Reviewed: April 2021
Released: 2020, Dark Canvas
I’m not sure where to begin with this review! I have reviewed the two previous versions of …AND JUSTICE FOR ART and we have interview the author/creator, Mr. Martos about four times. It is hard to come up with new things to say about the next part of the book series, that is just as good as the previous two, without running the risk of repeating myself. I said that in my review of AJFA-2!
I suppose, a good place to start is at the beginning. Back in 2015 Ramon Martos published …AND JUSTICE FOR ART, a book dedicated to the stories behind album art. It was such a big success that Part 2 followed in 2019 and now Part 3 has arrived!
Nothing has changed, and that is a good thing. The quality of this publication is top-notch. This big, bold and beautiful coffee-table book will stand with pride on your bookshelf…or coffee table. Costin Chioreanu gets the call for the third time to do the cover art that nicely follows the dame style and motif of the first two books, giving them all a nice consistent look. We get a brief introduction by Martos and Anders Nystrom gets the call to write the Foreword. He speaks to the phenomena of buying albums based on the art without having heard the music. He very cleverly says instead of calling them ‘blind buys’ we should call them ‘deaf buys’! In the back pages we get a few testimonials, credits and so on
…AND JUSTICE FOR ART has stories on 59 albums from 57 bands from 1969 (Led Zeppelin-II) to 2020 (Vastigr-Aura Aeternitatis). Judas Priest and Morbid Angel each are represented twice. It seems to me that this version has more, dare I say, iconic or famous album covers. DESTROYER, BRITISH STEEL MOVING PICTURES, SOMEWHERE IN TIME, APPETITE FOR DESTRUCTION all make the cut. The range of styles and genres is well represented from Hard Rock, straight-up Metal to Black Metal, Death Metal, Thrash, Prog and even a hint of industrial with Nine Inch Nails. I think that this edition is the most balanced in terms of albums from across a broad time-span, variety of genres and the mix of big name bands and really cool, lesser-known, stuff like a solo album by Adrian Weiss who had the talented Bjorn Goobees do his covers.
All mediums are represented as well, drawing, painting, digital manipulation, photography and so on. The range of images that Martos chose are representative of what you might see on any heavy album; funny, scary, cartoony, political, thought-provoking, sexy, horrific, contemporary, modern, it is all here.
Aside from the obvious, the enormous visual appeal of these large-scale representations, is the stories behind the art. That is after all the whole point of the book, or else it would just be another coffee-table book collection of album covers. Anchoring with interviews with the creators we get to really dig deep into the thought process behind the creation of the art. At times the artist has a free-hand and others the band micromanages what they want to see on their album. The stories, the trivia, the anecdotes all bring these pieces of art to life.
I found it intriguing how many times artists take inspiration from other art and then manipulate it. There are many pictures of the ‘source art’ and the final product that appeared on the album. For example, THE HEADLESS CHILDREN by W.A.S.P. I knew quite a bit about that album art from being a fan of the band but I did not know the album art was inspired by a political cartoon from WWII and we get to see the original cartoon to compare. I find that kind of stuff fascinating.
In addition there are many little spotlights (for lack of a better term) where we see an isolated frame of a small, specific section of a larger piece. That detail is brought out and a story told about it, for example on the album VISIONS by Stratovarius. The close-up shows a ring on the finger of the hand and it has writing on it, ‘Nostra’. Martos and Andreas Marshall explain the story behind it and the fact that the figure on the cover is Nostradamus. Hence the album title, VISIONS. I must have looked at that CD cover 100 times and never noticed that tiny detail. If I had the vinyl, maybe I would have noticed.
I suppose that shows what we miss when this art is shrunk down to tiny sizes. Although I am 100% a CD guy these days, I too spent countless hours of my youth looking at vinyl album covers just sitting and listening and looking. That experience perhaps for many, is a lost moment as the portability of CD’s means they get put on in the car or on the go. With vinyl we did not have that option to travel or move too far from the stereo, so how did you spend the hour? Certainly not doing the chores your mother asked you to do! You looked at the album cover. You absorbed it and embraced it while you got lost in the music. I know I am not alone in this as Nystrom pointed out in his Foreword. I can guarantee I do not get the same pleasure today in 2021 looking at my cassette copy of SOMEWHERE IN TIME as I did when I bought the vinyl back in 1986.
I feel that is the entire crux of the book…providing ‘justice’ for all this magnificent art that through the combined forces of shrinking formats, lack of time and diminishing enthusiasm for physical product. In our recent interview with Martos he says there is no reason why this series can’t or won’t continue. I’m already looking forward to the next one! It is a cliché but there is no way I can complete this review without saying that this whole series is highly recommended.