Martos, Ramon Oscuro-And Justice For Art…Live! (Book Review)

Spread the metal:

Reviewed:  June 2022
Published: Dark Canvas 2022
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: JP

In just a few short years, Ramon Martos has become arguably one of the world’s leading experts on Metal cover art. He is not only as a fan but a champion to the point where has created a series of book dedicated to the advancement and promotion of the art that we see adorn the covers of favorite bands. His…AND JUSTICE FOR ART series now four books deep, explores, not only the physical creation of those works of art but the theory and even philosophy behind them.

I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing all of the books in the series and you may feel free to enjoy the reviews on this site. The last book AJFA III, published in late 2020 was superb. However, I felt that the series, now with unlimited potential had reached a peak. I didn’t refer to that thought in my review on-line but I felt that a bit of the novelty of the series had diminished. Not because anything had changed, in fact the quality was still supreme, but AJFA could go on for decades and not really offer anything new or unique, other than the albums begin featured being different in each edition.

Martos has proven that my mild misgiving was unfounded because his newest entry adds a bit of neat twist; all the albums featured all live albums! Hence the title, but you probably figured that out on your own.

AND JUSTICE FOR ART…LIVE! is in-line with the other books in the set, a lush, over-sized paperback on thick glossy paper. It comes with a few goodies, a bookmark, poster, post-card, stuff like that. Voivod’s Michel Langevin, an artist in his own right, provides the opening commentary. At the back-end of the book there are full credits and fans and band members a like paying tribute to the not so long-lost art of appreciating album art.

I’ve always enjoyed Martos egalitarian selection process, live albums from the 70’s until 2021 are all featured equally. He does not play genre favourites; all sub-genres get represented. In fact, he even champions some of the Power Metal and Progressive Metal that often gets ignored by mainstream Metal media (especially in North America) so I delighted to see live albums by Manowar, Hammerfall, Kamelot, Gamma Ray, Helloween, Grave Digger, Nightwish, Sabaton, Stratovarius and Dragonforce included.

Martos also champions lesser-known bands, it is not so much about throwing an obscure band a bone as it were, but if the art was magnificent and unique, it made the cut. Next to well-known and popular live albums by Kiss, AC/DC, Rush, and Iron Maiden (you know the ones I’m talking about) we get to discover bands like Bloodway, Chaoseum and Bloodway. To summarize, all eras and all genres are nicely represented.

Over 110 live albums are represented, dissected and analyzed with only a few bands, Blind Guardian, Slayer and Opeth getting more than one record covered. The trivia is superb. We don’t just get a simple reproduction of each album cover, there are alternate versions, demo versions, close-up on certain details that many may have missed. There were so many little details that I had not noticed or I had noticed but don’t understand the hidden references. For example, the runes around the frame on Ozzy’s SPEAK OF THE DEVIL, those runes actually mean something. I had always seen them but never knew it was a clever hidden message. I won’t spoil it but it is classic Ozzy humour! Other highlights were Tiamat’s Live EP, the (almost) unplugged album by Europe and it was interesting to read how Orphaned Land put together their live album cover.

There are many, many coffee table books about album are, many of them seemingly cash grabs with some minor comment about how great the art is, but Martos digs so much deeper, asking the actual creators of the album art those interesting questions that helps understand and appreciate the album cover that much more.

AND JUSTICE FOR ART…LIVE! is a welcome addition to the series. I could see a live’ edition coming after every three ‘regular’ books, just like bands space out live albums, unless you are Iron Maiden who now only put out live albums occasionally spaced out by a real album! These books are in high demand and not many copies are left so grab your today.