The Album Cover Design that Exploits Controversy by Damien Rizello

    Music isn’t always about the music. It’s also about the artwork (and liner notes) which help define how we look at a particular album. Today, most of us listen to digital music files that are designed by compressing sound sequences of a song into a very small file. We have the capabilities of storing music inside a handheld computer device, and carry hundreds to thousands of albums inside our pockets. Yet, because of this phenomenon, album cover art has become lost in the shuffle.

    Memories were once developed inside an LP album. Once were the nostalgic days of slowly pulling black vinyl from its sleeve jacket, placing (Side A) upon the turntable’s revolving platter, powering on a sound system that had the look of something in a Kubrick film. We’d adjust the volume for soft audio vibration, lift the tonearm, then gently rest the stylus on dead wax before the first track. As the record would spin, the needle would bump up and down within the groove, sending vibrations which boost the signal on its way to the speaker. A warm soft crackle — (music of choice). We’d always sit in our favorite chair and become lost inside the world of the album’s gatefold artwork. We’d read everything that existed on that album: the players, who produced, recorded, engineered, mastered, what studio, in what year, who wrote the songs, lyrics, we’d read the liner notes, and then we’d stare deep into the photos and the art again, and again, and again.

Stoner Rock Albums copy

    Hailing out of the city of brotherly love, Philly-based heavy rockers The Age of Truth are releasing their full-length debut album Threshold by way of Kozmik Artifactz. We couldn’t resist, in fact, we were immensely honored when the band members of The Age of Truth asked us if we’d be interested in designing the artwork for the album. We’ve already been designing their band identity and merch, so creating the album’s gatefold artwork was an obvious no-brainer. Chatting with the band about Threshold, we decided the best direction was to conceptualize a theme around the mysteriously theoretical death of Frank Olson. Because the story takes place in the early 1950’s, we decided to unlock perceived truth from a hardboiled detective mindset.

    Dr. Frank Olson was a US government scientist who supposedly fell to his death from the 13th floor of a Manhattan hotel. However, information about his death seemed fishy to some. These few who don’t believe his obituary, have rewritten an alternative death story. Apparently, Dr. Olson was allegedly given LSD in a glass of brandy and then thrown out of the window, because he discovered his biological research was being used to torture and kill suspects in Europe. Project MK-Ultra? You decide, and we’ll help shed some light through our artistic expression.

    Music genres are always broad and tend to pigeonhole bands into a singular category which oftentimes loosely describes the band’s sound. Stoner rock or stoner metal is a rock music fusion genre that combines elements of heavy metal and/or doom metal with psychedelic rock and acid rock. I think it’s fair to say The Age of Truth best fit inside the “stoner rock” genre. Stoner rock art has adopted a style derived from its sub-genre predecessors. An arousal of this niche style over the years have heavily exhibited the genre’s altered states of consciousness through sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll while venturing the allure of planetary exploration and sprinklings of evil worship. Not everyone has packaged themselves within this lurid content, however, stoner rock exploitation has been trending our countercultural momentum into profound visual works of art.

    Although we believe some of the most talented artists around the world are creating the most powerful images in the stoner scene; Threshold needed it’s own identity away from the mold. Rendered cynical about such niche genres, we decided to steer away from the trends of “stoner” and enter the mind of a hardboiled’s eye. A neo-noir tone of earthy realism or naturalism was seeping out of our imagination. How could we express through art, the conspiracy surrounding life and death inside a historical mystery? The story of Dr. Frank Olson happens to be dangerously controversial. So be wary, gaze lightly, keep your thoughts and opinions secret, because you never know who’s staring back at you from the Trojan horse’s glass you’re reading this through.

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