Originally published in issue 5 of New Noise Magazine
Art has always been a major component in heavy metal’s appeal and marketing. In the days before the Internet, when instant access to music via services like iTunes and Spotify didn’t exist, metalheads frequently had to purchase albums without hearing what the band sounded like ahead of time. The only things guiding our decision were song titles and album art. For a lesser known band, a wicked looking album cover could mean the difference between a sale and an eternity spent languishing in the bargain bin.
Beyond art serving as a selling point, a striking album cover can also communicate the tone of the album. The cover of Slayer’s Reign in Blood, for example, perfectly conveys how thw music on the record sounds – dark, frightening and dirty. Creating these pieces is no small task, but it’s largely a thankless job, too. The artists and designers behind a memorable album cover or concert flyer rarely get much credit, especially in the digital age where physical releases are becoming increasingly obsolete. Knowing this, Michael Berberian, the founder and head of Season of Mist Records, launched GraphicNoise.com as an outlet for artists and graphic designers in the heavy metal community to reach a broader audience.
According to Berberian, he got the idea for the site when Season of Mist had a street sale outside its Philadelphia, PA offices. “We had a booth, so did our friends at Relapse, and John Baizley from Baroness, also a famous artist, came along to sell his prints. We started talking and exchanging ideas. We ended up trading one of his rare piece against an Hiroshige print that I had.” It was at this point that Michael Berberian realized there could be a potential market for heavy metal artists outside the underground scene.
Berberian envisions Graphic Noise as an online art gallery where artists and designers display their works while retaining complete artistic and financial control. The artists decide what pieces to display, how much to sell their work for, and how limited each print run will be. Berberian stresses that Graphic Noise does not simply peddle reproductions of the artists’ work, “Also the artist prints himself – we do NOT print on behalf of the artist. This is not a poster company.”
If it’s not obvious by now, Berberian is serious about introducing the world to stand-out artists in the metal community. Graphic Noise is all about quality over quantity. “I need to like what the artist has done. We had many requests of artists that I deemed too poor to be in the gallery. I know it’s arbitrary, but that’s what a gallery is supposed to do: filter and offer the best available. We turned down around 30 artists so far,” said Berberian in regard to the artistic standard he’s trying to set on the site.
He also insists that the artists he deals with have some tangible connection to the heavy metal community. “There needs to be a link to the metal scene, meaning the artist needs to have done some cover art, shirts, etc in our scene,” Berberian said. That seems like a wise business decision given the importance heavy metal fans place on legitimacy within the scene. Metalheads are experts at identifying phonies, but all of the handpicked artists at Graphic Noise are the real deal.
Graphic Noise launched this past June and already features upwards of 20 artists. Many of the names may be unfamiliar, but there are definitely a lot of pieces that metalheads and fans of dark art will appreciate. You’ve been listening to extreme music for years, why not hang some extreme art on your walls to compliment it?