Album Art Feature: Part 2

In case you missed it, here’s the link to Part 1 of this series. This week, we move onward, highlighting another set of ten wonderful pieces of album art.

To start off, here’s the cover of BioMechanical by WURM. There’s nothing subtle about this high-saturation, high-contrast image. Combined with the sci-fi looking font (which I adore), this art creates a firm atmosphere, preparing you for WURM’s experimental electronic sound.

Next up is the album Ragnarok by Even Death May Die. I really love how it looks halfway between art and a photograph here. The two blend together seamlessly. The black-and-white works well, keeping it crisp and clean yet unmistakably dark. I love how “Even Death May Die” is written- beautiful font!

This is the track cover of the Stave Church’s for Langston. The visual artist behind the piece, Ryan Thomas Mitchell, says “I designed the cover with one directive: include imagery of The Stave Church that inspired the project’s name. Their previous covers also featured the church, so I wanted to do something that stood out and “popped” in comparison. I also wanted to represent the inside of the church, and what it might feel like to stand in the center, look up, and feel the grandness of the whole thing.”

I love the overall composition here. I’d definitely buy this as a poster to hang on my wall. There’s a whole lot going on, and yet, it doesn’t feel over-busy or over-burdened.

Let’s do a complete 180 away from black-and-white and look at some color. Lots of color! Here’s the art for The New Flesh by Helvete Inc., done by Hemlock Wargrave. I love this piece in how overwhelming it is- in a good way! Listen to the first track off the album, and you’ll immediately see how this art is a good fit. The music is industrial and aggressive, a coordinated bombardment of instruments and voices. The album art perfectly encapsulates that in visual form. It’s a match made in heaven- or hell, perhaps!

You like color? Good news, because here’s some more color! Blacklight by Blindcopy, with art done by Whitney Flaherty. Does this remind you of a rave? With (literal) blacklight and neon colors all around? The comparison might be fitting- the track, “Blacklight,” is certainly an upbeat, danceable one. And how pretty this image is to look at!

Okay, enough color for now. Here’s the monochromatic cover of of Real Bad Day by amnestic, done by Sam Pfannkuche (aka Sam Pancake). According to Sarah Elizabeth, “Photo is from when we were stuck in London Heathrow airport for (what turned out to be) about 16 hours before our flight was rescheduled for the next day. We picked this photo because of the emptiness and loneliness it conveys – both themes within the album itself.” She’s right about that- the photo is strikingly devoid of human life.

I would also enjoy this art on a poster. The angles inherent to the photography are wonderful, and the addition of the words within the photo is both creative and masterful. This is exceptional.

It’s hard to pick just one Star Noir album cover to review, but I’ve settled on Society. According to Jody Coombes, “This piece was done 3 years ago and was my first album and the first real bit of album art I ever did. It was based on a photo I took in Hong Kong while I was over there. The concept of the cover was based on the idea of the state of society today and my views on some of the current problems we face. The hand coming into the scene (which is a photo of my own hand) was supposed to represent how I would like to change things if I had the power to make things better.”

I love the sort of faded, dream-like pink washed over it all. It matches the somewhat melancholy feel of the music. I’d call this art cyberpunk, maybe. It’s beautiful. You can really just sink into this piece.

Now onto James Chapple’s project, Kiss is Kill, and album Imposter Syndrome. The art for it was done by Pete Crossman (of Victory Pill). Though not exclusive to this album, I love the logo for Kiss is Kill. It looks almost…military? According to Chapple, “it looks like play/pause/rewind icons all lined up,” which I can also see.

“My favorite little detail,” Chapple says, “is that he incorporated the sawmill from Twin Peaks in the buildings across the bottom (its the large smoke stack on the right). When he was here visiting from England, we actually visited Twin Peaks, so this was a nice little personal detail.”

The music is Industrial in genre, which is mirrored in the literally industrial set of buildings lining the bottom third of the piece. I also get the industrial vibe from what looks like cracked concrete as the background texture. Everything looks balanced and well-composed.

