While browsing the shelves of Photoplay today, my eyes were awestruck by the cover for the Criterion edition of Whit Stillman’s The Last Days of Disco. The gorgeous illustration is by Pierre Le-Tan. I’m not sure how he pulls off that insane cross-hatching look – is it the texture of the paper or is it all done by hand? Whatever his secret weapon is, the two women in their muted colors appear almost as thought they are behind a veil and the illustration looks like it might dissolve into thin air. Scroll down to view the Criterion cover – my only complaint there is the use of the gaudy font Bernhard Modern.
Welcome to the Magnetic State Blog Department! This blog is a component of the sparkling new portfolio site, which also officially launched today. Magnetic State continues to evolve and expand; later this year I will launch Magnetic State brand tequila-infused breakfast cereal (it’s called ‘Good Morning’) and also our line of combination hoverboard/time machines (still in research phase).
2009 has been an exciting year here at the studio. I recently designed a t-shirt for my friends in Stephen Kellogg & The Sixers. This blog article was featured on the New York Times’ City Room Blog. I’ve been having fun designing WordPress-based content management systems for web design clients and I also recently designed a portfolio site for a very talented artist.
This blog and www.magneticstate.com are built and designed by myself. This blog is proudly powered by WordPress. The former incarnation of this blog is now dormant, but I have migrated some of the most popular content to this site.
So welcome to the Blog Dept. and please remember to take a look at the portfolio. As always, if you’re interested in hiring me for graphic design, web design, or illustration work, or if you just want to say hello, you can send me an email. And thanks very much for visiting!
Gun violence is evil but evil is one of the main ingredients of a good gangster movie. Recently, I noticed the use of a gun used as a letterform in the graphic design on a film package. I did a little brainstorming and a little research and quickly found several more that are all strikingly similar. Check out these four examples of handguns incorporated into logography in film and television marketing. Do any of them aid or inhibit legibility? Have you noticed any other examples?
I am pleased to announce my redesign of literary website Five Chapters! I was asked to design the logo (shown above) and redesign the site, and the results went live at www.fivechapters.com over the weekend. Five Chapters is an online magazine that publishes a new short story in five parts each week. As a fledgling fiction writer myself as well as a fan of many of the authors featured on Five Chapters (including John Cheever and Jay McInerney), I found this project to be an exciting challenge. I am quite happy with the results, and in the spirit of President Obama’s fondness for transparency, I thought I’d discuss some of the work and share a few of the logo designs that didn’t make the cut.
I began the project with the logo design; below are two of my favorites from the rejected concepts (I especially like the ‘bookmark’ concept). Five Chapters editor David Daley gave me his initial brief on the nature of the site’s identity: it combines a 19th century reading format (serialized fiction) with a modern one (online publishing). This was an inspiring starting point that led to lots of research and some interesting results (like the old-style printer’s ornament adorning the second logo below), but eventually, we began to feel hampered by it, and chose our final logo, whose primary functions are aesthetic and visual rather than conceptual.
The previous version of the website (see below), was abrasively colored, contained the site’s name in the header but had no logo, and contained only one way to access the site’s archives.
To power the new site, I chose the extraordinarily powerful content management system WordPress and designed a custom theme to control the appearance of the site. I modernized the site by equipping it with access to the Five Chapters RSS feed, and added alphabetized menus for the archives, which are now categorized by story and author. Finally, I extended the Five Chapters brand by revising the ‘about’ blurb, prioritizing its display in the sidebar, and then embedding the new logo in the header and background. The ‘bookmark’ concept from our rejected logos can now be seen in the favicon.
So visit Five Chapters and read today’s chapter or a full story. There’s enough free fiction on this site to entertain us all until the next century. There’s even a story about my ‘hood Greenpoint!
[Note: this interview was previously published at an earlier incarnation of this blog, and it was also featured on the New York Times‘ City Room blog here. Many thanks to the editors.]
