The LA trio take audiences into deep waters with a Lovecraftian undertaking.
Words by Luis (@heaviestofart):
On July 15th, California's Ripple Music will add another gem to their stacked catalog of heavy psych, stoner, doom and heavy metal in the form of From The Fathomless Deep, the monstrous new album by way of LA's Behold! The Monolith. Now 7 years from 2015's Architects of the Void, Behold! The Monolith look to deliver another immersive being of multi-faceted sound, all of which remains slow-burning and hard-hitting in nature. Like its predecessors, From The Fathomless Deep comes introduced by a wicked Dusty Peterson cover that complements the album's sci-fi themes with a unique taken on H.P. Lovecraft's Dagon figure. Staggering audiovisuals like these are merely the result of a fruitful partnership years in the making.
We go Behind the Cover of From The Fathomless Deep with the band's own Matt Price and Dusty Peterson to explore their longstanding partnership, Dusty's Lovecraftian re-interpretation, and more:
Coming into the ‘From The Fathomless Deep’ album cycle, it’s clear you’re a revitalized band and Dusty’s new towering cover illustration is representative of it. With plenty of lived experience and lessons learned along the band’s existence, in what mindset does the new record find you in?
Matt: Pretty confident really. This lineup really clicks and works well together on all levels, and we’re eager to get this album out and get on the road.
Your upcoming Psycho Las Vegas performance should be a good showcase of the record. In retrospect, what drew you initially to Dusty Peterson's work as you approached the development of the ‘self-titled’ (2009) LP? He of course went on to illustrate every record since then.
Matt: Our original bassist and vocalist, Kevin McDade (RIP), knew or knew of Dusty through some friends. I think Bloodbath’s 'Unblessing the Purity' (2008) had just come out and was what sold me!
It's a fantastic album that served as his entry into the metal cover art arena. Dusty, ‘From the Fathomless Deep’ is now your 4th consecutive cover for the band and each
one remains unique to the album cycle, providing quite a fitting introduction to the
otherwise great music. How would you two describe the collaborative process with the band and how has it evolved from what began with the ‘self-titled’ LP?
Dusty: It's always been really smooth and it's mostly always been the same process. It's just that in the old days, I was primarily speaking with (original singer) Kevin McDade. After he tragically passed away, Matt Price became the point man and I feel like we have developed a really good working relationship over the years. I just ask for some demos and lyrics so I can get in the right mindset. Being able to listen to the music while I am creating the art really helps me because even though I feel like Behold! The Monolith's style is fairly well established by this point, the new material will always help put me in a certain mood and then that mood will drive the look of the piece.
Matt: We just love his work. On those first three albums, we definitely had ideas of what we wanted on the covers, usually rooted in some weird but not super obvious homage to other classic albums. Dusty would always knock it out of the park and always exceeded expectations as to our ideas. As for the new album, we just let Dusty do his thing. The only thing we mentioned to him was that several of the songs had Lovecraftian or nautical subject matter. Other than that, he came up with everything.
As Matt notes, H.P. Lovecraft’s ‘Dagon’ inspired the visual direction this time around, but where did you look to take your interpretation, Dusty? What informed its development? I would imagine it’s quite freeing to provide your own, unrestricted take on a signature Lovecraft figure.
Dusty: Yes! For starters, I am a massive H.P. Lovecraft fan. I love his mythos and his stories and just everything that he created, so when I heard about the direction of the album and read the lyrics, it was the first thing that I thought of. As you may be aware, Dagon has been interpreted many times over the decades. You can google it and you'll see hundreds of different takes on what he looks like. Unfortunately, many of them are very similar, and that isn't to discredit any of the artists that are making them because there are some out there that I feel are way better than mine. I'm just saying that if you go with the literal interpretation of how it's described in the book, your natural inclination as an artist is to design it pretty much exactly the way that it has been done by so many.
The first thing I wanted to do was change up the "fish head" look. Most people go for kind of a generic fish head or maybe they make it a bit more sinister by emulating a deep sea fish like a Viper Fish or something. I think those all look great, but I wanted to pick something that I hadn't seen done before, so I took inspiration from the Moray Eel. I always loved how they looked ever since I was a kid. So that was the first step - separating myself from the rest of what's out there as best as I could.
The next step was to just have fun with it because I think that is important in making a good piece of art. I have to be invested in it and I have to be having fun. Some artists are really good about working on things that don't inspire them, but I'm not one of those people. Even though it's not part of Dagon's written description, I thought it would be fun to add some tentacles because that is certainly a common theme with a lot of Lovecraftian creatures. I added little lamprey-esque mouths to the end of them because it just sounded cool to me.
