Decibel’s all about honoring 1991's 25th anniversary – just check issue #137’s Metal Maniacs design homage and the “Top 30 Albums of 1991” feature. So when it comes to celebrating our favorite album covers from that landmark year, there's no better place to start than with Dan Seagrave. His gnarled landscapes and twisted dystopias are nothing short of iconic, and helped define the aesthetics of death metal (and the cover of Decibel's own Choosing Death: The Improbable History of Death Metal & Grindcore). For more on that, come to the Choosing Death Fest Grimposium in Philadelphia on April 16th you can hear him discuss death metal's visual ethos in person. Below are Decibel’s five favorite Seagrave covers selected from 1991’s releases, with additional thoughts and context from the artist.
5) Malevolent Creation - The Ten Commandments
Seagrave: “My second cover for Roadrunner, made in September 1990. The band sent me a colour sketch their friend made, and I was to essentially adhere to that concept with the central devil figure. The background scene in the painting was quite influenced by the epic apocalyptic themed works of early 19th century artist John Martin, whose work large canvasses I was aware of from the National Gallery London.”
4) Entombed - Clandestine
Seagrave: “This singular title word when juxtaposed with the band name was quite evocative, and is perhaps my favourite title of all the albums. From it, I knew it had to be set at dusk. At the time I lived in a village called Farnsfield, and would walk all around the area, sometimes up to the remains of an old Iron Age fort. This took me through a wood with a path that was carved out from water erosion, roots exposed all along it. An interest in ancient history all filtered into the dream world that became the painting.”
3) Dismember - Like an Everflowing Stream
Seagrave: “Based again on just the title information, as are the rest in the remaining list. I made some simple rough sketches, and had two weeks to make the final. The hidden subterranean scene evokes my interest in the aesthetics of old adventure fantasy type films, as well as the idea of ancient lost civilizations.”
2) Suffocation - Effigy of the Forgotten
Seagrave: “I spent six weeks on this painting, but put it on hold to make Dismember’s Like an Everflowing Stream, which landed with a tight deadline. I kept Roadrunner waiting a bit consequently for something they didn’t really know what they were getting. This was a gamble of an artwork. Extremely improvised elements based on a few pre-made sketches. There are mini-paintings within the painting. Made from working only from the album title, which I often liked to do. The scene depicts a feral machine scouring a twisted landscape for remnants of life. Those to consume for their bio fuel and DNA, in order to create a fusion of new life. The hatching eggs, and effigy of the foreground. The title can also refer to the skeletal remains of the human foetus in a small detail of the painting.”
1) Warfare - Deathcharge LIVE
Seagrave: “The last cover I made for RKT. For this I just did what I wanted at the time. As some of these covers were made close together, there is something familiar about them all. A theme of human life being slowly sampled and experimented upon by a machine that is seemingly in a state of fossilization, the figure therefore kept partially alive over a millennia.”
Several albums featuring Seagrave’s art are on the way, including Lesbian’s Hallucinogenesis, a special edition re-release of Vader’s The Ultimate Incantation, and Macabra’s ...to the Bone. He’s also continuing his painting series “Migrators,” as well as working on a short film that combines live footage and matte painted designs. Apart from the Grimposium before Choosing Death Fest, his work can also be seen at the Eridanos Gallery in Boston as part of a traveling show that will enjoy a finale at Brooklyn’s Saint Vitus on April 26th.