Sunday Sesh: The Instant-Click Album
Every day here, multiple authors write about music that’s been grundling their aural hoohas. Many of you look at the album art, read the articles, decide whether to listen to the band or not, and hopefully enjoy both the article and the music presented. That’s the goal of a blog that focuses on writing about music: share music its readers may enjoy, right? So beyond that, can you actually define what attracts you to an album you’ve never heard of? What’s something that a band or album can present to you that will cause you to INSTANTLY decide that this is something you NEED to hear?
Let’s use my taste in heavy and power metal for example: musically, I know that I enjoy power metal bands that focus on a more traditional style of fast heavy metal riffing with a HINT of neoclassical elements, very clean vocals (Kiske, Midnight, Mathias Blad), and fantasy / sci-fi based lyrics. I know I hate when power metal leans 90s radio hard rock style (ie Masterplan, Kamelot, the majority of modern euro power) or when it tries to be “progressive” (ie root note chugging on “progressive” rhythms). I know I also tend to enjoy trad heavy/power metal when the production is more raw, with very raw and untrained sounding vocals, and non-repetitive song structures. Obviously, this doesn’t cover every band I like, and there are certainly bands that hit every mark I listed that I still dislike. ASSUMING THIS IS 100% ACCURATE, this still does not help me discover albums at all unless someone specifically tells me a band or album contains these features. This is worthless before I actually hear an album. How in the world am I supposed to guess any of those things without first listening to an album?
Thankfully, since recorded music began being sold in more marketable formats such as vinyl LPs, someone had the brilliant idea of “album art” to help sell a band’s image and style in a single stroke. If you walked into a record store in 1984 and saw Anthrax’s Fistful of Metal on the shelves, you’d probably have a solid idea of what that record sounded like. Obviously, band name and album names also can help sell a band’s sound to potential listeners. Personally, I think late 80s/early 90s death metal bands are the pinnacle of achievement as far as matching musical style, band/album name, and art go. They masterfully adopted names, imagery, and album titles that not only exemplified, but further GLORIFIED the sound they were reaching for, with particular successes in Entombed’s Left Hand Path, Dismember’s Like an Everflowing Stream, Obituary’s Cause of Death, Brutality’s Screams of Anguish, Morbid Angel’s Altars of Madness, and so many dozens more. Most OSDM had a pretty specific aesthetic that let potential listeners know what to expect.
Genre presentation aesthetics are not limited to 90s death metal either! Stoner bands try to blend the psychedelic styles of artwork presented by Cathedral and Sleep albums with anything marijuana related. Black metal bands go for a number of visual aesthetics, including pagan/folk, snow, the woods, or just simply satanic imagery. Tech death bands like purple space stuff. Power metal bands do really embarrassing and dorky things that should totally humiliate them (somehow using Felipe Machado Franco is not humiliating enough yet.) War metal bands actively try to create the most ugly aesthetic possible. We could go on and on about how genres adopt trends and advertise themselves, but at the end of the day, YOUR tastes and preferred presentation are going to be the factors that determine whether or not you check something out.
Let me be selfish and share a few albums from 2017 that I loved from the second I saw their presentation:
Shirtless dude with rippling muscles: check. Swords: check. Main character riding a mighty beast: check. Vivid colors in art: check. if you like raw trad heavy/speed metal, you already know exactly what this sounds like the second you see this artwork. With a name like Legionnaire on top of this, you can probably even determine whether the music will even appeal to you or not.
This one may seem a bit abstract, but as soon as I saw the very noticeably hand painted artwork with striking application of color, I already knew this would work for me. I’ve seen Lor pop up on dozens of year end lists, so it seems that this has worked for plenty of others.
Beautifully thought out and illustrated artwork probably hides similar music, right? Bingo. Dreadnought‘s release here may be their best, and it absolutely reveals more of itself the more time you spend with it, just like its artwork and title.
What are some recent albums that INSTANTLY grabbed your attention based on their packaging and presentation alone? Tell us in the comments below!