.
Maybe a day will come, far off in the future, when history will repeat itself and CDs will experience the resurgence that vinyl sales have been experiencing recently. But even with vinyl sales growing, the total physical market for music in the US is already dwarfed by digital sales, and the disparity is only going to get worse. The same trends are happening globally as well.
As physical sales of music have dropped, some observers have worried that album art would also become less and less significant, both as an art form and as a draw for consumers. I used to be one of those people. But I’ve changed my mind. I don’t base my optimism on any hard data, just my own observations, and so maybe I’m guilty of wishful thinking. But at least in the world of metal, it sure seems that fans still care about quality album art, and that striking album art draws fans into music they would otherwise never discover — even if they’re only buying digital downloads.
I’ve been distracted today, more than usual, by my fucking day job (the nerve of them expecting me to work for my pay!), but I didn’t want to let this Friday crawl to a close without one more post. I’ve seen and heard a handful of new things today that are worth spreading around, but time being short, I’ll limit this to two excellent items, and perhaps include the rest tomorrow.
The ultra-crushing, doom-dealing blood drinkers in Finland’s Hooded Menace appear to have been working on a follow-up to their gloriously heartless 2012 album Effigies of Evil. The new work will be released as a 12″ EP by Doomentia entitled Labyrinth of Carrion Breeze. The beautiful cover art (and by “beautiful” I mean loaded with fuckin skulls and ghouls) was unveiled on Halloween, and credit goes to Joshua Brettell (Ilsa’s drummer) and Adam Geyer for the creation (Brettell drew, Geyer did the gorgeous coloring). The front panel is above and the gatefold layout can be viewed after the jump (click for bigger views).
In addition to sharing the cover art, Hooded Menace has also made a part of a song called “Chasm of the Wraith” available for streaming. It’s low, slow . . . and actually beautiful, in a dreadful way.
Yours truly has been keeping both bloodshot eyes peeled for info about the next album by Vasaeleth. Keeping my eyes open without blinking for hours on end makes them hurt quite a lot, and this may explain why I sometimes make whimpering noises. However, we must all endure pain for our pleasure, because this is the way of the world. Of course, much of the time we must endure pain to no good end at all. This also is the way of the world.
Aw fuck, where was I? Oh yeah, waiting for Vasaeleth. Well, my painful vigilance was rewarded this afternoon with a boatload of information. First, Profound Lore confirmed the title of the new album (All Uproarious Darkness) and announced its release date (August 20). Second, PL unveiled the album’s cover art, which you can see above. It was painted by the viciously talented Antichrist Kramer. It’s quite eye-catching, don’t you think?
And finally, we have been given a new song to hear, one bearing the title “Paradise Reconsecrated”. I’m of two minds about the song. In one of my minds I’m being torn apart by wild, voracious beasts who are growling and shrieking and tearing and swallowing whole in a feast of ravenous abandon. In my other mind, I’m enveloped by a blackened death metal tornado, the air being sucked from my lungs while the guitars grind and moan and squeal, the bass thunders, and the drums rumble like an earthquake; and then I’m eaten alive by wild animals. It feels so good.
This is the second part of a two-part post about new music that swallowed me up last night. By blind chance, all four of the songs I heard sound like granite must feel, sitting on your chest or coming down in an avalanche on your head. Part 1 (here) dealt with Geryon and Hollow Leg. This one focuses on Lycus (Oakland) and Ortega (The Netherlands).
In addition to delivering crushing music, all four of the bands featured in this two-part post bring us striking cover art for their new releases. As you can see, the debut album by Lycus, Tempest, is adorned with the awesome painted art of the Italian madman Paolo Girardi (go past the jump to see more of the album art). Tempest is scheduled for release by 20 Buck Spin on July 9 (digitally and on CD/LP).
I haven’t yet carved out time to listen to the album, and nothing from it is yet available for public streaming, but I did check out the first song from the band’s Demo MMXI. That demo was released two years ago by Graceless Recordings (run by Mike Meacham of LOSS) and on vinyl by The Flenser Records, and it’s a name-your-price download on Bandcamp.
Sometimes the hands of blind coincidence shuffle the cards of life and deal you a flush. And so they did for me last night. In addition to other blog-related activities, I had time to listen to four new songs, and by happenstance they all turned out to be from the same suit — and they were also a winning combination. I know four cards don’t make a flush, but one of the songs is 18 minutes long, so I think that counts as two cards (at least).
