Recently I’ve heard more than one metal scribe muse on how “unnecessary cover art is in this modern digital age” but they listen to shitty, uninspired music with shitty, uninspired cover art, ignore them. I’m here to argue that metal can look good too.
If, when listening to your metal, you seek a sterile experience of flipping to the album of your choice on your ipod touch and playing angry birds while you half-listen, hit the back button now. This is too soon, or maybe too late, for you. If you want to fully envelop yourself in an album, enjoy the art, read the lyrics, and feel it in your fucking chest, you’re with friends. Today, we visit Atlantean Kodex and the cover art of their amazing debut full-length, The Golden Bough.
It should come as no surprise to anyone that I’m a fan of cover art based upon classic paintings. I’m also a fan of regressive metal so it should further come as no surprise that Atlantean Kodex is right up my alley. For those who do not know, Atlantean Kodex is a German traditional heavy metal band with touches of epic and doom metals. They’re currently signed to Cruz Del Sur Music, an indication of their quality if ever there was one, and their intelligent, history, fantasy, and Lovecraftian based lyrics are a real treat too. If you haven’t heard them before I recommend checking out their 2007 EP The Pnakotic Demos first, then The Golden Bough (cover above), their first full-length, released in 2010.
The Golden Bough’s cover features a section of the painting Isle of the Dead (German: Die Toteninsel) by Arnold Böcklin, a Swiss symbolist painter active in the late 1800’s. The first incarnation of the hauntingly beautiful painting was completed in 1880. From that date to 1886, Böcklin produced five versions of the mysterious painting. The version of the work that was used for The Golden Bough is his 1883 oil on board rendering which was once acquired by Adolf Hitler, and now hangs at the Alte Nationalgalerie in Berlin.
During Böcklin’s life he gave very little explanation about the painting save a few words on its dreamlike quality, but it has come to be interpreted as representative of a recently deceased soul transitioning to the afterlife on the rivers Styx or Acheron. The hauntingly beautiful painting was quite popular in Europe in the early 20th century and has since gone on to inspire other painters, playwrights, authors, even anime artists, video game developers, art featured in card games like Magic the Gathering, and of course, musicians.
On the cover of The Golden Bough, Isle of the Dead defines the very essence of what the listener is to find within; a haunting and sweeping epic that goes beyond just hearing or seeing and transports the listener to another time, another place. It’s not too often albums like this come along and change the game, and that this one is adorned with such appropriate visuals makes it even more of a rare gem.
For more on Atlantean Kodex, visit their official homepage here.
Click here to view an online gallery of Böcklin’s other works.