Best Metal Album Art Of 2014

Written By Lauren Gornik

As 2015 approaches, musicians and artists are evolving to cater more interactivity and with an unconventional sensory presence. Thus, 2014 was a fantastic year for album art.

Vibrant eye catching images met with delicate subtleties in package design brings something bold for years to follow. One takes pride in owning these albums, as a complete artistic work.

Being an illustrator and artist, I found these are the artworks to be completely stunning, technically inventive, and overall a some of my personal favorites, amongst many great works from this year.

Earth - Primitive and Deadly

EARTH – Primitive And Deadly

Artwork and Photography by Samantha Muljat

Earth’s album, Primitive And Deadly, is completely fresh and mystical to me, a new era of the band’s sound. The rugged landscapes, complemented by lush colors, depicted on the cover, give the artwork a quality that not only completes the band’s image but resonates with me as the music does.

A word from the artist. –

“I usually get inspired by listening to the music and working with the album and song titles and/or lyrics. As for this particular album, I tried to incorporate as many elements as possible (the serpent, the crescent moon, the fox etc.). Dylan and I mostly exchanged ideas. It’s important to me to not only create nice looking imagery but also to make sure it fits content-wise. It doesn’t need to be overly conceptual though, neither does it have to be literal…

As for the technical part, those are photos I took at this place called “Rock Pool” in the Santa Monica mountains. I only knew this place from pictures and thought to myself that it would be the perfect setting for the photo shoot, since it looks kinda surreal and otherworldly already. My friend (who is posing in the pics) and I left super early in the morning, since we wanted to capture the light at dusk. Later, In the editing process I exaggerated all those colors to a completely unreal extent…” – Samantha Muljat

Yob - Clearing The Path To Ascend

YOB – Clearing The Path To Ascend

Serpentine Path – Emanations

Serpentine Path – Emanations

Artwork and Design by Orion Landau

Both of these dynamic album covers were created by none other than Orion Landau of Relapse records. You may know him for many of his artworks for bands, including but not limited to, Black Tusk, Dying Fetus, Nasum, Noisear, Revocation, Red Fang, and Vallenfyre.

With each artwork, Landau continues to be an inspiration.

Here’s what he had to say about his work on Serpentine Path. –

“I had worked with Serpentine Path on their previous self titled album. I really enjoy working with bands in their early stages because we get to sort of create the visual DNA for the band. A lot of times its much like what I imagine writing a movie script is like. On their first record we had a lot of discussions around creating this serpent-like world that was cloaked in some sort of demonic breath.
This time around they had chosen the title “Emanations”. They didn’t really give me a whole lot of direction initially, I think they had a vision of this pit with serpents. Im still not sure that I fully understand the deep meaning Emanation, but I love the concept of all things coming from a perfect God by steps of degradation to lesser degrees of the first version. That each step the emanating beings are less pure, less perfect, less divine. Running with that concept I wanted to create a visual interpretation of the universe morbidly reproducing and degrading simultaneously. So the the skies show this on a cosmic level and then the foreground is this terrible place where hooded reptile-like creatures worship at the mouth of this weird pit of emanating reproduction all set in a landscape of phallic mountain peaks. In other words this album cover is about morbid sex.” – Orion Landau

A word about Yob’s Clearing a Path To Ascend

“I had quite a few conversations with Mike Scheidt about where they were heading with this record prior to working on it. He was definitely going through a very transitional period, dealing with quite a bit of conflict but was also experiencing a lot of personal growth. I really wanted to convey that sense of expansion and spirituality that comes through struggle.

We started out playing with some pretty figurative imagery but quickly knew that the cover was going to be more about what we took out of it instead of what was being put into it. We wanted to somehow capture a meditative experience. A sense of inner peace in the midst of external distractions and conflict. I chose to paint this deep grey landscape that would initially convey a sense tranquility at first glance but when you look deeper into it you can see that there are jagged cliffs piercing the stormy skies. This is the external world, murky, dangerous and dark but also beautiful. The golden orbs represent the inner. They are intentionally stylized and abstract so that they could be interpreted as ascending spirit, or moonlike echoes, or even the three band members. I’m not sure that’s what I pulled off but that’s what I was hoping people would feel when they viewed this.” – Orion Landau

The Atlas Moth - The Old Believer

The Atlas Moth – The Old Believer (Includes dual album cover with wet reveal)

Art by Ryan Clark

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a69AvOsdPTM?rel=0]

2:50 is where the transformation begins

A lot of people were involved with the creation of this album cover, including Hank Pearl of Black Pearl Photography, Steve Wolves of Badass Band Merch (created the neon light fixture), and Ryan Clark of Invisible Creature.

Invisible Creature has been creating unique packaging, merch, and tour posters since 2006, however they also create packaging for toys and other products.