To change genres a bit, here’s the cover to the All​-​Nite Starlite Electronic Café by Glass Apple Bonzai, a synthwave band. This piece was made by SIZER Design + Illustration. I really like the attention to detail here- the various sized stars, the textures on each planet, the distinct personalities of each alien cafe-goer…very nice. Aesthetically, I like the blend of retro (the cafe/diner style, the neon, etc.) with futuristic (space). This mirrors the music itself, blending 80s-esque synthpop with a modern touch.

To end this article, here’s the album art for Black Synthetic and Dense by CIRQUE D’ESS. According to Ryo Nubeat, this art “comes out from a frame of the 1st video I made for the song “Hole-Frog”. The woman is Miriam, in that particular moment she was immersed in a massive projection of images all over the body, just like body painting but using a projector.” This is a unique (or, at the least, rare) technique, and I like that. This piece is understated, calm, with lots of negative space. It says what it needs to say, in just as much space as it needs. It is dark and beautiful.

Album Art Feature: Part 1

An album is a multi-faceted piece of art. There’s the lyrics, the music (instruments, vocals, effects, mixing), and then there’s the visual side of things. Today, we’re exploring some great pieces of cover art shared in the Sound & Shadows group.

To start off, this is the cover to Automata by Confusion Inc. “The artwork to my Automata album is special to me, because the original image used was a photograph of my mother’s artwork,” Colin Cameron says. “She’s an abstract expressionist – life long painter. I love the stone-looking background here, as well as the several dimensions of glitchy-ness added over it. This is an elegant cover with a heart-warming backstory.

Next up is the cover to The Fire Within by Vaselyne. This piece is a self portrait by Yvette Winkler. The photography here is excellent. It is still, yet in a day dramatic and dynamic. I love how the picture fades so seamlessly into the black void background. It altogether creates some emotion I can’t quite name.

Here’s the art for Plague Garden’s upcoming album. The piece was done by Albie Mason. I’ve got several aesthetics on the tip of my tongue while looking at it. It’s visually striking. There are many elements at play here, but they all form a wonderful cohesion under the vintage-feeling grain. It reminds me of browsing the sci-fi section at an old bookstore tucked away somewhere.

Inertia by We Are Parasols is coming in hot with this rainbow orb! The art was created by Daniel Kopton . This feels like something I could see in a museum. It would make a great desktop background, too. A poster, even. Basically what I’m trying to say is that I love looking at this. The choice of using a bar code instead of text is bold, but I think it works well.

Changing gears a bit, let’s take a look at Sea Lungs. This art was done by one of the band’s own members. It has a slight comic book cover vibe to it, I think, in how perspective and action are both played with. I’ll admit when I first glanced at it, I thought of astronauts due to the suits, the crater-like ground, and the star-like bubbles. I think this ambiguity adds to it, though. After all, space exploration and deep sea exploration are both equally terrifying intrusions into the harsh unknown.

Here’s a shocker. The album cover to Batavia and Their Friends by Batavia. No, you didn’t suddenly get transported back to the 1970s. “Nobody we showed this to thought we would actually use this and risk losing 200% of our goth credibility,” says band member Ed Cripps. “Risk is the spice of life.” That it is, Ed, that it is. I applaud this bold stylistic choice and devotion to an artistic direction here! I love it.

Another strong artistic direction is shown here in the album Leyendas de las Almas Perdidas by Valentina Maurino. “Endăley (fairy of the souls) is the one I portrayed here, the one who tells the stories of the lost souls behind each song, and these lost souls are represented through objects on the little table (it’s a telephone seat), some of these appear in my music videos too, I love symbolism,” Maurino tells me. I absolutely adore the whimsical handwritten wording. The broom-like hands, the table ornaments, the lighting…it all comes together and, I agree, tells a story.

Speaking of stories, let’s go into Another Year Of Rain by Arden and the Wolves. Arden Leigh had a lot to say about this piece.