Michael Sayers is the owner and manager of Photoplay Video & DVD, a movie rental and sales store located at 928 Manhattan Avenue in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. The store has been a staple of the Greenpoint community for nearly a decade. Michael is formerly the Programmer at Film Forum (he was once interviewed by Leonard Lopate!) and his knowledge of cinema is astounding and encyclopedic. I have been a part-time employee at Photoplay since 2003 and Michael has been a truly great friend over the years. He doesn’t give a shit about publicity – he recently half-jokingly referred to business promotion as a “sign of weakness” – and I’m sure he only agreed to this interview because he’s very generous and because he loves talking about movies. I hope you enjoy my chat with the extraordinary Michael Sayers. -Dan Redding
Dan Redding: Can you tell me about a film that’s been a particularly memorable theatergoing experience for you?
Michael Sayers: I remember seeing Blue Velvet at the Waverly Theater at midnight, the week it opened. And just being completely blown away by it. Not knowing what (David Lynch) was doing or what it was supposed to be… I’m just remembering how funny it was. Amazing. Seeing Scarface at 42nd Street with a late night crowd was another great one. People were just going apeshit, you know?
What actor bothers you more than any other?
(long, long pause) There must be some that I hate, but I can’t think of any.
(laughter) That’s okay. You seem to have a very positive disposition, so-
Well, I’m never very fond of, um, what’s her name? Chipmunk face.
No! I like her.
No. The one who ruined Appaloosa.
I didn’t bother watching that one.
She’s in those Bridget Jones movies. Zellwegger.
Oh, God, she’s the worst! Fucking Zellwegger. She and Nicolas Cage are one and two on my shit list.
But Cage is a talented actor! You can’t ignore his good movies.
Sure I can.
Oh, no, he’s amazing in those movies! Adaptation, Wild at Heart…
I kind of think of those movies as great in spite of him.
No, I think he helps make those movies great. Face/Off. Brilliant.
Face/Off is so obnoxious! Cage’s bad films greatly outweigh the good. He reminds me of DeNiro in a way… DeNiro is perhaps the most revered actor of his generation, and rightly so, but he hasn’t been in anything good – or even decent – in many years. Do you think that DeNiro could ever make a comeback?
I don’t think he’s ever gonna make a comeback. I don’t think he’s interested, obviously, since he chooses what scripts he’s in. I don’t think he’s interested in taking on any serious dramatic roles, clearly. He hasn’t done any in twenty years, right? Twenty-five years?
What actor will you go to see at the theater no matter what he or she is appearing in?
Isabelle Huppert is a very interesting French actress. Phillip Seymour Hoffman is always picking good stuff. Charlotte Rampling. Julianne Moore I’d usually go to see.
What did you think of Phillip Seymour Hoffman in Doubt?
Didn’t see it. I guess it’s not true then (that I’d always see him) – I wouldn’t go see that. There’s nobody I would go see all the time. Some actors have a good, like, seventy percent standing. That’s the best it’s gonna get.
Huppert seems kind of obscure. She’s not in that many movies.
Oh, she is, actually. She’s been in two Chabrol films, she was in The Piano Teacher, Ma Mere…
You’ve just mentioned Michael Haneke’s The Piano Teacher. Haneke famously said that his desire as a filmmaker is to “rape” the audience with his films. Why do you think there is a large audience for such a violent style of filmmaking?
I think it’s just a fascination with the darkest elements of human existence that he portrays: murder, acts of random violence and cruelty, suicide… People are fascinated by the extremes of human experience, which he tends to portray.
I never go to a theater hoping to be ‘raped’ by a film.
I don’t think he actually does that; I think that’s misleading. I think he wants to maybe brutalize the audience in some way. Unlike a rape, his movies leave you enriched in some way. I think his description is a little overstated.
Enriched? I find Haneke’s films so frustrating.
Especially Cache. I found the lack of resolution in the narrative to leave me feeling incomplete and disappointed in a way. I guess I’m a traditional viewer in that sense; I like a traditional narrative. I like it when it’s experimented with, but not when certain parts that I depend on are obliterated.
But maybe he’s touching on subjects which have no possible way to be closed off. He’s dealing with colonialism and racism; issues which are still unresolved in France. He may be treating those subjects more accurately by not tagging on some kind of device that would end the film more comfortably.
Over the years, I have only witnessed you strongly object to a few films. Can you tell me why you dislike The Royal Tenenbaums?
