Korn’s first album cover

When I was first getting into metal during my mid-teens, buying CDs was still really popular. The cover of a CD would be a significant factor in drawing me towards new music or influencing my next album purchase.

Nowadays a good album cover is a bonus. With streaming and illegal downloading the primary way we consume and circulate music, it’s arguably not as necessary to create decent art alongside an album’s release. There’s a lot to be said for a cover that’s visually appealing, whilst adding an extra dimension to the overall product.

Korn – Self-titled, 1994, Sony Music Entertainment

Photographer: Stephen Stickler

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I was only four when Korn released this groundbreaking debut, but after bangers like Freak On A Leash and Here To Stay drew me in as a teen, I backtracked to this release and subsequently discovered this image. It’s still one of my all-time favourite album covers.

Sinister, is the word that best sums it up.

The little girl is the centrepiece and it’s her who influences our whole perception of this image and the negative meaning that stems from it.

Here she is, in the park – a place normally associated with playing, children’s laughter and happiness. But this girl is alone. She’s not swinging and in fact appears to be frozen to the spot. She’s visibly disturbed by whatever faces her, screwing her face up and shielding her eyes from the sun’s glare. It’s jarring to see a child look so uncomfortable in this environment.

Of course, it quickly becomes apparent why this is, as soon as you notice the omnipotent presence casting the giant shadow beside her.

Like the girl attempting to gain clarity, we also know little about the shadow. It’s not just the figure’s anonymity that’s disconcerting. Is the figure really that tall? Or is the shadow warped? Why do their hands look like sharp objects or hooks? Why are they here and what do they want?

It’s obviously bad news. That is the dominant feeling.

I fear for the girl in the picture. It wasn’t until recently that I read that the girl is hanging in the other shadow, so confirming these dark interpretations. The cover has some evil connotations such child abduction and predatory behaviour.

Given the subject matter presented throughout the album, specifically frontman Jonathan Davis’ anger channelled from his own childhood experiences, the cover is undoubtedly an extension of these themes stemming from abuse and the corruption of innocence.

It’s a powerful image that induces anxiety. To me, the unknown identity of the shadow represents a universal, continual presence of evil among us. Figures that cause pain, suffering and who prey on the vulnerable. It shows an abuse of power and recognition for other young victims out there.

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Aaron Paul and Kat Candler’s new film Hellion

Embed from Getty Images

Kat Candler, creator of the brilliant short film Black Metal, has had her screenplay and full length feature Hellion picked up by a US distributor – Sundance Selects.

I’m doubly excited because the film stars Aaron Paul (from Breaking Bad, obviously) and Juliette Lewis, which will surely attract a huge audience.

Hellion concerns Jacob (Josh Wiggins), a 13-year-old boy obsessed with heavy metal and dirt bike racing, whose increasingly delinquent behaviour results in his younger brother Wes being relocated by Child Protective Services.

Bands appearing on the film’s soundtrack include Metallica, Slayer and The Sword. So what’s not to like?

Hellfest is the Best Metal Festival Around

Unfortunately this will be the first time in five years that I will not be attending Hellfest Open Air; the most eclectic, well-organised and friendliest festival in the world (probably)! The French festival has become an annual tradition for thousands of metalheads and I’m sure that anyone who appreciates heavy music would agree that finding another festival that balances extremity with such a welcoming atmosphere would be a difficult task indeed.

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Last year at Hellfest 2012

Some of my most cherished memories are from Hellfest. Here are just a few of my favourite things about it:

The Line-Up (Every time!)

A quality line-up is always guaranteed, with a diverse range in genre. Whether you favour black, death, hardcore or doom, it’s likely all tastes will be catered for.

I will never forget that classic thrash-Saturday back in 2011. With Municipal Waste playing, followed by Destruction, Sodom and Kreator. I was in Heaven… Or Hell?

The Vibe

I always say to my friends that being at Hellfest feels like ‘coming home’ in some respect. The fact that you’re surrounded by thousands of other people who are there for exactly the same reason you are – to worship heavy music – feels so pure and exciting. In my experience the crowds have always been extremely friendly. There really is a magical atmosphere and I hope it lasts for years to come.

The Location

Living in England means that a quick trip across the Channel on a ferry is no real hassle, in terms of making the trip to Clisson by car. Yet the fact that the festival is indeed foreign adds to the excitement factor, in that you feel like you’re exploring other lands!

Plus the long drive through French countryside isn’t exactly horrid. Especially when the sun is beaming through your window.

The gang at Hellfest 2010
The gang at Hellfest 2010

I hope that anybody travelling to Hellfest today has a fantastic time! No festival in England succeeds in creating the perfect mix of quality music, atmosphere and value for money quite like Hellfest does.

See you next year, maybe!

Decibel’s ‘Women In Metal’ Issue Deserves a Read

Since I love heavy music and hate sexism you can anticipate excessive displeasure on my part when the two things converge. Females are so often excluded from metal mags or, on the flip side, are over sexualized so to attract audiences. There are times that I become enraged by metal magazines, when words read like the comments of a horny teenager and for those tedious ‘hot lists’ – usually a redundant countdown of physically ‘attractive’ front-women of not-so-commendable bands.