“I wanted to convey the question that was arising for so many women at the time, myself included – is our sexual objectification and submission hot, or is it violent? Does it depend on who’s doing the choking? How can we be sure of the person’s intentions? Are we getting off, or are we endangering ourselves? As it turns out, in the following four songs on the EP that I would write between 2016-2017, I ended up unearthing and purging all my relationship trauma, and recalling a memory I’d suppressed – one where I was choked in anger by a dominant male partner I’d been financially supporting as his submissive. Through the course of the album writing and recording process, I answered the question “who can you trust” and I learned discernment. When the EP was released in early 2018, we were four months in to the crest of the #MeToo movement, and it was right on time.”

More information about Arden and the #MeToo movement can be read here.

Lastly for today, here’s the cover of Nervous Prayers by Sweat Boys featuring the logo work of Jim Marcus. This piece is serene yet dangerous. The imagery is drowning and, yet, reaching for help all at once. I am reminded of the hand of Adam reaching towards God as the Sistine Chapel.

An in-depth interview with Modal Citizan

Who is Modal Citizan? Well, they’re a dark, alternative rock group based in Virginia. They recently came out with a new album, titled Control Alter Deplete, which S&S covered in a Bandcamp Friday review. Their members are Adam Fueston on guitar, Shaun Waff on bass, and Ryan Jones on vocals, keyboard, programming, and production.

Time for an interview!

First up, how did this project/group form?

Ryan: Excellent question! It started as an emotional outlet (side project) about two years prior to the band forming. The raw material was shared with various folks. Initially, everything was digital – no live instruments. It was recommended (by some music enthusiasts) to get some raw instruments onto the tracks. People pressed me to do so. So, I made some posts on message boards (Ads).

Ryan: Exactly.

Shaun: saw the posting Ryan had put online and said he was going to contact him and asked if I would be interested and I was thinking hmm 🤔 sure let’s hear what he’s got.. We all got together and had mutual interest and got to work.

Adam: I actually got some tracks and played to one of them and sent it back. Since then we have worked more organically and worked on a lot on the rest of record etc.

The bandcamp page cites “several influences from the 90’s”. What influences, specifically, were these?

Ryan: Adam, Shaun, you guys wanna take that next question?

Shaun: Ryan has crazy ideas for songs and we just keep building from those ideas and voila!

Adam: For me what influences us is so vast and encompasses a ton of different music but we all are def same age and of the era when the downward spiral came out and there was a lot of cross pollination of industrial and rock happening.

Ryan: Yeah. I’d say that, though we have influences from music with which we grew up, we’re definitely our own sound. We strive to break the mold and hold true to our own style.

Oh for sure

Adam: I went to see sister machine gun, KMFDM etc. during that time…Shaun was there most of the time ha ha we went to same school and are both from same town. I agree with Ryan 100 percent on that.

Shaun: There’s allot for me…I love classic rock, old metal, industrial.. Pink Floyd, skinny puppy, in, Chemlab, Tori Amos, ministry, etc.. It’s crazy how I really like allot of genres of music.. But what we create is pretty awesome.

Ryan: I mentioned to the guys, recently, that we have the luxury of being so far removed (years) from those sounds to the point that they’ve morphed into something different inside each of use.

This next one’s a question for the gear nerds out there, but also relevant to your sound. What’s your favorite instrument or piece of hardware you use? If not hardware, digital tools also apply.

Adam: Great way of putting it. I agree as well. As far as what I use with band since I’m the guitarist I’d say my Axe fx and I have an evh guitar that I used for maybe 70 to 80 percent of the album.

Ryan: I mainly use Arturia keyboards and f*ck with sounds all day long to get it to sound as sick/fitting as possible.

Shaun: I play a Strandberg Boden5 and a Warwick Taranis.. Love both basses allot.. Mesa cabs and Dark Glass gear.

Ryan: We’re a Logic Pro X shop

Adam: Yeah we work almost exclusively with logic although we will fuck with anything LOL I have same stuff at home.

Onward! What was the process of creating Control Alter Deplete like? It’s quite an extensive album with impressive mastering/mixing on it as well. How long did it take you, from conception to completion?