I think it’s cartoonish, empty, whimsical… It pretends to deal with events that are of consequence, but in fact, it doesn’t deal with them. It presents this perverse, entitled, all-white New York, with ethnic stereotypes thrown in in the background – usually for laughs. It’s some kind of fantasy of a rich, white New York where the personal problems of bored, wealthy people somehow dominate. Which is disgusting.
Can you tell me why you dislike The Last House on the Left?
I don’t like films that portray rape as entertainment. I just find them abhorrent. Something is soul-killing in films like that. The idea of degradation as pleasure for an audience is something I find pretty unbearable.
I agree. There seems to be a modern school of filmmakers that draws on those ultraviolent seventies films as inspiration. What did you think of Hostel?
I liked Hostel, because I felt like Hostel turned the tables. You have these young Americans overseas trying to exploit women for their own purposes, taking advantage of the economic situation in Eastern European countries… And then, in fact, (those Americans) wind up as the victims of far wealthier, more powerful people. I felt like it was somehow a commentary on American economic power… Although Hostel II was terrible and had none of that subtle social commentary.
Are the Academy Awards an honorable ceremony or an elitist farce?
An elitist farce, I think. At this point they’re just a way for studios to market their films. I don’t know that they indicate any more than who’s promoted their films most. They’re pretty silly.
Are there any new or emerging directors whose work you find exciting?
Charlie Kaufman’s first directorial effort (Synecdoche, New York) was pretty amazing. Um…
I thought you might mention Funny Ha Ha director Adrew Bujalski in response to this question. You seemed to be a fan of his.
Yeah, I liked that movie a lot, and the second one (Mutual Appreciation) a little less. But yeah, he’s kind of interesting. We’ll see where he goes… The director who did Calvaire (Fabrice Du Welz) is interesting. His second feature, Vinyan, was kind of interesting, too.
Dreamworks executive Jeffrey Katzenberg believes that an oncoming trend of 3-D movies will be a revolution equivalent to the transition between silent and sound. Do you foresee a future in which the art of filmmaking is revolutionized by technology?
No. That’s a ridiculous statement. I think 3-D movies will be only interesting for people seeking sensation. It’ll appeal more to, like, video game fans, or people looking for some kind of virtual reality… They’ve been playing with 3-D for over fifty years and it just doesn’t interest most people.
It just seems like technology is evolving at such a rapid pace.
I think technology may create other entertainment options, but the structure of narrative film hasn’t changed that much in eighty years, really. I don’t think technology is gonna make any changes in the way people watch film. It may dictate where they watch the film, but the structure will remain intact.
Robert Altman once said, “Decent films are just disappearing. Everything’s being made for kids.” Do you agree?
No. I think he was probably responding to that first wave of blockbusters like Star Wars and Jaws, which kind of changed the way people marketed films to teenagers. I think that was probably a pretty dramatic shift. In the early seventies, interesting films were being made for very sophisticated audiences. Between ’67 and ’75, let’s say. After Bonnie and Clyde, when the ratings system fell away… Look at the films Altman had made: M.A.S.H. and McCabe and Mrs. Miller and Images and 3 Women and Brewster McCloud. These were very strange, sophisticated films which were being championed by critics and found cult audiences. But after the mid-seventies, that changed; there was much less of that going on. He had a lot of trouble getting things produced after that point.
You once recommended to me the great novel Flicker, which is about haunted film dating back to the origins of filmmaking. You were also a big fan of David Lynch’s Inland Empire, which concerns the filming of a haunted narrative from the past. What do you think it is about the history of Hollywood and the history of filmmaking that is so intriguing and mysterious to storytellers?
Well, the history of Hollywood has such a dark side to it. It’s filled with suicides and scandals and murders… like the stories told in Hollywood Babylon by Kenneth Anger: these outrageous ups and downs of various directors and producers and actors, and this dark underside that permeates the industry itself. It’s a good premise for a ghost story. Inland Empire is about a script that had been around; they’d maybe started shooting it and there were some mysterious deaths… the story itself was dangerous to tell. Which is also the premise of The Ring. The idea that a film can hurt you.
You once watched a whole season of 24 in 24 hours consecutively.
How would you describe that experience?
Exhausting. Stimulating. That show is pure sensation, pure action, pure narrative. It’s an awful lot of fun. Preposterous. Invigorating.
