Dio/Killswitch Engage – “Holy Diver”

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In 2015 I started a project which had me designing jackets and other artwork for 7″ records that had none. In my collection was the Dio/Killswitch Engage “Holy Diver” single from the Side By Side series. This was released for Record Store Day 2013 on “oxblood red” vinyl and it was limited to 2,800 pressings. If you know anything about Classic Rock/Heavy Metal then you already know about “Holy Diver” and all of the unholy awesomeness that it holds. Killswitch Engage covered the song in 2006, originally appearing on a Kerrang! compilation album but it was also later released on the special edition of KsE’s 2006 album As Daylight Dies. The original is amazing, the cover is good in its own right but the artwork for this release was severely lacking. That’s where I came in.

I really wanted to do some cool artwork for this release but for the longest time I was totally stumped on what to create. I had visions of a modern re-imagining of the iconic cover image but it just wasn’t ever good enough when I put the ideas to the computer. In the end I decided it was best not to mess with what is already great and a super detailed die cut was settled upon. In all reality this was the best decision I could have made. It stands out from the rest of my project, looks amazing and adds a level of bitchin’ looks that was missing from the release. The only real decisions I had to make was how to treat the tracklisting, liner notes and logos. I decided on a small flap on the back side so that I wouldn’t take away from the die cut image and also because it just doesn’t require anything larger. Keep it simple, stupid. The only design I really had trouble coming up with for this part was the 45RPM graphic. I went with a design that gives a nod back to the 80s roots of the song with a modern treatment.

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God Forbid – IV: Constitution of Treason

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God Forbid’s fourth full-length album IV: Constitution of Treason was released on September 20, 2005 by Century Media and peaked at #118 on the Billboard 200 music chart. Three music videos were made to support the album and many fans still point to this album as being their favorite within the GF discography. In 2008, a DVD titled Beneath the Scars of Glory and Progression was released that featured a live concert filmed in their home state of New Jersey full of songs from the Constitution album cycle as well as a documentary chronicling the history of the band to that point. The vinyl release for this album was a German/European limited edition picture disc released by Bastardized Recordings.

Personally, I love this album. It isn’t my favorite album the band released (Earthsblood holds that slot) but it is definitely up there with the best they have to offer. Filled to the brim with “classic” metalcore sounds and riffs, this album holds it’s own with any of the more established releases from that time period. It’s a concept album that doesn’t sound like a concept album and the story is about a future society that destroys itself, builds back up again, and then destroys itself again because it couldn’t learn from it’s own history. Written during the Bush political era, perhaps this album could be more relevant now than when it was released.

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God Forbid – Gone Forever

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God Forbid released their third full-length album Gone Forever in February of 2004. This was their second album (of four) for Century Media. God Forbid used a mix of Thrash, traditional Heavy Metal and Metalcore styles to bring their voice to the masses. Although the band never reached the heights of some of their contemporaries such as Chimaira, Shadows Fall, Killswitch Engage and Lamb of God, but they plowed through the world of heavy metal all the same and left their own distinct mark in their wake.

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Mushroomhead – Superbuick

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Dude, these dudes are on acid… Everything’s like subliminal and all mixed-tunes and shit. It’s weird, man. 

Mushroomhead’s second full-length album Superbuick was released in 1996 and is commonly referred to as being the band’s greatest work. Featuring familiar elements that carry over from the first album along with some new twists and turns, Superbuick is another trip down the dark, cracked and bleary streets of Cleveland, Ohio. Utilizing biting guitars, crisp piano playing, various TV & movie snippets and the unmistakable growl and shriek of co-singers J Mann and Jeffrey Nothing, Mushroomhead spend 46-minutes in the odd world of avant garde metal music that they know all too well.

If Mushroomhead’s first album was the kind-of-fun, hillbilly-house-party rave, then Superbuick is the post-date-rape, wake up feeling groggy not knowing where you are, trapped in a box in a cellar, soundtrack to a murder scene. This album definitely has a sinister overtone to it all. Somebody is having fun but it definitely isn’t the victim.

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Mushroomhead – Mushroomhead

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We are about to take you into world of the LSD user.

The opening line of this album sets the tone for the whole crazy, fucked-up ride to come. Full of avant-garde, artistic, heavy music; this album is the combination of many different styles and many different local, musical personalities. Cleveland, Ohio’s Mushroomhead released their self-titled album in 1995, initially on their own label Filthy Hands Records. I didn’t hear this album until 2003 but when I finally sat down with it, the songs would never fully leave my rotating playlist again. This album is an odd mashing together of songs with various TV/movie/talking clips that truly sets a unique tone for this band that they would follow into the new millennium. Many people point to their second album, Superbuick, as their “best” work but for me, they will never top this album.

The vinyl release for this album was something I wanted for a very long time and in 2016 they finally obliged. Available only at their concerts (or local Cleveland shops if you are lucky), this album is on blue vinyl and features revised front/back artwork. The original CD artwork in 1995 was very similar but it lacked the vintage, beat-up look around the edges of the jacket. MRH also reissued the album in 2002 with an altogether different look.

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Attila – Rolling Thunder

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Attila is another one of those 80s heavy metal bands that I truly know nothing about. Rolling Thunder was released in 1986 on Shattered Records as an import from the Netherlands. It’s not a bad album but it was definitely no chart-topper here in the States. The album definitely has thrashy bits to it but it’s probably more comparable to Purgatory (Cleveland) or even pre-Anselmo Pantera. Basically a very heavy Glam Metal band. A bit spooky and theatrical but definitely not heavy enough to scare your cooler older brother or even your parents.

The thing that initially jumped out at me was obviously the cover of this album. I mean, look at this thing. It’s an abomination. It looks like it was done in colored pencils. Maybe it was. That’s not really the point. In the era of Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and the emerging Thrash movement you just have to have better artwork. This is 1986. The same year that Master of Puppets, Reign In Blood and Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying were released. If I saw this in the store next to one of those albums I know what I’d be slogging up to the counter with. That’s not to say this isn’t a good album musically, it just leaves a lot to be desired from a visual standpoint.

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