BUILDING THE GRIMOIRE: THE MAKING OF ALKALOID’s DEBUT ALBUM COVER

CE COVER alkaloid

Extreme/Progressive Metal combo, Alkaloid, can be easily considered as one of the most exciting new bands releasing music this year. This sort of super group includes current and former members of Necrophagist, Obscura, Spawn of Possession, Aborted, Dark Fortress, God Dethroned, Blotted Science and Noneuclid. Undoubtedly, their outstanding debut album,”The Malkuth Grimoire,” will leave a strong impression among fans and the specialized press. We spoke with vocalist/guitarist Morean (Dark Fortress, Noneuclid) about this musical behemoth, the band’s decision of financing it independently and the process of creating its eerie, intrguing cover art.

Given the pedigree of Alkaloid’s members, it’s surprising that you decided to self-finance and self-release the album. What motivated you to take the independent route?

Frankly, the fact that none of the labels we contacted were interested enough to make us an offer. And since Obscura had successfully released CDs via the crowdfunding route, this turned out to be our only viable option, and luckily we received enormous support on Indiegogo which we never expected in this magnitude. We are extremely grateful things panned out for us like that.

Despite of such approach the album’s sound and visual presentation is top notch. It basically neck to neck with any record label release out there. Any comment about this?

The while idea behind this band was to start something from scratch one more time, a band where we have full creative control and which can go to any place our current inspirations would take us – unburdened by the past laurels and concepts of our other bands, which bring their own stylistic and conceptual context. And of course, since we’re all professional musicians, the only thing that makes sense now to us is to present this as strongly as possible to the world, both sound-wise and visually, because everything else would be a waste of time. So we basically produced the album like we would produce a Dark Fortress or Obscura album; with everything it takes, and enough time for the best recordings and mixes we could muster. V Santura as always played an important role as our co-producer.

Let’s talk about the album’s cover art. What inspired this particular image?

Since the beginning, all visual art was put in the hands of German photographer Christian Martin Weiss. What we love about his work is that he can make reality look like oil paintings, timeless and beautiful, and without having to resort to Photoshop to create depth and mystery. This connects to our lyrical concept, because however outlandish and far-fetched our stories may be, they always have a base in reality and science. So we loved the idea that all album art is just that – real photos, which through Christian’s eye got elevated to become art, even tho it’s just us dorks on the pictures. We felt both in the lyrics and in the visuals, we can create our own style from the beginning like this.

The person in the artwork seems to be one of the band’s members. Is that the case? If yes, why did you choose him or this particular image for the cover?

Yeah, it’s me actually – my favorite pic ever of myself, and all thanks to Christian Weiss! It was Hannes and Linus who proposed this pic as the cover, and of course I didn’t object. It could have been any of the other guys as well, there were more fabulous photos from that session; at the end, the band went for this one because it had a certain monolithic quality adequate for putting on the cover. In general, in those mud pictures Christian Weiss managed to give us an aura of statues, and we like the timeless, ancient quality in these pictures a lot.

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The album’s booklet features band photos with a similar visual style. Can you give me more details about that photo session, like: where it took place, etc?

Actually, that photo session in early 2013 was the first time all members came together. It took place in Christian Weiss’ apartment close to Munich. It’s a tiny place but he has everything there we needed, and we managed to do three different sessions in one day. And right after, Danny and me drove 10 hours back to Holland where we live. One of those days.

What’s that stuff you’re sporting in the image, dirt, goo, what? Was it too uncomfortable?

It’s some kind of therapeutic mud, the kind they’ll give you in spa treatments. I found it extremely pleasant actually. One of the band members got a little uncomfortable after a while having his eyes closed by it, but I remember being in a total zen state, hearing only the click-click of the camera. We were all very surprised how the pics turned out, because we were pretty much blind all through that phase of the session.

How did Christian M. Weiss become part of the project and why did you choose him in particular?

I think the Obscura and Thulcandra guys had worked with him before and were very impressed with his work. With Alkaloid, we had shortlisted 4-5 photographers and decided on Christian, both for artistic and practical reasons.

The album’s booklet features band photos with a similar visual style. Can you give me more details about that photo session, like: where it took place, etc?

Actually, that photo session in early 2013 was the first time all members came together. It took place in Christian Weiss’ apartment close to Munich. It’s a tiny place but he has everything there we needed, and we managed to do three different sessions in one day. And right after, Danny and me drove 10 hours back to Holland where we live. One of those days.

Did Martin also created the band’s logo?

Yes.

In your opinion, how does this artwork represent the overall musical, lyrical content and even title of “The Malkuth Grimoire”?

As I explained earlier, we try to base our ideas on reality – albeit the outermost fringes of what science considers “conceivable” (not even “probable”). So instead of resorting to pure fantasies in the lyrics and to CGI-photoshopped cookie cutter metal imagery (however much we like that as well), Christian Weiss’ skills allowed us to take a different approach here. All you see is the people that made the album, and we found that to be a statement of sorts.

In the Qabbalah’s Tree of Life, “Malkuth” represents the physical world. For the lyrics, we took as a departure point the point where science and magic meet. A grimoire is a collection of spells to invoke spirits and demons, and we invoke as it were the spirits of matter and what can happen in the physical universe. Interestingly, this made for very spiritual stories if you accept the notion that things like mind and soul are based in the physical universe as well.

After releasing the album, what’s the next step for Alkaloid?

We’re of course super happy and extremely excited about the album. It’s been many many months of work putting that thing together, and more than 2 years that we had waited for this moment that we can finally say “we exist, here’s our baby”. I suppose the next step will be looking for a way to bring this music to the world’s stages. We live in different countries, and are also caught up with the schedules of our other bands, which is a problem pretty much everyone in all our bands has. But right now, I’d be very tempted to drop everything to go out on the road with these guys. It’ll take some time because logistics are complex, and we just came out of nowhere, but it will happen. We’re behind this band 100% and will do everything to play as much live as we possibly can.

About rmartos

Verteran journalist, Ramon Oscuro Martos, has been writing for several Rock/Metal publications for almost 20 years. He currently writes for Metal Underground.com, PureGrainAudio.com, MetalBandArt.com, HeavyMetalArtwork.com, etc. He also runs the facebook community about album covers, And Justice for Art https://www.facebook.com/pages/And-Justice-For-Art/123376774515018 (book coming soon) and the independent record label, Dark Canvas Records (www.darkcanvasrecords.com).