Does Jack Bauer ever take a shit or drink a coffee?
He has no time for that, no. That would be unacceptable.
I recently had a Freddy Kreuger nightmare as well as a dream in which I was being directed by Scorcese in his new feature. Have you ever dreamt about movies?
(long, thoughtful pause) I don’t think I ever have, actually. That’s funny. I seem to get them out of my system during waking hours. They don’t enter my dream life.
What inspired you to open a video store in Greenpoint?
Wanting to work close to where I live and having something that I could do exactly the way I wanted to do it. I’ve always wanted to be around movies because they’re the best thing in the world.
When you were a kid, were you an avid movie watcher?
Yeah, even as a very young kid, I would circle all the movies in TV Guide that I wanted to watch. My brother and I went to the movies and saw a double feature every Saturday. During my entire childhood. There was a second-run theater in town, and they would show two movies, and they would change them every week, and we would go see whatever was playing. I always wanted to go to the movies.
Does anything stand out from those double features in your memory?
I remember seeing Breakout with Charles Bronson, and seeing a man killed by an airplane propellor, and being stunned. Just stunned by the violence. And it was only a PG, but he splattered like a watermelon on the tarmac. Horrifying…
[At this point, Michael seems to have a visceral reaction to the memory; I try to begin another question but he is clearly distracted]
Wow! You’re still feeling that!
It really got me, yeah.
Have you watched it since?
Yeah, it’s not so bad. But at the time, it was the most violent moment I’d ever seen on film.
I guess there’s something especially compelling to young kids – especially young boys – when they see a movie that’s more violent than anything they’ve ever seen before.
Yeah, and I was only eleven or so.
What’s your favorite movie theater on Earth?
I guess my favorite is probably the Castro in San Francisco. Old movie palace with an organ. That’s as good as it gets. Huge screen.
For the record, what is the meaning of the name Photoplay?
Film studios once wanted movies to be referred to as ‘photoplays.’ They felt it was a more sophisticated word than ‘movies’ or ‘talkies.’ They felt that it just had a little more class to it. And then it was a very, very, very popular magazine from the thirties through the sixties, which covered movie star gossip and such things. But the word never caught on with the general public.
I’m always happy when I see an issue of Photoplay magazine pop up in a movie. It pops up in The Postman Always Rings Twice, John Carpenter’s The Thing…
It was the movie magazine for quite a while if you were interested in the private lives of the stars. But yeah, it does pop up in movies once in a while, usually as an anachronism. It never seemed to show up in old movies, but in movies about that time period, it shows up.
You seem to have it all figured out. What’s the secret to happiness?
(laughter) I wish I had that figured out.
If you were going to recommend one movie off of the new release wall today, what would it be?
I would recommend Obscene, the documentary on Barney Rossett, who founded Grove Press, because it was an amazing story about someone who built his own strange empire based on his own strange personal tastes in literature.
Many, many thanks to Michael Sayers and Photoplay Video.
Welcome to another Magnetic State Blog Dept. interview with a creative professional. Today’s interview subject is Ryan Germick, a designer at Google as well as a cartoonist, web designer, Indiana native, and Prince enthusiast. Ryan and I became friends while attending the BA/BFA program at the New School together; we both graduated in 2003 with BFA’s in Illustration from Parsons School of Design and BA’s in Writing from Eugene Lang College.
Ryan’s got a dedicated work ethic and his creativity seems limitless. He comes from a family of numerous talented Germicks; you can check out their multimedia art empire Germart here. Also check out ryangermick.com and Ryan’s comic, Gomance: My First Kiss. Last week, Ryan and I shared a cross-continent conversation about his storied Google career, the future of the internet, design inspiration, and T-Pain. Enjoy! [Note: this interview was conducted in January, 2009, and was previously published at an earlier incarnation of this blog and in excerpt form in Parsons Re:D Magazine]
Dan Redding: What is your job title and place of employment?
Ryan Germick: I’m a Web Designer at Google. But really, I don’t do any web design; actually now I’m more of an illustrator.
There was a book published recently called What Would Google Do? Let’s settle this once and for all: what would Google do?
(Laughter) Google would organize the world’s information and make it universally useful and accessible. That’s the mission statement – like, verbatim. Sorry. I’ve drunk the Kool-Aid. (Laughter) And they wouldn’t do it in an evil way!