The songs are actually from somewhat different genres of metal, but when I say they’re from the same suit I mean that they have this in common: BASS
I’m dividing this post into two parts, with two songs in each one. The next post will come later this morning.
The first song I listened to was brand new, the first track released by a new band named Geryon. I listened to it mainly because Geryon is composed of two members of Krallice, Nicholas McMaster and Lev Weinstein, and the song was produced by a third, Colin Marston. I do like me some Krallice. But there were two other reasons, and you’re looking at one of them at the top of this post.
Last night I was talking with my NCS comrade DGR about the fact that we never just copy and paste PR announcements, and about how uninteresting we find most announcements about new music that don’t include actual music. But of course there are exceptions, such as the two featured in this post, where the artwork alone is enough to catch my interest. Also, I’m more inclined to make exceptions when I’ve been out carousing late the night before and have awakened with a hammering hangover and all of today’s posts in various stages of incompletion. Hypothetically speaking, of course. I’m not saying I did that last night. But would you please speak very, very softly for the next few hours?
I have no new music from Revocation to share with you, unless you count the few song fragments that appear in the studio videos I’m going to stick in this post. What I do have is the artwork (above) for their fourth album, which I really like. It’s by Orion Landau, who has created album covers for the likes of Dying Fetus, Obscura, and Nile.
I also have a release date: August 6 (via Relapse). I have the track list, but I don’t know who really cares about song titles. There are ten of them. I also have the album title: its name is Revocation.
And then I have those two studio videos that have been released so far, plus I have tour dates. Most of these dates are for the SUMMER SLAUGHTER tour. Come to think of it, I don’t think we’ve yet posted the SUMMER SLAUGHTER schedule, so that might be interesting to some of you. Mainly I’m writing about Revocation because I’m a big fan. Also, could you please try whispering?
I came across some news today involving three bands I like. Unfortunately, the news involves releases that we can’t yet hear, but at least the news brings album art that’s pleasing to mine eyes. And then I came across one other piece of eye-catching new artwork that introduced me to a new band and a new song that I’m pretty sure fractured my skull . . . as if I needed any more skull fractures. Here’s what I found:
As we previously reported, this Swedish black metal band have a new album named The Wild Hunt coming on August 19 in Europe and August 20 in the US via Century Media Records. Today I learned that they will first be releasing a two-song single, both digitally and in a variety of physical formats, in late June. One song will be an original album track named “All That May Bleed”, and the B-side will be a cover of “Play With the Devil”, originally recorded by the Swedish black/heavy metal band Taiwaz in 1988; Gottfrid Åhman from In Solitude has contributed a guitar solo to that cover track.
Above, you can see the just-disclosed artwork for the single, which is quite cool and was created by the amazing Zbigniew Bielak II, whose work for Ghost we featured at length here. As for the original song, here’s what Watain had to say about “All That May Bleed”:
“‘All that May Bleed’ shows but one facet of a quite diverse album, but we chose this song as a first glimpse into ‘The Wild Hunt’ because of its bombastic lunacy and white-eyed malevolence which could be said to constitute a main foundation for the album. The lyric is an invitation to sacrificial blood letting, ecstatic zealotry and human sacrifice. The salt of Satan in the wounds of Christ!”
Well then, if this is an invitation to sacrificial blood letting, ecstatic zealotry, and human sacrifice, I accept!
If you’re a regular NCS stalker, you’ve seen this cover before. Twice before, actually, because I keep looking for new excuses to stick it on the site. It’s the hellaciously eye-catching gatefold artwork for Bloodlines, the new Relapse Records album by Rhode Island’s Howl — which is also hellaciously good, by the way. To see an even larger image of the artwork, click the pic above.
The artist who created the cover is Ryan Begley, and this is his third record cover for Howl (the other two are also killer). Today we have the pleasure of giving you a behind-the-scenes look at how the Bloodlines artwork came into existence, including the rough and final pencil sketches that evolved into the finished inked-and-colored piece you’re looking at. As Ryan explains:
All the visuals were inspired by lyrical content and both the band and I wanted to have an image with a lot of elements that would take time for the viewer to soak in. I tried to have all the characters and elements interacting and overlapping as much as possible. The blood was one of the more difficult but fun elements to draw for the cover. Figuring out how it would flow and move throughout the frame and around the characters took a while to sketch out.
The band wanted a bright and vibrant cover and I thought it would translate best if we kept the colors in the same family. Once I settled on a specific red for the blood the rest of the palette was pulled from that.