....And Justice For Art (Book Review)
Released: 2015, Dark Canvas
There are a dozen books about Heavy Metal album cover art on the market but this one seems to be a bit different. Some are portfolios focused on a specific artist (Riggs, Petagno, Benscoter, Verwimp etc) some are just lots of albums cover with commentaries but only a few have included the stories behind the art.
…AND JUSTICE FOR ART was the idea of writer Ramon Martos and he wanted to provide more than just the art but wanted to the sotores behnd the art, hence the sub-title ‘Stories About Heavy Metal Album covers. Using a crowd-funding campaign he produced 1000 copies that quickly sold out and then it went into a second run. The coffee-table sized soft cover book is 263 pages long and features 60 album covers from 56 artists (Anthrax, Black Sabbath Death, Metallica each two entries) although often more album cover are shown and discussed. The chapters run chronologically by year of release and it is immediately evident that Martos has a favouritism to the 90’s with half (29) of the 60 covers being from the 1990’s. There were two albums from the 70’s, only eight from the 80’s. Nine albums from the 2000-2010 were featured, it would have been nice to have been a bit more contemporary but in his defense some newer albums may not have stood the test of time yet, to be considered classics. Most genres are covered but the overall theme is more mainstream, and well-known album covers.
The book is nicely laid out and has a long introductory essay with many good points emphasizing the connection between art and music I agree with this phenomena as I found I read the chapters about bands I don’t like with much less enthusiasm, because I don’t care what is on the cover of an album I don’t like or own. There is no emotional connection as referenced in the intro as compared to favourite albums where the art can be for many an integral part of the experience. David Vincent of Morbid Angel wrote an excellent foreword and there are many, many Heavy Metal musicians, from Dream Theater to Obituary, who contribute, quotes, comments and thoughts. There is an enormous amount of cool info and surprising revelations, such as that the legend surrounding the creation of the album art for Pantera’s A VULGAR DISPLAY OF POWER was completely fake!
The pages are big and bold making it easy to see detail and the colours are magnificent. Many of the album covers have inset close-up shots of details, pointing out many little details I had not noticed before. Many other albums covers are included to demonstrate and artist style or long-standing relationship with a band. There is an enormous amount of detail and trivia about the creation of the artwork in question. It must have been painful to try to decide what album covers to include, an almost impossible task!
If I had one complaint it would be that many of the most popular, most influential and prolific Heavy Metal album cover artists were not included, people such as Andreas Marshall from Germany (Rage, Running Wild, Blind Guardian, Hammerfall, Grave Digger), Eric Philipe from Belgium (Iron Fire, Iron Mask, Mystic Prophecy), Felipe Franco from Columbia (Axel Rudi Pell, Iced Earth, Jorn), Marc Klinnert from Australia (Rhapsody, Axel Rudi Pell), JP Fournier from France (Avantasia, Dragonforce, Edguy), Luis Royo from Spain (At Vance, Skylark, Nocturnal Rites) etc. Derek Riggs and Kris Verwimp were not included but that can be forgiven because they already have their own books. However, so do Petagno, Langevin and Benscoter and they are represented so I’m not sure of the logic or criteria of what album/artist made the final cut. Some artists were represented more than once (Kantor, Smith, Whelan) which is fine but instead of doing two or three Smith and Kantor covers why not include a different artist? There also seemed to be a bias against Power Metal with only album covers by two bands (Iced Earth and Blind Guardian) making the cut. That’s OK, there will always be enough art for part two and three!
Overall, to me the overall choices of cover art seemed a bit…I’m not sure ‘trendy’ is the correct word but there seemed to be a of a lot of bands that are really popular right now like Baroness, Cormorant, Alcest, Lamb Of God etc, plus many predictable bands the Pantera’s, Sepultura’s, Fear Factory’s and Metallica’s of the world. I would have liked Martos to dig a bit deeper into the underground. However, just because a good chunk of the art was not too my taste, does not imply that the book is not still magnificent!
…AND JUSTICE FOR ART is an very appropriate title as Martos reminds of days when artwork and Metal were (and to some degree still are) inextricably linked. It is a fine collection and well worth owning. Hopefully the success of this first run may see more put into production so more people can enjoy this superb book.