That’s the Google motto I’ve heard quoted, right? ‘Don’t be evil’?
Yeah, I think they’re pretty legit about it… I think at the top of the company there is good in the hearts of the ones running it.
Is Google CEO Eric Schmidt a nice guy?
I think so! He said my video was the funniest thing on the planet. So we’re totally cool. It was really flattering.
And yet Google is so ubiquitous, you guys seem to come under fire a lot… It was recently alleged that performing two Google searches can create the same amount of carbon dioxide as boiling a kettle and that the global IT industry generates as much greenhouse gas as the world’s airlines.
I noticed that the official Google blog did have a post that sort of tried to explain their power consumption… I know that Google does have a lot of care for their carbon emissions, and like even being around the company, we just got rid of plastic water bottles, you know, to try to be eco-friendly. We’re getting composting. More to the point of people complaining about Google, when anyone’s big, people complain about ‘em, you know? I mean, you could complain about T-Pain, but the truth is, T-Pain is money.
Oh, and I will complain about T-Pain. I was on record today complaining about T-Pain and his ridiculous hats.
That’s why they call people like you a hater.
Google has a search robot named Googlebot. Have you ever met him?
(Laughter) I’m not at liberty to discuss. But I will say, it was consensual.
You have drawn some of the Google holiday illustrations that can be seen on the homepage periodically. What does it feel like to have your drawing viewed by more people than one can fathom in every nook and cranny on the Earth?
I don’t think about it that way. I just try to have fun with them and hope people enjoy them. I’m really grateful that I get paid to draw.
What do you think the future holds for Google’s open source mobile platform, Android?
I will tell you that I’m talking on an Android phone right now and it’s pretty sweet. I’m a believer. It’s pretty darned open source, and I’m a believer in open source. That’s kind of a crazy concept that web applications and development can be that democratic that anyone can have their input. I think it’s great! To bring it back to Google, as far as Google is concerned, they just want people using the internet. People are using the internet on iPhone, people are using the internet on Blackberry, that’s cool, because Google is in the business of selling ads, right? If people are using the internet, there’s a good chance they’re using Google… so they’re happy.
I wonder if the future holds the potential for geniuses whose genius is code. When you think of geniuses and masterminds of the past, you think of artists and inventors. Now in the technology industry, there are brilliant entrepreneurs, of course, but I wonder if there will be someone who comes along and revolutionizes the whole design of the internet.
There is, man! There’s millions of them, and a bunch of them work for Google. The guy who invented the language Python, he’s a code genius, and he works for Google now. There’s amazing people there. They’re out there, it’s just a little less glamorous, because they don’t shoot themselves in the stomach… they play World of Warcraft till the wee hours. There are definitely code geniuses out there. You should look up the Computer History Museum.
Yeah, you’re right, that sounds really boring. (Laughter)
“My proudest accomplishment at Google is designing the animated poop emoticon.”
From Android to Google’s browser Chrome, there always seems to be something new in the works at Google. What do you think is the most exciting venture in the works right now?
Well, I can’t talk about anything that hasn’t been released, but I think Android is really exciting and I think Chrome is really exciting. I was just talking to somebody about this on the Google Shuttle. I think Google Reader is the most underrated Google product. I think Google Reader is really cool. Google Reader lets you collect all the blogs and news sources that you read in one unified place, and then it lets you share what you like to read with your friends, and it’s very well designed and very simple and very effective. I think Gmail is a great product, too.
I totally agree.
Yeah, and they have Gmail Labs now, so there’s all these cool new features coming out. I don’t want to toot my own horn, but – can you put in a pull quote that my proudest accomplishment at Google is designing the animated poop emoticon? There’s a poop emoticon in Gmail, and that’s my proudest accomplishment.
I’m gonna see to it that that’s what it reads on your tombstone.
They’re gonna animate my tombstone anyway. (Laughter)
When do the machines plan to rise up and wage war on us humans?
It’s a goal for mid-2009. If Obama doesn’t give us reason to not start the coup, then it’s on.
Why do you say ‘us’? You’re on my side!
Oh, right, humans. Go humans.
Are you on Twitter?