It's a refreshing take on an otherwise signature Lovecraft creature, which is always great to see. You created a line sketch of the Dagon monster to help guide the painting’s creation as you place more focus on the detail. Though this would indicate that you and the band agreed upon your vision, is the final painting bound to this outline? Or is there room for adjustment and shifts in its creative direction?
Dusty: With any other band, being bound to early decisions is definitely something that could have happened, but I think Behold! The Monolith and I have developed a really solid level of trust over the years. I've been working on their album covers for about 14 years, so they are pretty hands off the entire time and just like to check in to see how stuff is going and to make sure stuff is on track. Other than the concept sketch and the early rough, I don't show them progress milestones. When it's done, it's done, and usually they are happy with the result. There were a couple of adjustments on 'Architects of the Void' and 'Defender/Redeemist', but nothing worth talking in depth about. With all of that in mind, the concept sketch is really just for me to help me keep focus on what I am trying to create.
For those unaware, the art expands with a gatefold approach that provides a greater reason to own records in physical format. ‘Architects From The Void’ was the same way and ‘Defender, Redeemist’ had the killer additional artwork as well. Is this by design or is it more so a byproduct of your own creative interpretation of the band’s themes and lyricism?
Dusty: That is mostly done just so there is a complete wrap-around package and everything looks cohesive. It doesn't take much effort for me to continue the artwork around to the back and paint waves or whatever, so it works out for budget reasons as well.
If I did a completely different back cover with it's own story and composition, it'd basically be like me making 2 full album covers.
It’s always amazing to see an illustration evolve from its initial stages to a grand final product. Is there perhaps a catharsis to seeing the painting now being circulated across the internet and soon in physical format? I remember we first spoke of this feature well over a year ago.
Dusty: Absolutely. Whenever something is released, I get very excited because it was such a long journey to get to that point. I don't just mean my part in it, but all of the efforts that the band is putting into making a great album. I am just a small part of that, but still a part of it just the same so it is exciting to see reactions and their fans being excited about the release. The album art is often the first thing that anyone, fan or not, will see about a new release. When I think of the first time I listened to 'Screaming for Vengeance' (1982), I immediately think of that yellow and red eagle cover. It's burned into my mind until the day I die. When I close my eyes I associate listening to 'Bloodstone' or 'Fever' with that album cover. So for me, it's very important to do my best and create something that will hopefully do the same for their fans.
Switching gears to you, Matt, Dusty specializes in horror and creature design and you’ve allowed for him to tread that line, even expand upon that to take on new elements not otherwise common to his portfolio. ‘Defender, Redeemist’ and ‘Architects Of The Void’ are good examples. That said, do you approach each collaborative project with ambiguity? Or are your expectations firm to what you’d like to see interpreted during each album cycle?
Matt: We were always open to Dusty’s interpretation, but we did have some fixed ideas, that may have been a little frustrating for him. But on the new album we just let him go and do his thing and we are super happy with the results!
As we approach the latest chapter in the band’s hard-hitting discography, where do you find commonality with Dusty’s Lovecraftian illustration and the band’s newfound energy? I mentioned to him that he’s developed the Behold the Monolith! visual identity.
Matt: He really has! It’s hard to imagine another artist getting it like Dusty has on our album art. I just feel his approach fits the music to a tee, and maybe even more so now that he got to do the newest one without any sort of restraints. So I suppose there is a commonality in that we really let go of self imposed restraints on the new album, and I think the music and the band is all the better for it.
From Lamb of God to Bloodbath and Cattle Decapitation to name a few, you’ve had no
shortage of notable clients and Behold The Monolith! certainly holds a soft spot for their continued collaboration and apparent strong camaraderie with you as an artist. What have you made of this entire experience? As mentioned, you're their "art guy".
Dusty: Working with Behold! The Monolith is a very special thing to me. Many people don't realize this, but Bloodbath's "Unblessing the Purity" was my first album cover for any band. When it was released, Behold! The Monolith was the first band that wrote me and asked me to do their album cover where I didn't have to write the band first in order to get the job. So very early on, they had a certain level of trust and belief in me and what I could do. For me, that is just a very heart-warming thing.
They allowed me to grow as an artist with them and I feel that I've gotten better over the years since those early days as well. I'm eternally grateful.
From The Fathomless Deep arrives on July 15th via Ripple Music (Order).