Here we go with the end-of-the-year lists! So, let’s face it, we’ve not only been treated to some great music this year but there’s also been an array of beautiful or eye-catching artwork to package it with too. Here’s a list of some of my favourite album covers to grace our vision this year…
15. Suuns – Images Du Futur
Seeing this for the first time, I thought “what a weird cover” and at first I didn’t like it. Then I heard the music, looked at the cover again and it makes sense: each track feels like a layer of emotions or a mindstate, and I guess each layered photo is a different moment in time with a slight different facial expression on each level. It represents the atmosphere of the album well.
14. Ensemble Pearl – Ensemble Pearl
Another album cover I thought was plain weird. Up until recently, I thought the light brown dusty thing was a shot of the universe but now I can see that it could be a corpse preserved in something (in relation to the track Painting On A Corpse)… Or maybe a living person, it could be that.
13. Deafheaven – Sunbather
Cue the scoffs and screams of “but it’s just a pink cover with the album name on it!” – it doesn’t change the fact that it’s a pretty cover and doesn’t really fit the music on it; despite the shoegaze/post-rock influences… I like that it’s a little misleading in that sense. Plus, the vinyl packaging of this is great.
12. Conan – Mount Wrath: Live At Roadburn 2012
With each Conan release so far, I have never failed to feel proud to own the physical copy of their music not only for the music itself, but because of the artwork. The recording of their performance at Roadburn is no different and it’s absolutely gorgeous on the vinyl gatefold. As with the artwork for all the releases prior to this one, the imagery tells a story of its own – this time the warrior (as seen inside the gatefold) seems to be travelling to the giant that he slays on “Monnos”. I can’t wait for their new album “Blood Eagle” for the artwork alone!
11. The Haxan Cloak – Excavation
This might be a bit pretentious, but the loneliness and feeling of loss in the photo really encapsulates the same feeling on the album. I guess it can represent being stuck in a single moment of time (full of dread or pain?) that seems to drag out forever.
10. Russian Circles – Memorial
Just another pretty album cover. Almost as big as the music…
9. Nine Inch Nails – Hesitation Marks
I’m gonna give you a spoiler: this album is not in my top albums of the year, by far. I said in my review that this just didn’t sit well with me but I did love the return to the style of artwork on “The Downward Spiral” and “The Fragile”. I guess that’s why I got too excited about the album, I thought it would be a (sort of) musical return to those eras.
8. Lycus – Tempest
You have just got to love artwork for an album that could easily stand up on its own in some sort of dark/gothic gallery (same goes for Conan’s artwork for each release). The detail, colouring and the imagery itself is captivating, you’re always finding new things when you pay more attention to certain areas.
7. Yellow Eyes – Hammer Of Night
I tend to love extremely detailed artwork (some of my favourites of all time are Agoraphobic Nosebleed album covers) and this fits into it. It just looks brilliant.
6. Ulver – Messe I.X-VI.X
I really like the religious feel about this cover and the ‘live imagery’. I have no idea if the background image is a part of Ulver’s live show or not, but it’s beautiful either way. I really like how they have the song list on the front too with a minimalist style.
JOINT 5. Year Of No Light – Tocsin // Master Musicians Of Bukkake – Far West
Again, with the detailed artwork, I love it. I have no idea who the artist is behind these two covers (I think it’s safe to assume with the style) but I hope his art is used more frequently in the future by great bands. Mindblowing stuff.
4. Machinedrum – Vapor City
The detail and the smudginess of it. It looks even better on the double-gatefold packaging.
3. Brutal Truth/Bastard Noise – The Axiom of Post Inhumanity
I honestly can’t make out much of the images in each part of that military cross shape and I guess that’s why I like it. The colouring (just like the Yellow Eyes release) is just great. Who’d have thought yellow would work so well for black metal and noise releases?
2. Blockheads – This World Is Dead
Is it safe to assume that this photo is fake? I have no idea if it’s real or not, but if it is I imagine the photographer must have been speechless at the sight of it.
1. Forest Swords – Engravings
This artwork is absolutely droolingly beautiful on the vinyl case with its gloss feel. Matthew Barnes (Forest Swords) designed this himself. I hadn’t even heard the guy’s music but hearing one or two good things at my local record store in Wales and seeing the cover, I was convinced that something with that packaging and artwork simply couldn’t be shit, to put it bluntly. Summary: it was a good buy.