NO WOLVES ON THE COVER, PLEASE: MAKING THE COVER FOR ORPHEUS BLADE’s “WOLF CRY”

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Orpheus Blade  hails from Israel and are set to release one this year’s most promising Metal debut albums. Titled “Wolf’s Cry” their arresting recording is a defying mix of sounds that go from raging metallic fare, Prog sensibilities to soulful meditative textures and beyond.

To visually enhance such a daring sonic extravaganza, they asked their fellow countryman, celebrated illustrator, Eliran Kantor to create a cover that truly defies the senses.

The Berlin-based artist clarifies that his arresting graphic was destined to not include “any wolves or tell too much of the plot. So the cover relates more to the actual essence behind the story told in the lyrics.” With this in mind, we briefly interviewed Orpheus Blade’s female vocalist, Adi Bitran, about the mysteries behind the artwork and the band’s collaboration with Kantor.

What exactly inspired this illustration?

Funny, with music and lyrics I always knew what I’d like to see (in visual terms, I actually set a scene in my head) but when it comes to visual art, I simply had no idea. It was a totally new field for me. So I left all the hard work to Eliran, who has spent quite some time in searching for the right idea…

I knew what I didn’t want: no wolves or a full moon, no strong fantasy or metal characteristics (skulls, demons, warriors…), and most definitely not a blue-orange palette. Because the basic storyline clearly states those (except for the palette of course!) I felt it would be too easy, and simply boring. I wanted to exploit that extra dimension I was suddenly given in order to show a bit of what’s under the surface.

I discussed with Eliran the relationship between the creator and creation – a concept I am yet to dig deeper into on the next album – and how it reflects on Wolf’s Cry. I also explained how the story can also be interpreted as an allegory of the protagonist struggling with the beast inside. Then he decided to elaborate on the more subtle ideas I threw at him – that’s why you have a man and a “beast” made of soundwaves and even letters, but they’re actually one entity. The figure holds something that looks like a dagger, but it’s really a paintbrush, he’s fighting as he’s painting his own creation. Add to that the scenery – I wanted something vast to make you feel small, kind of natural but a bit modern on the sides, as it fits in any time and place.

A rule of thumb for me (also in my music and lyrics) is to never tell the obvious, never force-feed the listener or the observer, and simply let him relate as he’d like, make him want to dive in, explore and ask the “whys”. If it made you ask the “why” then we did a good job I guess!

How did you meet Eliran and how he became part of the project?

I was familiar with Eliran’s work for a very long time as he has started his way in designing for local bands. Israel is small, so everyone knows everyone, especially in the metal scene so you couldn’t really miss it. So when the time came and I needed an artist he was the first name that I had in mind. When I searched deeper in his portfolio I discovered lots of amazing art I somehow missed so there was no doubt at all. I think the most impressive may be Sigh’s “In Somniphobia” cover. It’s so unusual, colorful yet dark-themed, with so many details that made me stare at it for some long minutes. I remember thinking that anyone who could do a piece like that (and be brave enough to do it for a metal band, on top of all!) must be a genius.

How you reacted when you first saw the finished artwork?

It was kind of a shock… I mean, the quality of Eliran’s work is unquestionable. But for years I’ve planned and fantasized how this album is going to sound like – and that was the first time I saw how it’s supposed to LOOK like (it catches you unprepared when you don’t have anything in your mind’s eye and then, boom, it’s suddenly there). So I just took the time to take it in, the same way I do with new rearrangements or sounds. I put it as desktop wallpaper for a day or two until I got used to the idea that this is, indeed, Orpheus Blade’s cover. Of course I had some requests and additions, but after a couple of days I totally fell for it. I figured if it made me think and rethink it so much, if it took time to fully understand it, then it’s probably the right cover for my creation – it made itself GROW on me. Thinking about it, all my top picks in music took time to grow on me (sometimes even years!), and that would be a great compliment to receive on Wolf’s Cry too. Never fun when it’s too easy.

Tell me about the making of the rest of the album’s booklet.

It was Alejandro Bitran’s design (my husband) so, very close to the heart… When the cover art was in the making he was just starting out but turned to be very talented at what he does. I was playing with some designs myself and came up with the idea of presenting some sort of an inner journey, transitioning from man to wolf and vice versa, trying to grasp the meaning of them both through science and occult. Then he developed it more to be some kind of a researcher’s diary, as Wolf’s Cry started itself as diary entries. If you have a keen eye you can even catch some of the original texts featured in the booklet, one of them (which later became track 11, “Chronicles”) right in the beginning. I wanted to do something extra, again – use that dimension for elaborating and exposing some more, instead of just throwing the cover art all over the booklet too. I’m really happy with the result.

Last but not least:  How important is this album for the band and your overall musical development?

Well, it’s a first for me in many ways… I feel like I’m dealing with it forever, most of my mature life when thinking about it. It is a journey. Many parts of it are real in a way, and all are very personal, very “me”. But there’s more to it, it’s not just the fact that it’s my first shot in writing music, working with producers and in studios (I’ve participated in many bands before, but not with my own material) – it’s more about the big questions this process raise. “Is this enough?”, “Will it make someone feel something?” and even “Can I do it really?” – And I think it made me grow stronger as a person, becoming more confident in what I do, because in the end of the day, all you need is that one good idea, the core. If that’s good, you can do anything. There will always be players and producers who will add to it, but the idea should be strong enough to make you, its creator, believe in it, even when it’s still the very first draft. At some point it starts living, breathing, and that’s my own personal definition of magic. I think I’ve learned a lot, not only about music but also about myself, how to deal with situations, how to connect with people, the pitfalls you should beware of. And a lot about my very inner demons, that’s for sure. They’re nasty!

Order “Wolf’s Cry”

See more of Eliran Kantor’s Art

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).