Nine Circles ov… Album Art (Best of 2015)

kontinuum kyrr
Kontinuum – Kyrr

Another year has flown by. We are all, all of us, closer to death. By roughly one year, depending on how rough a year it was for you. One thing that helped take the stress out of the year, aside from music, was the cover artwork on some of our favorite albums. Beautiful, twisted and sometimes insane, cover art gave us an initial glimpse into the music within as well as something to stare at while attempting to hold back the tears. With that in mind, Corey and I (Manny-O-War) sat down to parse out what some of the most inspirational and beautiful artwork of this year was. We considered not only the beauty, horror or intrigue but also how well the artwork encapsulated the music within. There were other albums that, while they had beautiful artwork, the artwork really didn’t have anything to do with the music. That’s a shame. So here are nine of our favorites.

vhol deeper than sky
Vhol – Deeper Than Sky. Artwork by Brandon Duncan of Expiring Sun (@expiringsun).

This image, made by Brandon Duncan, is just one of pure beauty. It also expresses the band’s desire and ability to discover and explore unchartered territory musically. Other than that, there isn’t much to say. It’s artistic perfection.

balmog svmma fide
Balmog – Svmma Fide

The cover art from Balmog’s Svmma Fide is absolutely glorious in its simplicity. It is the image that perfectly matches the malevolence of the music. Brilliantly composed, the image is dark, evil, and maintains just the right amount mystery. Fairly simple in concept yet absolutely perfect in implementation, Svmma Fide still stands tall at the end of 2015 in part because of this imagery.

Vastum – Hole Below. Artwork by Daniel G. Butler.

Vastum rules. This album rules. And the artwork completely fits the music contained within. Dark, twisted, patricidal and overtly sexualized, Hole Below needed aggressively simple artwork to carry it. Thus, what was provided was perfectly matched as well as visually pleasing.

vacivus rite of ascension
Vacivus – Rite of Ascension. Artwork by Grave IX Design.

Sometimes artwork can tip you off to an album you previously wouldn’t have looked into. That was the case with Vacivus. Despite being on Hellthrasher I somehow missed this release. Then I saw the genius artwork and headed straight to bandcamp to check it out. And it works. The album is a really nice piece of chaos with a really appropriate and bloody cover.

deathhammer evil power
Deathhammer – Evil Power

This was an album that I loved. They had me immediately entranced from the demon bursting forth from the earth, strewn with skulls and ready to thrash. It’s artwork that 100% matches the music contained within. Also, the artwork looks great on a T-Shirt (which I bought).

abyssal antikatastaseis
Abyssal – Antikatastaseis. Artwork by C. Jones.

Honestly, sometimes art is just fascinating to look at. The artwork for Abyssal’s 2015 release may or may not fit the music on the album. In fact, being so abstract and vague it could fit the music on nearly any album of its genre. So, here, with Abyssal, we take a moment to just praise brilliantly dark, twisted and chaotic artwork.

tod hueted uebel malicia
Tod Huetet Uebel – Malícia

Much like Abyssal, Tod Huetet Uebel employed artwork that intrigued us at first sight. The chaotic and horrifying beast on the cover is somehow reflective of the similarly twisted music contained within. But, even if this artwork was merely tacked up on a bathroom wall, there would be something beautiful about it. When combined with the beautiful music though, it reaches an ethereal level.

Abhor – Rituale Stramonium

There’s something so authentic about Abhor’s artwork for Rituale Stramonium that just pulls a viewer into the scene. From the elegant brilliance of the frame to the carefully placed candles that provide a sense of depth, it’s an image that you cannot look away from. It deserves plenty of credit for how real of an environment it creates.

aevangelist enthrall to the void of bliss
Ævangelist – Enthrall to the Void of Bliss. Artwork by Stephen Wilson of Unknown Relics (@unknownrelics)

The artwork for Ævangelist, put together by my now dear friend Stephen Wilson, is not only some of the best album art I have ever seen, it’s some of the best art I have ever seen. The image is entrancing and hypnotizing. It completely conveys the serenity amid the swirling chaos that is Enthrall to the Void of Bliss. I’m waiting for 20 Buck Spin to step up and release full size canvases so I can adorn every wall in my house with this beautful piece.

– Manny-O-War & Corey Butterworth

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