Ryan: First off…Thank you for the kind words. Wow. Conception to completion…Alpha to Omega…About a year. What’s quite interesting about that is…We created the Podcast in that stretch. Recorded/Mixed/Mastered and dished it out.

Shaun: 12-14 hour studio days, every weekend at least one day or two.. Lots of beer and chicken wings.

Ryan: Indeed, Shaun

Shaun: A lot of dedication.

Ryan: Yeah. We’re a no-nonsense, professional, respectful shop.

Adam: We def allowed some things to morph and some songs actually started from jams and weird things too so it’s interesting in that there appears to not be a def formula although a lot of songs come from Ryan first. Shaun is telling the truth abt the long hours and chicken wings…a lot of IPAS and dark beer as well 😂

Shaun: You have to love and nurture each song till you think it’s mature for the audience. And mostly we want to capture everything and not miss an idea.

Ryan: Yes! Yes! We create/jam to completion. When that emotion is fully captured (not cutting corners), we know we did it right.

Shaun: Definitely a work shop of ideas and honing

What does the album title mean? It made me think of the phrase “control alt delete”…is it a pun off this?

Ryan: Indeed. Glad you caught it!

Adam: Ryan can elaborate, yes it is.

Ryan: So, there is a correlation drawn between programs and humans / human emotions. I write software professionally (past millennia). So, to answer the question directly. The things we do in this life. Narcissism, hate, sociopathic mindsets…There is a process. Controlling something or someone…Altering it to conform to what you want…Then, the final act… Depletion. It’s quite interesting…The one that is initially in the wrong attempts those things. Then, the wronged, spin right back around and can use the same methods to win. Each element in programming as a similar facet. We create. The construct wrongs us. Then, we turn around and we create other constructs to eradicate those errors.

Shaun: It’s a vicious cycle really

Ryan: Indeed. Ultimately, no one wins. There is no escape. Which is why, on the album, there is emotional turmoil on conflicted feelings.

I like that explanation

Now, on the album art itself. There’s the aggressive insect-like figure, then your logo. Care to elaborate more on the creative direction here? What’s the story behind it.

Ryan: Oh. The Assassin Bug…Adam?

Adam: The album story actually deals with Gods law and the revenant is sent to eradicate sinners…the bug is actually an assassin bug.

Ryan: Yes!

Adam: Which exists to destroy the things that can harm the garden. Which is the purpose of the revenants…what God sends them to do anyway.

Ryan: Shoves that needle deep inside, injects poison, the insides turn to soup, the bug drinks the soup. Adam, exactly. Controls the prey, alters it, depletes it. Prior to the band forming, I saw that bug for the first time on the doorstep of someone that was literally killing me inside. I thought it was an alien or something. I snapped the picture. That exact picture was used on the album art. Everything we do has meaning. If it doesn’t make sense for the project, we toss it out.

Adam: That is true. We made a conscious effort to do songs that are part of the story. And cut a lot of things.

Ryan: We want people to be blown away when they start digging – or, pulling on the string. It keeps going.

Nice. Do you have any material planned for the future?

Shaun: There is still a lot of material in the back log to be worked.. And it’s coming.

Ryan: Future material? Exactly. As Shaun said. That’s an understatement – but true, in the least.

Adam: Seriously we are pretty deep into what will be the next release at some point.

Shaun: And allot of new ideas daily…Ryan has lots of ideas and keeps me and Adam on our toes.

Ryan: All true. I swear I get a new idea in my head a couple times a day. That goes for the music and the Podcast.

What creative direction would you like to explore in the future? Any stylistic exploration, dream collaborations, etc?

Shaun: It’s a crazy building process…

Adam: We feel like we wanna give people a chance to absorb this album so we are spending our time on the new stuff. We want to do some videos etc. for this one …the first of which will be for Crossing Over. Which has been shot and is editing and so forth at the moment.

Ryan: Yeah. We recorded Crossing Over (a full video product complete with cast and crew) last weekend. Regarding stylistic exploration…

Can’t wait to see it!

Shaun: And really special FX

Ryan: So, style…We’ve found something unique. Sean Beavan, Shannon O’Shea and others have talked to that. Our sound/style will continue on its special creative path.