What makes this cover so unique is the transformation it makes when placed under water. This reveals a stunning alternative cover that reflects a darker side of what you are originally shown.

The artworks perfectly reflect how creative packaging can emphasize an image that’s effective alone.

I Exist – From Darkness

I Exist – From Darkness (Prosthetic Records)

Artwork by Richey Beckett, Design and Layout by Patrick Galvin

There are so many subtleties to Richey Beckett’s execution. The precision of his line work and overall detail is remarkable. Beckett was a perfect choice to compliment the feeling from this record.

“The concept for this piece came from a very specific idea described to me by the band. Inspired by scenes of ‘no man’s land’ from World War One, depicting ‘Death’ on horseback, carrying a naked pregnant woman across an empty, smokefilled battlefield. It was a powerful image, full of depth and narrative, very dark in it’s subject matter. For me it immediately brought to mind Durer’s ‘Knight, Death and the Devil’, always a favourite piece of mine. Durer created several profile portraits of figures on horseback, and although the compositions were always very ‘square’ and static, the intricacy, flow and detail of the linework gave them power and depth. So this served as a definite inspiration for this piece, but I also wanted to bring in more of a romantic, Biblical feel in the sorrow of the woman. I think the toughest challenge was figuring out her positioning on the horse, sitting backwards behind the Reaper. It didn’t have to look realistic, but more so to suit the flow and feel of the illustration as a whole (and to not look ridiculous). For this I looked to melodramatic Biblical illustrations, particularly sorrowful, tragic scenes. I liked the idea of the image having somewhat of a dreamlike feel to it – the woman isn’t crying, fighting or struggling, but looking away shadowing ‘Death’ with her hand, almost as if everything is passing in slow motion. I think this mythical atmosphere and the monotone colouring betrays just how sinister the subject matter really is. The illustration itself was created as in pen and ink as one piece, the background being painted with India Ink.”

– Richey Beckett

Other Honorable mentions:

Sabaton - Heroes

Sabaton – Heroes

Art by – Péter Sallai

Schammasch - Contradiction

Schammasch – Contradiction

Art by – Valnoir of the Metastazis Studio in Paris

Pallbearer - Foundations of Burden

Pallbearer – Foundations of Burden

Artwork by – Animetalphysical with layout and design by Chimere Noire

Ecdysis - Nepenthe

Ecdysis – Nepenthe

Artwork by – Brain Smith

Bong - Stoner Metal

Bong -Stoner Rock

Artwork by – Zdzisław Beksiński

  • http://Boom.com Boom

    Fuck modern album art. Pure shit. You young punks go check out the original some girls record by Stones. That good art. And Fuck all your listings

    Shit piss Boom off.

    Boom out!!

    Cunt fuck shit ass bitches

  • http://www.justinpeterson.net Justin P.

    You know what would be great? If at least ONE record on this list was ANYTHING other than METAL.

    Not to say that some of these record covers aren’t nice, they are, but “best of the year”? I dunno about that.

    Shouldn’t a “Best Album Art of 2014” list be a little more…wide ranging? At least get someone to compile the list who’s music taste isn’t one-note, you know? No offense, Lauren, I’m sure you’re a nice person and I’m sure you love metal (obviously), but there’s much better album art out there this year.

    • LGornik

      This is SUPPOSED to be only metal artwork, the site’s title is incorrect. I apologize that this was mislabeled, but I can’t believe people are so up in arms over that.

  • http://www.justinpeterson.net Justin P.

    Just a couple off the top of my head…

    And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead – IX

    St. Vincent – Self Titled

    Future Islands – Singles

    Jenny Lewis – the Voyager

    Broken Bells – After the Disco

    Foo Fighters – Sonic Hightways

    Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues

    Anyway… lists are subjective.

  • Steve Wood

    only old is good? and no lists? Lists are great because they give a chance to share things we enjoy. Fuck all this decrepit old yesteryear hogwash. I agree with you on all of them, its great to see we agree a lot of the same art as I am looking to working with you for the new album. Also thanks for the name drop on my neon we did for The Atlas Moth Cover. Our company is Badass Band Merch https://www.facebook.com/badassbandmerch

    • LGornik

      Thank you Steve, and it’d be a pleasure working with you! I have to add that tag in the article for you too.

  • Connor Burke

    Were’s yeezus or the miley cyrus album? Theirs gonna be some hate regardless.

  • Max

    It’s “Ecdysis” by Horrendous, not “Nepenthe” by Ecdysis

  • sleepingwithsnakes

    I think Fórn’s LP artwork by Clovenhoov/Natures Mortes Illustration is more captivating than most of the one’s you mentioned here. http://clovenhoov.tumblr.com/image/88444022885