What is your favorite website to visit for fun?
I really like the Sorry I Missed Your Party blog.
What site do you visit for news?
I go to the New York Times, to the Huffington Post, I read tons of blogs through Google Reader. I probably keep up with like fifty blogs. I’ll give a shout out to my friend Ryan, who runs the Electric Ant Zine blog.
What do you think is the future of web design?
I think the future is going to be information-dense, lightweight, a lot of information through things like RSS, getting things on the go…
Things are getting too small: a favicon, and an emoticon, and a 140-character Tweet…
Basically the future of web design is gonna be on a little tiny screen. That’s okay… In regards to Twitter, I don’t get it, exactly, but I know people are into it. I’m visual, so I like Flickr, I like having photos and comics and stuff that people do. But it’s really cool that a site like Flickr has everything universally formatted, and I can have RSS feeds for it. It’s not the prettiest presentation, but it’s so efficient that you’re basically mainlining information. And that’s where it’s at and that’s where it’ll stay… I think the internet’s built for, you know, the information superhighway. I coined that phrase. Tons of information all the time. And if you can set it up in an efficient, lightweight way, then you can really get your fix.
What is the most important thing you learned in design school?
Time management skills and life balance are really good things to have.
There are a few quotes from Parsons professors that still ring through my head quite often. Like when Viktor Koen told me, “you say you love type, now it’s time to make love to type.” Do you have any quotes that you are often reminded of?
Yeah, there was this professor Richard Waxburg, he was awesome. He said three things that I remember very distinctly. He was the first person to use the word gestalt that I knew of. He talked a lot about the overall feeling of something. It’s like another way of saying, ‘does it work or not?’ But gestalt is so much more German and nice. I like saying that. He also said that you have to take things on their own terms. That concept is the basis of a really constructive critique. You start to say, ‘what is the artist trying to do?’ And you really empathize with the artist. That to me is the basis of constructive criticism and I can thank Richard for that. (And the third thing I learned from him) was that you gotta be ruthless. Ruthless in the sense that if you’re drawing a figure, and you really get into the details of the knuckles, and you feel really, really good about the knuckles, but if you aimed to draw the figure, and it turns out that you screwed up the arm, you just have to be willing to suck it up – to meet your goal, you gotta erase the knuckles, you know? You gotta just wipe it out. You gotta be willing to be really hard on yourself, and not be precious, and do what needs to be done to make it happen. He was really into that. He’d get on his knees and yell.
I remember how crazed his paintings could be. He was a walking gestalt.
He was a walking gestalt. And what else could you hope to be?
Any artists that you’ve been deriving creative inspiration from lately? I forever love Osamu Tezuka. Another artist who I love dearly who recently passed away is Fujio Akatsuka. And then also, two of my friends whose work I really love and are a continual inspiration to me are Bay-area cartoonist Hellen Jo and Calvin Wong. I’m constantly surrounded by inspiration.
What’s the last great graphic novel you read?
I just read Watchmen. I thought it was good. I really appreciate how many levels things were working on. There’s lots of dense layering of symbolism…
When and why did you decide to become a vegetarian?
Well I’m not, I eat fish still, so I guess I’m a pescatarian. I decided in a Dairy Queen in the summer of 1993, before ninth grade. I ate a burger and I was like, ‘This is disgusting, I feel terrible… I don’t wanna eat this anymore.’
What was the most profound change that came from your experience living in India?
There were several things… I saw people who were poor but pretty content. The pace of life was – if you showed up somewhere, people stopped what they were doing and just chilled out with you. Here I am thinking that Americans have it all figured out… But really, these people are the ones that really have time, because they don’t have the ‘resources’ to ruin it.
You’ve been an outspoken Prince fan for many years. We know what Google would do, but more importantly, what would Prince do?
(Long sigh) Um, I’ll tell you what I would like Prince to do. ‘Cuz I don’t know what Prince would do. I wish Prince would go back to basics. I have this fantasy of having, like, a Court TV show where my favorite artists who have disappointed me would be put on trial. I thought of this idea with my friend Peggy. It would be a court show where my favorite artists get put on trial, and I would sentence them to a project that they’d have to complete to get out of a prison. And I wanna put Prince in prison to make him come out with a four-track jail album, where he can’t use a lot of cheesy synthesizers… he’d have to use really simple materials to make a straightforward good song. He can’t just rely on his old studio tricks.
