Courtesy of the band's Claudio Carrasco and artist Enzo Toledo.
Of the many regional breeding grounds for elite metal, Latin America has several, Brazil and Chile being one of the most notable. POEMA ARCANVS hail from the latter and deliver a take on death doom so magnificently battering we'd be remiss not to recommend it. The four-piece released their sixth LP, the Enzo Toledo-illustrated Stardust Solitude, earlier this year via Transcending Obscurity Records, contributing to an otherwise fantastic year for the heavier sub-subgenre of death metal.
To dive a bit deeper into the visual approach to Stardust Solitude, we had a brief talk with band frontman Claudio Carrasco and artist Enzo Toledo:
Eight years from ‘Transient Chronicles’ (2012) and you returned with ‘Stardust Solitude’, a towering doom effort of atmospheric capabilities. Visually, what were you looking for in working with Enzo Toledo this time around for the cover?
Carrasco: Right now, he is kind of the fifth member of the band. He has been working with us since our previous album taking care of all of the band’s artwork matters, from the old records reissues and most of the flyers for live gigs, so we have total confidence in his work and capabilities. His style is very unique and we like to give him freedom to propose mockups of each piece of artwork, and usually we get satisfied at first. We don't think just in the cover of the album, but in the whole concept of the lyrics, specially this time because the album was conceptual. We always try to make different drawings for all the songs, as we like to offer a complete musical and visual product, in other words, not only the cover as a complement but as an important part of the whole thing, and therefore Enzo thinks as we do.
It is extremely important that the visual artist can be deeply involved with the music, and we achieve that with Enzo who is an old friend of us and he already knows all of our criteria and we know and trust in his good taste. For this album in particular, we searched the concept of vastness, a dark and unknown universe which the human being still can't comprehend... as simple as complex.
That relationship is indeed important. The cover really embodies the same solemn tone to that of the album title, making it a perfect representation of your sound. How did you all feel upon seeing the final cover?
Carrasco: We are very happy with the final result. This was the final outcome of the creative process where Enzo was a key element. As I said before, he has gotten the ability to interpret accurately our music and lyrics with his drawings, and besides that, to diagram the total structure of the artwork. And in particular, the dark and mysterious mood of this cover encompasses very well the complete concept of the album.
Seeing as this is the second consecutive painting that Toledo illustrated following ‘Transient Chronicles’ (2012), it would appear that the band has built a good partnership of mutual understanding with him. Where did you find common ground to best interpret your themes and concepts in his own artistic style?
Toledo: The creative process of the visual concept for 'Stardust Solitude' (SS) took longer than the one for 'Transient Chronicles' (TC). However for both of them, the first thing was to find the visual metaphor sort of speak, and from that point on, the pieces begin to evolve. While in TC, the concept was kind of a “book of journey”, for SS we didn't have clarity regarding how to visually approach the lyrics, which by the way are more conceptual and abstract at the same time. Technically, I used mixed techniques: analog illustration and digital color.
The first thing I have decided was to work on black paper with white pigments, I was enlightened because I believed this was the best way to picture what we were looking for, a more “organic” and chaotic illustration, to make a difference from what we achieved with the previous album, thus, visually empowering the concept of “cosmic dust”. I tried not to do sketches on the final format (except for a few base lines) and I drew this “freehand” with inks on paper, spontaneously…working dot-by-dot, generating overlapped textures. The last step was to digitize the image, giving some minor touches to the original illustration and add some colors.
Regarding the total process, it took several months: many of the first drafts were left halfway done, because while we were moving forward, the ideas were evolving quickly as well. In fact, the cover image was chosen almost by accident, because it was not originally conceived as the cover. When I showed it to the band, they considered that it was what they were looking for. Then from that point on, we were able to visualize in a better way what we were searching for the following sketches, and how to represent it. As I was finishing the illustration, other ideas came into my mind, so I reached a certain point where things just started to flow naturally. For SS, part of the visual metaphor has to do with the “Allegory of the Cave” myth, the story about a character that came out of his own confinement only to deal with a vast and lonely world, with infinite lights within the shades. This process for the character implied an awareness that we are an insignificant part of the universe within a constant chaos, a kind of twisted illustration from “The Little Prince”.
Anyway, the artwork ended up with more than 12 illustrations that we have compiled into different formats for the album itself and for the forthcoming promotion. This was a project that took a lot of work with very specific nuances to consider, but on the other hand, it has helped me to develop a very unusual illustration style, one that I'm currently known for and that makes me feel very comfortable to work with.
Was Toledo allowed to take your concepts in his own direction or was it particularly guided to fit your vision?
C: As I said before, Enzo has increasingly been able to interpret more accurately our purpose behind the music and lyrics and our method was something like this: one chat to explain the concept and lyrics, and the delivery of the audio and lyrics to his analysis. Then he works on several drafts and we gave him feedback to go on.
Mandatory question for us here at Heaviest of Art. Do you recall a time when an album cover made you pick up a record or even changed the way that you engaged with it?
Carrasco: Maybe it is not quite a piece of art for many, but for me it is! I think the 'Reek Of Putrefaction' (1988) art cover definitively blew my mind when it was released. It fits perfectly with the music and also with the disgusting lyrics of that album. I think this cover broke paradigms and definitely took my attention to listen to this record.
Stardust Solitude is available now via Transcending Obscurity Records. Get yours HERE.