Adam: We actually have experimented with lots of things we don’t really have rules. We did a track with a dub step artist and applied 8 string metal guitar to that. We try all sorts of different things to keep it interesting and enhance what we do. As long as it feels right and is Modal Citizan.

Ryan: Believe it or not, it’s quite difficult to create songs that don’t follow the standard verse/chorus formula and still make them incredible.

Shaun: I feel the sounds and style will be consistently getting more creative but hold the edge it has currently.

Ryan: Agreed

Shaun: Hell yeah!

Ryan: We groove to our own rhythm. Maybe it’s because I grew up on Motown and The Doors and Manson and Nails. Some of our riffs and grooves are so nasty. My penultimate statement may be why.

Adam: We could def play you some things that are going way outside of what is expected stylistically. We allow ourselves to try everything. We will talk abt Michael Jackson and James Brown and even try to pull inspiration from that too. It’s literally anything and everything that moves us.

Ryan: Indeed. #SocialInhibitionist.

Photography credit to Gigi Hoggard

Giant Waves/Karluv Tyn, Pilgrims of Yearning, Navigator Project, and Monoplan

Giant Waves/Karluv Tyn

Giant Waves is a gothic post-punk/darkwave group formed in 2004. Originally formed under the name The Imaginary Stigma, they claim to be one of the “oldest groups in Russia” in the genre. Through their decade of existence, they have worked with legendary bands such as Skeletal Family and toured with Soviet Soviet. They currently are signed by Sierpen Records, which also boasts Molchat Doma.

Their newest release in 2020 was “Мерцание,” put out under their side-project Karluv Tyn (fun fact- they took this name from that of a twelfth century gothic castle). They describe the album’s music as “cold-pop” or Russian “apocalyptic-pop.” The Intro track has the sounds of church bells and choir, definitely a reference to their name inspiration. The album manages to be dark without being too overbearing or heavy. An upbeat rhythm, clear vocals, chorus-y guitar, and smooth synths all blend together to make something mid-energy and perfect for light, casual listening.

Its members are Iliya Volchansky (voice, guitar, synths, lyrics), Andy ‘Avalanche’ Fomin (synths, drums), and Michael Kirilenko (recording, engineering).

A new Giant Waves release in the works. If all goes according to plan, expect to see this upcoming single in the next two months. Additionally, they are making a video for the song “Love is a Lie”. Finally, there will even potentially be a new album put out halfway through the year.

Producer and artist Vitaly Sanych reports that they have changed their sound slightly, citing both hardships in the local music scene and a desire to continue developing their style.

Pilgrims of Yearning

Pilgrims of Yearning’s music, specifically their 2020 release Forsake Lands, has been covered once before by S&S.

In spite of live venues being canceled, this band has been prolific in attending online streaming events including Gothicat, Arg!, Goth for Sanctuaries, and some Latin American events such as Real Under Fest and Festival Under Latinamericano. In the future, expect to see them at the upcoming Leather & Lace fest on January 31st.

Originally from Chile, they moved to Boston and will soon be again moving to the sunny city of Miami. Their current lineup is Claudio Marcio (Guitar, Sequences), Juls Garat (Voice and Lyrics), and Sean Woodbury (Bass).

Pilgrims of Yearning is working on new material, both singles and videos, to release later in 2021. Vocalist Juls Garat expressed the band’s desire to retain the “exploratory and eclectic” traits of their first album, but also follow a natural flow of evolution and exploration. 

Navigator Project

Navigator Project, according to their Bandcamp, is a synthpop/darkwave band from Naples made up of Amir Sabljaković (vocals, synth), Daniel (drums), and Caroline (lyrics, melodies).

There are four releases on their page. Spellbound, a single posted August 3rd, Follow the Light, a full album posted on October 16th, In the Spiral (Klonavenus Remix), a single posted on December 13th, and In the Spiral (Lost Messages Remix), another remix single posted on December 29th. I gave them a listen. Navigator Project makes dynamic, active-sounding music with intense, almost nostalgic synth lines that I’d love to hear at the local club. Sabljaković’s vocals are clean and relaxed yet focused with, if I’m correct, a slight accent that is quite enjoyable to listen to.

