Here are some thoughts, one of which is well-established and the rest of which are just assertions based mainly on my own observations:
– Across all genres of music, CD sales have declined drastically over the last decade (well-proven)
– Production and sale of vinyl records are on the rise, at least in the world of metal
– Album art (as opposed, for example, to photos of the artists) is more prevalent in metal than in any other genre of music
– Being able to get a big physical piece of artwork is part of the reason why vinyl metal is on the rise
– At least among metalheads, album art is still important, and is a significant part of what attracts listeners to new music, even when listeners are only buying digital downloads instead of physical formats
– A band doesn’t need the financial backing of a label to get a cool piece of artwork for their album covers; just as there are a lot of talented but broke bands hungry to get their music spread around (and not expecting a big payday from it), there are a lot of talented artists trying to do the same thing
I really do think it’s undeniable that album art is a vital part of metal culture. How much it has to do with a band’s success in selling/distributing their music I really don’t know — maybe I just hope it’s true, because I love metal album art and I want it to continue. But my guess is that bands who neglect the importance of album art are hampering their success in attracting listeners, building their own identity/”mystique”, and amassing a fan following.
Obviously, if a band’s music sucks, that will eventually prove troublesome, even if the album cover is amazing. But the big challenge is to get people to give your music a chance in the first place. You can be the greatest thing since the flush toilet, and if no one listens, what’s the point?
I’ve asserted these opinions elsewhere on this site — and it’s obvious that we regularly devote a lot of space to metal art. But I’m thinking about these topics all over again because of a slew of cool artwork that I’ve seen recently around a Vancouver metal band named Auroch.
Fittingly, I first paid attention to Auroch (and posted about them here) because I saw this fucktastic album cover by Danille Gauvin for From Forgotten Worlds, an album due for release on August 28.
Even more recently, I saw another creation by Danille Gauvin for From Forgotten Worlds. According to a FB post by Auroch, this will accompany a track called “Slaves To A Flame Undying” — could it be that the band plan to accompany each song with a different piece of artwork?
Awesome stuff, isn’t it?
And even more recently, I saw the piece of artwork (“Gate Abomination”) that’s at the top of this post. It was created by Vancouver-based Jeremy Hannigan (www.facebook.com/
And here’s what the shirt looks like (the Auroch logo was done by Rob Macabre Smits)
I want this shirt in the worst possible way. Unfortunately, Auroch just returned from touring, and the stock is low, but maybe if demand is strong enough they will make more. You can pester them about that via this address: email@example.com
I’m not finished yet. Check out this design for the poster for said tour, also created by the killer Jeremy Hannigan — wonderfully detailed, Lovecraftian imagery:
Oh hell, while I’m thinking about Jeremy Hannigan, here’s a detail from the cover piece he created for another horrific Vancouver death metal band, Mitochondrion (we featured this album cover in a post back in February):
I’m still not finished. Here’s a detail from the design for yet another Auroch shirt (forthcoming), which is based on another song from the new album called “Fleshless Ascension (Paths of Dawn)”. This time the artist is Benjamin Vierling:
This is also extremely cool. I’m looking forward to seeing what the completed shirt looks like.
And no, I’m still not done. In addition to that album I’ve been mentioning, Auroch also have a split coming out with a band named VadimVon, which will be appearing on East Coast dates this September/October in the North American tour of Morbid Angel, Dark Funeral, and Grave. The split is entitled In Extolation of Death, and this is the cover:
It will include tracks from both band’s forthcoming albums and will be distributed in limited quantities by VadimVon while on that tour. At this point, I’m not sure whether there will also be other ways to get it. I’m also not sure who the artist is, but once I find out, I’ll add an update.
Okay, that’s it for the artwork. I picked Auroch to illustrate a point about the importance of album art, because I happened to see all this stuff on their FB page while browsing recently. Of course, many other bands (even unsigned ones like Auroch) are paying similarly careful attention to dressing up their music with powerful visuals that suit the music.
And speaking of music, here are two songs from Auroch’s forthcoming album — which is available for pre-order through their Bandcamp page (here). The album version of “Slaves . . .” will probably be streaming soon, and when that happens I’ll put it up here, too.
Yeah, the Auroch art is fucking great. Gonna have to check that record out.. got it sitting in my inbox.
I am jealous.
Good art requires deep pockets, but I think it helps to know people more than anything. Took us forever to find a halfway decent artist that we didn’t have to pay an arm and a leg for. Some bands just luck out on finding artists I suppose. If we could comission a piece for every track, we probably would, haha.
Of course, I have no personal experience in such things, but I’m sure you’re right that personal contacts are really important. Auroch clearly have some. At the same time, I’ve seen so many interesting creations by artists with a metal bent all over the internet — and not just by artists who create covers for label releases — that I have to think there are talented people out there who would create eye-catching art for little or no money just to help establish a reputation.
When you mentioned commissioning separate artwork for each track on an album, I immediately thought of Solstafir’s “Svartir Sandar” album:
Yeah, that art is fantastic.
To give you some ballpark estimates, the going rate I’ve seen for art depends on what you are looking for.
Logos can be anywhere from $100 – 400, depending on who you ask. (Unproven artists probably around $50)
Art averages around $300, but not unusual to see it as high as $800. Thankfully we found somebody to do it on the cheap. We definitely were satisfied.
That and mastering the album was another $350. Then to produce even a small number of discs is usually about $1100 – 1200.
That shit adds up fast. You come to appreciate the fans who help make that happen through their support real quick, haha.
I don’t pay for music in most cases, but I do appreciate the artwork, as I will check out a band I know nothing about, if the album art tickles my fancy. Now, before this turns into a butt-hurt *ommmg, you dontz payz forz t3h mooozic!!!!!12121!!!!*, I go to more shows and buy more merch than all of you combined. That is how I offer my support….so suck on that!
And what about those of us who can’t tour or play live shows? 😛
Is this a good time to mention Stevie Floyd (Dark Castle/Taurus)? She’s done a number of impressive album covers and her other art and tattoo work is top notch.
Hell yes. One of her posters is at the top of this post:
It was thanks to that tour that I found out more about her art. After seeing her live, I wanted to find out more about her.
Gonna go ahead and agree with all of your observations. Excellent album art can very easily turn “this is a pretty good album that I’m streaming” into “I really ought to put this on my wall.” I always feel kind of stupid for valuing album art as much as I do because it doesn’t REALLY have a connection to the quality of music. On the other hand, it can look really, really cool. I have trouble not just buying vinyls with John Baizley’s art on them with the music being an afterthought.
Auroch’s art is pretty outstanding and they sound awesome to boot. Going to have to check out more of their stuff.
I love Auroch and was sad when they had to cancel the Vancouver date on their tour. I’ll be picking the album up for sure though!
Vancouver really seems like a happening place for metal these days, especially eviscerating death metal and grind. Is the scene as good on the ground as it seems from a distance?
Completely agree with your assertions. I just got a handful of album art framed and interesting art can definitely get me to check out a band I might not otherwise.