Milazzo, Alex (Editor), Aesthetics of Sickness (Book Review)

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Author/Editor: Alex Milazzo
Title: Aesthetics Of Sickness
Publisher: Heavy Music Artwork
Published: 2019
Rating:  4.5/5
Reviewer:  JP

This is the first book I’ve ever received that comes wrapped in it’s own biohazard bag!  Why, because this book is SICK!!   In all seriousness, the bio-bag is a nice touch, a good marketing technique and I’m going to tuck mine away and keep it as a collectible.

Heavy Music Artwork is an upscale, high-end magazine dedicated to the art of Heavy Metal now nine or ten issues deep as well as a handful of other collectible publications.   Via a crowd-sourcing campaign they have published their latest book, AESTHETICS OF SICKNESS-THE GORE ARCHETYPES and it is now available.

This mid-sized coffee-table book is hard bound and comes with a slipcover. The book is actually square, which seems a bit odd in hindsight. The quality is top-notch.  Everything from the paper quality and ink, this is certainly a collectible aimed at a collectors market.  It is limited to 700 copies…I suppose limiting it to 666 copies would be too cliché?

AESTHETICS OF GORE is an examination, not necessarily a celebration of dark and gory art.  Broken into four main segments, each chapter has a very rough theme. Each visual has an explanation, a description from either the artist who created the image or a band member who makes a comment on the art.  A wide range (well, in terms of Extreme Metal) of Metal is represented, Thrash, Death Metal ,Black Metal and more than enough Gore-grind to satisfy.  Many of the big names are represented Obituary, Carcass, Cannibal Corpse, Exhumed, Impaled, Aborted and dozens more of ultra-brutal, ultra-sick underground bands.  There are extended interviews with several of the artists who all get asked the same series of questions.  Reading these stories you see many details that are brought to our attention, things that might not have gone noticed, such as the four cloaked figures on the cover of the album EVANGELIVUM NEKROMANTIA by the band Anthropomorphia is a tribute to the cover of the album SCREAM BLOODY GORE by Death.   The book is packed with detail like that. I t was interesting to note that there was not too much representation of what some might consider the classic or veteran Metal artists; Repka, Marschall, Benscoter etc, but in a wise move show cased many younger, up and coming Metal artists.

I feel this isn’t really necessary to explain but this book is intended for adults only and even then there are many adults I would not show this too. It is graphic and explicit. However, that is not really the point.   The book is not about shock value or titillation although some of the imagery can be shocking.  This harkens back to a time when art was a reflection of reality, perhaps dating back to medieval times when the reality of ‘gore’  ie, seeing dead animals or people in various states of decay were common.  In today’s sterile, clinical and industrial first-world nations, the chance of people seeing ‘gore’ (to use the simple term) in daily life is very rare, unless by accident or a visit to a working farm or if a person is employed in an industry where they might encounter death and decay of flesh.  In fact much of the book is laced with imagery and words that convey that aesthetic.  Latin, and biblical references abound, as well as artwork of cadavers are scattered across the book, in addition to the presentation of Heavy Metal albums.

There are quite a few books about Heavy Metal album cover art; some historical in nature, some serious, some comedic, there are even a few books that concentrate specifically on gory album covers, but those are artist specific publications, (Benscoter, Hrubovcak) showcasing their own art.  (As a side note I have also reviewed both of those books here at  AESTHETICS OF SICKNESS is to the best of my knowledge the first book truly dedicated to an analysis and celebration of gore and is a sick celebration indeed! I enjoyed this book probably more than I should admit.