I reached out to Sabljaković inquiring about any future material. He told me that, in light of the pandemic and pause in concerts, they’ve taken advantage of the situation to work on another synthpop album.

Monoplan

Monoplan is a Russian synthwave band composed soley of Dmitry Philippov. S&S briefly covered them once already last February.

So, let’s get an update! Since then, Monoplan has put out three releases: The Game (March 2020), Promzona (October 2020), and Beneath The Sky of The Sleeping Cities (November 2020).

I reached out to Philippov for more information. He describes Monoplan’s music as “a soundtrack to the bleak dystopian cityscapes where ghostly figures dance on the rooftops of abandoned houses to the beat of an old drum computer and eerily pulsating synths,” and that’s honestly perfect. What an image! Regarding genre, Monoplan is “a lo-fi mix of post-punk and cold wave, sometimes steering off to gloomy disco or punky reggae.” If the ghosts-on-rooftops didn’t catch your attention, how’s gloomy disco for you? Definitely something unique!

Do you have any future albums in the making/planned?

Yes. My most recent release, the Pod Nebom Spyaschikh Gorodov EP, was initially planned to be an album. But I had not much time to finish it properly, so it came out as a 4 track mini album. There are a few songs left, plus some new tracks in the making. I think I’ll return to them in spring.

Review of Dirty Monkey “Division”

Dirty Monkey has eight releases on their Bandcamp page, but today we’re only focusing on one: Division, their newest album, put out on December 26th.

How does this album differ from your previous material, in terms of technique, artistic direction, or creative territory?

Each release I create I definitely try and up the production quality. Like in the beginning all I had was a handheld recorder and listened to a metronome on my headphones banging on random objects then manipulated the sounds. This album I feel is a good look into the future of what I’m trying to do musically with more structure. I also have a much better setup for creating now, and it’s next to impossible to pull me away from creating.

How long have you been working on this album in particular, from the point of inspiration to completion?

I was actually in the middle of writing somewhat of a full length (1,000 years of misery) and something happened in my life that through a wrench into my gears, and new it was going to take much longer to write the whole thing. Like they say out of site out of mind, so I knew I had to put something out to give me more time. So I used 2 instrumentals I had from my (Fundamentals series) which is like a dark motivational speaker series. Updated their sounds with my new equipment, and started writing Division and Creep. So it kinda happened faster than most releases, but it’s still kinda being released still. With the current climate of the world a lot of orders are behind schedule. The album is streaming on all platforms and 2 of 3 videos are released. It will just be a little longer till the vinyl hits the streets.

On the album cover,  I recognize the bottom image as the yin-yang. The top seems to be some sort of rune crossed out. Can you tell me what it means?

I grew up in the punk scene left home at an early age, and moved into what was like a halfway house of reject punks. We were heavily into the crust political scene. Which started my journey being a musician. I’m a big Crass hole and Aus-Rotten, so I created the NO PEACE symbol in the stylings of the old school crust/political stylings. The whole album art is a homage to that scene that cut my teeth in performing. Also I don’t play sides and try to keep away from politics, but division is kinda mirroring what’s going on in my country right now. Even though I did not go into writing the track with that propose.

Do you think the current sociopolitical climate will inspire any future work?

Like I said I try not to get political with my music. It’s definitely heavily defined by my emotions though. So if things keep getting darker and effecting me or the people I love there’s a good chance it will. For now I try to avoid seeing and hearing, but with the way we live (social media) is very hard to avoid the negativity. I just want the best for everyone including the people that touched me or I touched negativity.

What’s your favorite lyrical line off the album?

That’s a good one lol

“They say my friends are bad I’m in a family of thieves”

Any last remarks for your fans?

It doesn’t cost any money to like, comment, and share. It’s a great way to support the artist you love without breaking your bank, and thank you so very much for any and all support! Cheers!