Extended Album Art: The Often-Forgotten Sides of Album Covers

Just this month, at least two amazing albums were released that have extended album arts. What counts as extended?, you ask. Quite simply, it’s when an album cover derogates from the perfect square image usually shown on sites like Bandcamp, Itunes, Spotify, and many others. Such artistic eccentricities can be caused by the album art wrapping around more than one panel on a physical release, which leads to two- or even three-panel artworks. These extended forms usually show more of the concept behind the art, and, most of the time, are an absolute joy to behold.

On this website, I always – when possible – include the full extent of album artworks. Sometimes, however, I just don’t know that an album has an extended cover. This happened recently with Hago’s self-titled debut. The square picture on Bandcamp looked complete enough, but it’s when the band shared its complete version on Facebook that I noticed I was wrong. So, I updated the review I wrote with the complete three-panel image. Sometimes, it’s even tougher. For Portal’s Ion or Bell Witch’s Mirror Reaper, for example, I had to track down the artist who made their art, and search their professional websites for the full picture.

This post can be seen as an homage to art. I will be uploading and discussing some album covers that are not squares, and maybe you will find out that your favourite album has an even more impressive cover art than you knew!

To view the pictures in full size, click on the thumbnails!

Zbigniew M. Bielak: Portal – Ion

Not only did Zbigniew M. Beliak create a stunning, 2-panel, vertical artwork for the Australian avant-garde death metal legends, but the inside of the digipak and translucent booklet display all the titles of the album in the form of equations. For example, you can read the band name and album title as \(\pi_{o}r(T_\Delta)l\) – \(\sqrt[I]{o/\eta}\), and the songs go from “\(N(t/h)\)” to “\({Ol^{d}e}/{G(u/\partial)r\Delta\Sigma}\)”. Although this is an affront of misused mathematics and many symbols, it is one of the most clever ways I’ve seen a band use uncommon scripts to write names and titles. I can’t really stay mad at it.

The usual artwork you’ll see is only the top half of this, and it cuts somewhere below the album title. On the digipak version, the bottom half is the back panel, and everything is printed on some sort of reflective silver, to great effect. Zbigniew is not new to making outstanding album arts, and, even though I found the lightning bolt on the cover of Ion to look almost childish, I can’t argue against the fact that it stands perfectly on this cover, which is filled with hard straight lines. In short, this cover is just fascinating, and apparently the vinyl version glows in the dark, too!

Vojtěch Doubek (also known as Moonroot): Clavicus Vile – The Nightspirit’s Call

I recently reviewed Clavicus Vile’s new album, so I won’t go in too much details about their music. Just know that it’s some pretty impressive technical death metal, but it does have its flaws. The two-panel artwork, by Vojtěch Doubek, gloomily illustrates the bleak album’s music, with sludgy-looking oil paint and an almost otherworldly night paysage. The square thumbnail focuses on the right side of the painting, and I assume that physical versions of the album – if they’re ever made – will make full use of the landscape artwork.

Johanna Puukila: Hago – Hago

This is a big one! Hago’s Berklee-infused, Middle-Eastern jazz metal fusion self-titled debut album also has an interesting – not to say intriguing – three-panel cover! Johanna’s cover art is pretty simple: it’s meant to be read as hieroglyphs on a wall. What’s more intricate is that the hieroglyphs actually do represent the song titles (as seen in this video stream) on the amazing debut (trust me, I wrote about it). As with Clavicus Vile, I’m sure they have plans for a physical release, where this art will be able to shine in full view!

