With the ever increasing drive to convert music from physical to digital media, it’s easy to forget there was a time when art direction was equally as important as the content inside. I’m sure you can think of a handful of albums whose art or packaging design changed the way you thought about the album before you even played it, or at the very least made you acknowledge the effort they put in to it. The fact there’s a Grammy Award for Best Recording Package tells me that this must be the case!
So here is my top 5 album designs: (believe me it’s more interesting than it sounds!)
5. Mastodon – Leviathan
Paul Romano was Mastodon’s go-to-guy for art work since they debuted with Remission in 2002, all the way up to their fourth album Crack The Skye. Of the four covers he produced, the painting which adorns the front of Leviathan is in my opinion his best work. The cover only shows a small segment of the image, purely because it would be impossible to fit the entire scene in a 12cm square, but it creates a child-like sense of desire to find out what is happening above, below and to each side, earning its place on this list.
4. Metallica – Death Magnetic
Metallica’s latest effort was not only vastly superior to it’s predecessor musically, but visually too. It’s art work is a representation of the album’s title, featuring a coffin with magnetic field lines connecting its poles. The clever aspect to the booklet comes from the fact that the coffin is cut out, resulting in a hole which goes though the majority of the booklet, aligning itself with other images inside the booklet – a design that was worthy of a Grammy!
3. Mudvayne – The New Game
At first glance The New Game‘s cover doesn’t stand out as being anything particularly noteworthy. However when you read the inner notes, you realise the album is actually a murder mystery story with in depth character profiles and clues hidden in lyrics, music videos and album notes. The murder concept arguably had more thought put into it than the music itself and for that this album deserves the number three spot.
2. Tool – 10,000 Days
The packaging for Tool’s 10,000 Days came with stereoscopic glasses, which allowed you to view the art inside the booklet in 3D. The idea was so revolutionary that the album’s art director Alex Grey won the aforementioned Grammy Award for Best Recording Package in 2007, following on from the success of both Lateralus’ see-through cover and Aenima’s clever design, which was also worthy of a Grammy nomination.
1. Mudvayne – Mudvayne
Mudvayne are a band who have always cared about album design (hence them appearing twice on this list!) and somehow their self-titled managed to top the murder mystery plot of The New Game. Without a UV light all the album’s packaging (including all the booklet’s inner pages) are plain white, but under the black light the design comes to life, revealing its scary artwork. However, if you didn’t buy the special edition that comes with a UV torch, then you have to go to a nightclub to view the credits or face never knowing what’s inside; which is the complete brilliance of the idea!
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