Visual Amnesia’s 10 Favourite Rock/Metal Album Art in the Indian Scene
Visual artist and Undying Inc. bassist Reuben Bhattacharya picks his favourite album artworks in Indian rock and metal
This is a list of some of my favorite recent album art from the small scene that we have here. Having been in this industry for close to 14 years, I have had the good fortune of exploring art in India in various capacities: as a musician, the creative head of RSJ, a visual artist for bands and music-related experiences with Visual Amnesia and as an art director and designer with agencies and brands. However, I have always gravitated towards album art that was actually ‘drawn’ out of an artist’s imagination by the hand, as opposed to a great still frame captured perchance or a great promo shot of the band being used for the cover art. There are some which have done that well.
What always stood out to me was art that truly represented the music behind it, an ethic I carry forward in all my album art and merchandize design for bands every time I work with them, as that is the basis of any music-related art that has stood the test of time, anywhere in the world. Without the music that inspired it, the art means nothing and thus both must come together to form an audio-visual experience that is of one soul and body. That elusive feeling of ‘oneness’ that only comes from staring at the album art and reading the liner notes while listening to the album itself is the one that completes this experience. This list is NOT ranked numerically as I do believe that every piece of art is great in its own way and emotive of its own unique vibe. Ranks are for the military, not art forms. So without further ado, here we go, in no particular order.
Artist: Bernard Dumaine & Daeve Fellows
This album art pops ‘progscape’ in your face as soon as you set your eyes on it. I really dig Bernard’s work and have seen him grow from his DeviantArt days. What I find unique is the balance and counter balance brought out by the opposing styles of Bernard’s psychedelia and Daeve’s geometric symmetry on this piece of art, deftly defining the essence of this album, which is like a Sufi seer tripping on acid while listening to Tool and Devin Townsend.
Album: Coils Of Apollyon
Artist: Mark Riddick
I have always been a huge fan of Riddick, like anyone else who is into Metal Art for that matter. He is known for a guttural and brutal style of black and white art embellished with catacombs, slaughterhouses, doom temples, rotting skeletons and dripping guts. His work has adorned the covers of many a great name in metal and it’s doubly great to see him do such a wicked job for an Indian metal band. This is a standout piece of work depicting a winged Apollyon demon figure playing the flute of death, befitting Kryptos’ darker ethos on this album and is a bottoms up cheer to their old school roots. Whip out the denim and leather!
Band: Bhayanak Maut
It’s a well known fact that this album is an utterly nasty piece of handiwork based on stories that would make Hannibal Lecter’s library swell with pride. The real torrid beauty lies in how Mexican artist Kikyz etched out the grim ethic of the album in ink, using a vintage textbook like drawing style to create something that is reminiscent of skin graft and cartilage cross section drawings in a meticulous medical journal, all the while reflecting the story in diamond frames. Decapitation, torture and life-like flesh, bone fragments and hair are the crowning jewels in the story of ‘Man’.
Album: Beyond The Fence
Artist: Dipankar Singha
A soon as I popped this CD into the player and looked at the album art I immediately went back in time; to a sunny Shillong winter, a lazy Sunday afternoon so quiet that the blues floating down the hill from a neighbor’s stereo lulled me to sleep on the porch. The raw Sharpie scribbled lines on the earthy photo renderings of Rangdap are immediately reminiscent of the fuzz of Hendrix and the sustained harmonies of Eric Jonson and Joe Satriani, capturing the feel of the album, the laidback guitar sounds from a mountain town. Dipankar’s really simple and yet really honest approach to this art sits perfectly with Rangdap’s echoing tunes and his identity as a guitarist.
Album: Self Titled
Artist: Gaurav Basu (Acid Toad)
This was one of the first pieces of work I saw of Acid Toad and it is a classic showcase of how he has evolved his style with pencils, waterproof ink brush and inked details. A frothing bottle of chilled boutique beer, framed by a smoking pipe and moth wings with ornate elements derived from nature, ring true of the honest organic rock vibe of the band. Basu has gone on to a lot more album art post this, but Silver stands out in its stripped-down classic approach.
Band: Demonic Resurrection
Album: The Demon King
Artist: Michael ‘Xaay’ Loranc
One look at the album art and you know this is a Demonic Resurrection album, definitely their most memorable album art yet. Xaay has depicted a scene that looks straight out of Ramayan 3392 A.D (for those who are not aware of the cult graphic novel, do look it up) with a Ram-like figure aiming his arrow at the grotesque head of a Ravan-like demon. A piece of art that has succinctly interwoven DR’s roots from India and their style of symphonic blackened metal aimed at a worldwide audience.
Album: Fear From The Skies
Artist: Rahul Chacko (Scribble Bandit)
This very recent piece immediately caught my eye the other day. Off Albatross’ latest album this is by Scribble Bandit, depicting what looks like an evil family headed by the headless mad joker/scarecrow figure and his murderous puppet children; descending from thunderclouds, in a style akin to ‘Chucky’ being adopted by ‘The Simpsons’. This is an illustrative point example of how Chacko has developed his own ‘doom comic’ style of art that has been earlier been showcased in his art for Bevar Sea and Motorhead Tribute amongst others. Splendid.
Artist: Prashant Shah
Arguably the all time favorite album of anyone into Scribe’s music, this album defines a period of when Scribe really came into their own. Prashant is a VFX artist with one of the leading movie effects companies in the world and his digital painting rendered image of a Kingdom purely made out of sweet confectionary and ruled by the sugar rabbit and a gingerbread man truly capture the boppy and comic post-hardcore element of the band. Let’s not forget the mountains of jelly beans. Sugar high madness!
Band: Last Remaining Light
Album: Self Titled
Artist: Paul Thomas
With a band name that’s a cheeky nod to Audioslave, the need, it seems, was for a moving piece of art that captures the overdriven alternative and yet acoustic roots of the band. Paul’s work is an almost ‘Noir’ poster like depiction of a floating lighthouse and the couple who made it to the top of it on Ron Weasley’s flying car. What immediately catches the eye is the centered, minimal, clean and emotive feel of the art that fits hand in glove with the band’s new single.
For the uninitiated, Paul had also designed another one of my personal favorite pieces of sleeve design from the Indian rock scene in the album cover for Motherjane’s Insane Biography way back in 2002.
Band: The Down Troddence
Album: How Are You? We Are Fine, Thank You.
Artist: Abhijith VB
What really jumps out from this album art is the feeling of enslavement. A reinterpretation of how most of us are bound to the chains of society and powers that be, the leader’s throne being empty of a true leader and thousands enslaved by holding up that empty promise of a better tomorrow. Abhijith captures that unique vibe and the band’s Carnatic prog metal influenced by Kannada writer Murali’s revolutionary poetry, via a charcoal sketch that reflects the very dynamic of inherent revolt against authority.