A musician’s physical appearance (male or female) should not be a factor that influences the level of coverage that they or their band receive in publications focused on music, especially metal.

Which brings me to the news that US magazine Decibel will be releasing a special issue entitled ‘Women in Metal’. Here is what a spokesperson for the magazine had to say (as reported by Metal Injection):

From Queen Latifah to Bikini Kill to, um, Spice Girls, feminism has gone through some interesting permutations in popular music. Metal’s perspective on the matter usually manifests in shrugged-off indifference, spiked with occasional lunkhead leering (from fans and publications). Until now, Decibel has simply covered women in extreme music with the same gender-inconsequential praise and respect we bestow upon the guys. But their journeys to equality are substantially more arduous, whether the endgame is publicity, management or shredding onstage.

So it’s high time somebody devoted a huge mess of pages to their stories, without requiring that the subjects take their clothes off. That’s what you’ll get in Decibel‘s Women in Metal issue, in which we interviewed over 70 ladies of the underground for their unique perspectives, with members of Kylesa, Royal Thunder and Cretin gracing the cover, and Electric Wizard delivering an exclusive track on the flexi disc. It’s in the webstore now – pick it up before it hits newsstands and learn what happened when these women kicked the hornets’ nest.

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I’m pleased to see that more publications dealing with extreme music are promoting gender equality through coverage of talented female musicians and providing the respect they deserve for their contribution to metal.  Terrorizer magazine compiled something similar in February. Their ‘Wicked Women’  feature included background summaries and interviews with female musicians in modern-day metal, such as Cerebral Bore’s Simone ‘Som’ Pluijmers.

Of course it’s certainly a positive thing that magazines like Decibel and Terrorizer are making a point of promoting female ability in metal and for that I commend these publications. But when special features and issues like this aren’t needed or specially designated; when female musicians regularly occupy the covers and homepages of all popular metal media without being objectified, then equality may be accomplished.

Post Bloodstock Blues

After two days of being home the realisation is finally setting in – as is the case following Bloodstock every year – that festival season has come to an unwelcome end. Yet all of the incredible performances from 2011 will continue to exist as fond memories. Cherished memories from a place where quality music is the daily norm.

My personal weekend highlights ranged from fresh talent such as London’s Dripback and other more recently established bands including Cerebral Bore, to bigger names like At The Gates, with their explosive show on the main stage and of course thrash titans from both sides of the Atlantic – Exodus and Kreator. There were literally countless performances to be noted this year and I’m certain every Bloodstock-goer would agree on that.

After snowballing popularity and repeat visits from loyal fans year after year, Bloodstock fully deserves its reputation – of being the only festival operating in the UK that celebrates heavy music with genuine passion and dedication. I am already desperately anticipating next summer’s line up. Bring on Bloodstock 2012.

Hate Crew ’til I Die!

Children of Bodom have announced that their seventh album is due to arrive sometime in early 2011 and I for one am very excited. However, I can’t help but feel as though I stand completely alone in eagerly anticipating its release. I can imagine my friends now, rolling their eyes as they do so often when I begin to express my love of the band, my favourite band. They look at me as if to say “Sarah, alright the earlier albums were OK, but they’ve had their time now and they aren’t actually as amazing as you seem to think they are. So why are you in such denial?”

I get the impression that many people (if they didn’t dislike the band already) currently hold the opinion that Bodom are old news, that Are You Dead Yet? was the beginning of the end and now they simply have nothing exciting left to offer. But I disagree! The fact is, is that I do realise that their last two efforts have been slightly below par. Yes, Blooddrunk was especially disappointing. And YES I am aware that there are numerous guitarists out there who are more talented than Alexi Laiho. But these factors do not prevent me in the slightest from remaining as optimistic as ever in regards to what they have in store for us next year. Does that make me slightly delusional?

Call it wishful thinking from a slightly obsessive fan, but I hold a strong conviction that Bodom’s new album will be a leap back to good form. It will echo the sounds of earlier beauties such as Hatebreeder, Hate Crew Deathroll and maybe even Follow The Reaper; reminding many of how, once upon a time, they openly admitted to loving Children Of Bodom.

Or perhaps it is just plain denial… I do hate the idea that this album will signal the end of the road for Bodom. I wonder if every avid metal fan experiences a similar phase of refutation at the possibility of their favourite band’s gradual downfall? For years now, while my overall tastes have varied and developed I have continued to love Children of Bodom throughout. I can remember the first time I ever heard one of their songs – how I fell in love with their sound immediately. I was hooked. If I wasn’t listening to Bodom, I was either talking about them or thinking about them and this was before I had seen Alexi! I think it’s safe to say the Finnish five-piece have had a great impact on my life, musically at least.

It is difficult to pin-point the defining ingredient which put me under their spell and indeed it is unclear whether this album will be a success (on my terms at least)…or a failure. But for now my duty as one of their biggest fans is to remain hopeful and continue to defend them, even if I’m mocked for doing so!

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