Would it be a purple prison?
That’d be fine. That’d be great.
It’s time to pay tribute to a genre that has more great album artwork than it has deliriously fast songs about the most evilest shit a stoned, teen-aged mind can conjure. The genre was epitomized in the early eighties when a handful of drunk virtuosos in skinny black jeans and high-tops decided to call themselves Metallica and play the lean essentials of heavy metal at really, really fast tempos. Other dark lords of the thrash universe include Exodus, Anthrax, Venom, Kreator, Overkill, and macabre masterminds Slayer. Here are the seven best thrash metal record covers of all time.
Forget thrash, this is one of the best record covers in any genre. Turns out the pummeling, cold fist of death is sheer eye candy. Who made that thing? Did it fall out of someone’s nightmare? If you want a couple more reaons to love them, Motörhead frontman Lemmy hoped his band would be “the dirtiest rock n’ roll band in the world” and once said that if “Motörhead moved in next to you, your lawn would die.”
Um, it’s a cruciform Gibson Explorer, zombified in the graveyard of Metal Church. Gnarly. Did they shoot this photo on the set of the Thriller video? Same year. Just sayin’.
I like this cover because it defies the genre. No overwrought Iron Maiden-esque oil paintings, no overt Satanism, zero cheese factor. If anything, you would expect this fucked-up photocopied negative from a punk rock band. The androgynous demon children immediately remind me of Richard D. James and the Aphex Twin video for ‘Come To Daddy’ (directed by Chris Cunningham). Genuinely creepy.
Oh no, it’s your worst nightmare: you’re tucked into bed, wearing your nice clean starched white pajamas because you are a total dickweed poser, and you wake up to discover that you are TUMBLING DOWN A NEVERENDING VAMPIRE MOUTH ‘TIL THE END OF TIME! The essential theme of thrash metal is that each generation of bands has to try and out-evil the last. Eternal Nightmare epitomizes the losers of the evil arms race (hey, not everybody can be Slayer). The boys of Vio-lence failed miserably in their attempt to be insidious and foul; looking at this cover is about as scary as tickling a leprechaun. And that’s why it rules.
The record is a masterpiece and so is the cover. No wonder they’ve had carte blanche ever since. It’s got the unfuckwithable red-black-white color combination, the photograph is beautifully lit, and the blood puddle has a great Rorschach thing going on. This record almost got called ‘Metal Up Your Ass’ as a goof; thankfully they decided otherwise. Now if only they’d hang up the guitars (and the midlife crises) once and for all. Photo by Gary Lee Heard.
Death frontman Chuck Schuldiner was clearly no fan of subtlety. This cover creeps me out because somehow I feel like maybe you could get leprosy just from looking at it. The real star of this show is the Death logo. Logo design requires boiling a concept down to its distilled essence, but not for Schuldiner, who designed and re-designed this logo himself throughout the band’s career. This incarnation features a spider dangling from its web, a bloody scythe (which is not incorporated into any of the letterforms for some reason), a flaming inverted crucifix, and a shrunken demon skull head thing. Only someone who doesn’t know the rules can break them all and produce something this exuberant. Oh, also check out that sweet nuclear sunset. Artwork by Ed Repka.
Much like the music it represents, the cover of Slayer’s 1986 major label debut made everything that preceded it look like sugar-coated sunshine in comparison. Illustrator and artist Larry Carroll provided the band with a grim cover illustration of Satan-as-goat reigning over a medieval, Bosch-ian vision of Hell. What else would befit an album with a song called ‘Raining Blood’ that opens with the sound of blood rain? I heard this dude Gaahl (from notorious Norwegian black metal band Gorgoroth) explain the meaning of the ‘Satan as a goat’ symbol during an episode of the VBS tv (Vice‘s online video channel) series ‘True Norwegian Black Metal’; he claimed that the goat represents beings motivated by free will, as opposed the rest of us, who are sheep. Being a sheep is lame: you’re a slave to the masses, shackled by ideology and oppressed by tradition. I guess the one cool thing about being a sheep is that, um, you don’t have to rot in Hell for eternity.