Dan and Arno’s 2013 in Review: Best Album Cover Artwork

February 6, 2014 in Top Lists by blackwindmetal

Yeah, no pretense here. This list exists because we drool over cool album art and love to stare at big pictures of it. This list is again in no particular order.

1) Avantasia – The Mystery Of Time

Avantasia The Mystery Of Time

Arno: For as big a Magnum fan as Tobias Sammet, it must have been a dream come true to have Rodney Matthews create the cover art for his latest Avantasia venture. After all, On A Storyteller’s Night has classic album art and The Mystery Of Time was adorned with a similar playful, fairytale-like image. I’m not entirely sure what those gnomes (if they are even gnomes) are doing with that clock and how their actions tie into the incomprehensible album’s story, but the result is something magical, appropriate for an album that is constantly so (except for “Sleepwalking”).

2) Bane Of Winterstorm – The Last Sons Of Perylin

Bane Of Winterstorm - The Last Sons Of Perylin

Arno: Artist Damian Bajowski has no prior metal work as far as I know, and if this is indeed his introduction to the scene, it is a glorious one. In a genre infested with Felipe Machado Franco’s (often excellent ones, mind you), Bajowski’s art is a refreshing style, without skimming on the epic power metal stuff. It has a dynamic vibe, a chase, a gallop, and the kind of excitement found in the music itself as well.

3) Heavatar – Opus I – All My Kingdoms

Heavatar - Opus I - All My Kingdoms

Arno: For Heavatar’s debut, Kerem Beyit went with a fantastic landscape, the kind writers like me can only dream about describing. The framework is a pity, as it crops the image too much to have a full effect, but when properly cut it’s a striking painting of a fantasy world. As there is no clear story to the album to go with it, it seems a bit at odds with the material (which is so influenced by historical composers), but the music itself is of the heroic Blind Guardian-kind, and therefore cover and content are quite suited to each other after all.

4) Wisdom – Marching For Liberty

Wisdom - Marching For Liberty

Arno: Gyula Havancsak outdid himself for Wisdom’s third, breaking free of the static covers that Words Of Wisdom and Judas presented, and going for a much broader scope. The robed and bearded wiseman is still front and center (he’s even acquired a friend!), but he’s part of a bigger world now. For an album that saw Wisdom soar higher than before, it seems appropriate, and the now all that’s left for the wiseman is to conquer the bigger world he’s now a part of.

5) Iron Mask – Fifth Son Of Winterdoom

Iron Mask - Fifth Son Of Winterdoom

Arno: The cover for Iron Mask’s fifth full-length is a tad more personal. Frontman Dushan Petrossi has admitted that he’s supposed to be the child on the cover: the fifth son of winterdoom. The black and white wolves could represent the dual nature of the band at this point: neoclassical power metal scorchers with a touch of history to the left, heavy metal/hard rock anthems to the right. Or maybe it’s just a badass image courtesy of the band’s new house painter Genzoman, also responsible for Black As Death‘s similarly awesome cover.

6) Dark Moor – Ars Musica

Dark Moor - Ars Musica

Dan: I love the imagery in this one. The boy playing calmly amidst the chaos around him is probably some sort of metaphor for Dark Moor’s gorgeous compositions being a bastion in the turbulent world we live in (or something). I haven’t seen Nathália Suellen’s name on anything that I recognize (she’s a self-proclaimed “dark artist”), but with a cover like this, I hope she scores another deal in the genre soon!

7) Tierramystica – Heirs Of The Sun

Tierramystica - Heirs Of The Sun

Dan: I have no idea who is responsible for this artwork, and I don’t care. It’s as evocative and picturesque as Tierramystica’s brilliantly unique take on power metal.

8) Optic – Iris In

Optic - Iris In

Dan: Anything involving mind, vision, or cerebral imagery or wording is almost definitely going to be prog-related by default – it’s one of the well-accepted tropes of the genre. I think I actually listened through (and was floored by) Optic’s debut a couple of times before I even saw the cover art, which only impressed me further. The enigmatic whorl of the iris and the rough-hewn imagery of Iris In’s cover (courtesy of  Martin Clark Bridge, according to the band’s bandcamp page) is doubly impressive for an unsigned, digitally-released album.

9) Mindcage – Our Own Devices

Mindcage - Our Own Devices

Dan: Flashy artwork really can get the job done, and Our Own Devices surprised me right away when seeing it plastered on T-shirts at ProgPower USA. The steampunk atmosphere of the album is channeled pretty clearly through its packaging, and like the music within, the artwork is slightly dimmed, distressed, and mechanical. Of everything on this list, Mindcage’s is the one album that I picked up based solely upon packaging – and that, in and of itself, means that the art job was well worth the effort.

10) Human Fortress – Raided Land

Human Fortress Raided Land

Dan: Now, this might not be fair, but the obvious Central American imagery here (created, apparently, by a Croatian artist named Kristijan Kulis) screams “MOB RULES” at me, and that is never a bad thing – nor is the Human Fortress emblem set against a banner. It might not be all I hoped it would, but I think this is a downright iconic album cover.