Максим Кобзев (Maxim Kobzev, also known as Spawnfall and Birdfall): Follow the White Rabbit – Endorphinia

It really seems like I can’t let a year go by without mentioning just how great this album is, so here it is yet again. Released in 2012, Endorphinia would mark the end of the Russian progressive metal/post-hardcore group. They wouldn’t go without a bang, however, and this album is solid proof of that. But let’s focus more on the art, for today. The usual thumbnail for the album is the little person on the bottom right, in a dark and haunting forest. It’s also the front panel of the digipak, with the two others curling back in for a truly jaw-dropping experience the first time you unravel the full display. The inside is another three-panel artwork, focused instead on temple ruins, underneath the same alien sky. I can’t stress enough how important that album is, and how every aspect of it was made with immense love and care for detail. I cannot recommend it enough!

Mariusz Lewandowski: Bell Witch – Mirror Reaper

Bell Witch’s Mirror Reaper apparently struck Matt, but the band’s snail-pace music is just a torture to me. However, Mariusz’ expansive painting is truly a sight to behold. While the usual thumbnail is centred on the centre-left of the album, where the haunting crimson reaper slowly leaps out of the antique mirror frame while countless souls are drawn in, the full painting shows a second, much bleaker side to the story. Distorted figures seem to try and reach out of the back of the mirror, which borders a moonlit sea. Is it some sort of parallel to the two parts of the magnum opus: “As Above” and “So Below”?

Mark Cooper: Rings of Saturn – Ultu Ulla

Rings of Saturn rarely get a mention on this website. Especially in the case of their boring and tedious album Ultu Ulla, which more closely embraces deathcore than over-the-top tech-death, as they used to make. Well, at least, Mark Cooper’s three-sided cover art is as wild and over-the-top as it should be. Maybe it could be said that his part is the one that did not disappoint. The cover is a really cool view into a twisted, bio-cybernetic future with interplanetary ships, Lovecraftian entities, viriform swarms, battleships, and space colonies. It’s just a shame that it’s on such an unremarkable album.

Jeff Christensen: Cormorant – Diaspora

Cormorant have always been known for their vast and imaginative artworks. Ever since their first full-length, Metazoa, the band has always put a lot of emphasis on their devanture. The only exception to that seems to be their third, Earth Diver. Although the artwork is still incredible, it’s the only one that keeps it to one panel. Their breakthrough, at least to me, was with the vertical Dwellings, which spanned three panels. With Diaspora, they cranked it up a notch, with a four-sided tapestry of surrealist oil painting by Jeff Christensen. The regular artwork is usually focused on the stilted horses and the castle-bearing lepers, which is the second panels. However, if you move along, you’re going to see an erupting volcano, a wolf-person holding a tree, floating cubes, a giant beached salmon, and what seems to be the hand of God putting one more castle-man on Earth underneath a whirling sky. So, yeah, pretty rad!

Adam Burke: Loss – Horizonless, Vektor – Terminal Redux, and Tchornobog – Tchornobog

Before writing this and researching this post, I didn’t even know that Vektor’s latest album had more to its square artwork! I’m glad to see it now, because it looks astonishing! So do the other two, obviously. While Tchornobog have been pretty upfront about their rectangular artwork – they even feature it in its entirety on bandcamp, by letterboxing it –, Loss have kept it hidden from sight. Although you will see the left panel if you buy a physical copy, the two sides are almost never seen together as one. The same is true with Vektor, who also use the left panel for the image on the back of physical releases, but also include the artwork in its entirety as a folded poster that goes with the CD version. The three pieces showcase exemplarily Adam’s own style, which seems to be a perfect fit for metal music in general.

Ammo: LLNN and Wovoka – Marks and Traces

Last year’s split between post-metal giants LLNN and Wovoka was home to a pretty cool artwork! Belgian artist Ammo used an almost monochromatic blue-on-grey to summon this supernatural asteroidian diptych. It’s dark and the blue streaks are really striking and draw the eye to them. The lettering is little and leaves a lot of room to the artwork to breathe, which gives a rather elegant feeling to the whole thing.

Well, that’s it! It was just a few extended artworks that I had in mind. I wanted to bring attention to them, and I hope you enjoyed that!

On February 1 2018, this entry was posted.