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Behind the Cover: Gost — Prophecy

Providing a deeper look at the Biblical apocalypse that wraps around the culminating release.

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Words by Luis (@HeaviestOfArt):


On March 8, 2024, Metal Blade Records will welcome a release from one of their latest and most distinct additions to their roster, Gost — a shape-shifting, metal laden synthwave entity with a culminating release up his sleeve. Spearheaded by mastermind James Lollar, Gost has eyes set for the arrival of new album Prophecy, the likes of which comes adorned by the artistry of Marald van Haasteren for a true audiovisual feast.


Read through a Behind the Cover Q&A with Gost & Marald to learn of the cover's inception, visual intention, and the evolution from sketch to final product:

 

Gost tells a narrative through sound, not lyrics, using melody and atmosphere to guide listeners through heart-stopping thrills. Visuals play a role in establishing said narrative and you’ve enlisted a collection of talented artists from Førtifem to Marald van Haasteren to help bring it all to life. What do you aim for when approaching the visual element of your work?


Gost: The visuals are a direct reflection of the artist’s interpretation of the sound and concept of the music. I give the artists I work with the album itself to pull inspiration from, along with my idea of how the album artwork should go along with the music. That said, I also want the artist's own perspective and interpretation, so I allow freedom for their expression and interpretation.

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"Non Paradisi (Secret Arcana)" (2016), Cover Artwork by Førtifem

The creative freedom has resulted in magnificent results so far. Marald, what did you aim to achieve upon being presented with the prompt? Am I seeing Doré influences here?


Marald: My aim was to make a bold, yet intriguing image, something that would work from different distances & would draw you in. Finding a balance between the 3 main components was the biggest challenge, but easily tackled. You are 100% correct with the Doré influences, both Lucifer figures on the front & the inside are based on his work.


You excelled once again, my friend. James, focusing specifically on the new album “Prophecy”, you’re making a Metal Blade Records debut with a strong entry, perhaps the best cover I’ve seen for an album scheduled to be released next year. What drew you to Marald’s work for this and where did you look to capitalize on his artistic talents?


Gost: My manager directed me to Marald’s art a few years ago and the work is undeniable. I wanted great detail and color for “Prophecy”, and Marald is an absolute master of both.

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Work In Progress Photograph by Marald van Haasteren

The album being quite expressive, I wanted to work with an artist as equally expressive and Marald captured the concept of “Prophecy” impeccably in my opinion.

Agreed. With a vast nuclear explosion, a demon falling from the sky, and dead knights riding away, there’s attention to three core central figures, at least as far as the front cover illustration goes. Expanding on that further, where did you two find common ground in terms of visual direction and where does sound intersect with the apocalyptic “Prophecy” we’re seeing here?


Gost: The concept for “Prophecy” is based around the fall of the west and an ensuing biblical Armageddon. Naturally, the threat of nuclear war has always terrified humanity and would play a major role in ending civilization, so it seemed an obvious place to start. These are the only prompts I gave Marald. The album itself is quite chaotic and abrasive sonically, and the visuals reflect this chaos.



Marald: For me, our common ground lies in mutual admiration: I've been a fan of James' music for a long time. Plus, I cannot forget to mention our friend & James' manager, Seb Bailey, who introduced us at a Perturbator show.


When we agreed to work together on the "Prophecy" album, as James mentioned, he sent me the music & the image of a nuclear explosion as a starting point. Working with such an archetypical image is a challenge, one that I really love. I really like to work with “cliché” imagery & try to come up with a fresh take. Counterbalancing the mushroom cloud with as powerful as imagery proved for me to be the way to achieve this. When I showed James my idea for the front cover, he immediately gave the green light. His trust & enthusiasm made it clear that I was on the right path.


The aforementioned three cental figures are a great focal point that allow the viewer to draw assumptions or begin to piece the narrative together, but it remains ambiguous instead of direct. Was that the goal here, to only provide a piece of the puzzle and encourage further exploration?


Marald: Yes, I think my ideas/intentions are usually very clear, but I do try to make room for personal interpretations. The 3 main components of the front are loaded with historical & cultural meaning, directing the narrative, whereas the inside lends for a more different route, one that allows to reexamine the story of the front as well.


Speaking of the inner gatefold artwork, which we’ll keep a secret (for now), I have to say that it’s truly magnificent and completes the physical package entirely. Was there a desire to design a standout vinyl release from the beginning or was it more so an idea that came about throughout the collaboration?


Gost: The desire to release a striking vinyl release is always a goal of mine, but I put my trust in the artist to translate the sound into something visually captivating. I had no idea what to expect, but Marald more than accomplished the visual representation. I was truly taken aback upon seeing the finished product. I would say the collaboration definitely worked in favor of making the album a complete release.


Marald: Thank you Luis, that’s a big compliment. For me, it’s always the goal when working on album art to make it outstanding & connect/enhance the music. With this album, it was agreed from the start that it would be a gatefold, which upped the possibilities. I wanted to have the front make an instant impact, something really recognizable & make the inside way more detailed & intriguing, something to explore, while you spin the record.

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Digital Sketch by Marald van Haasteren

Having both sides of the gatefold for the art made it possible to create more depth in the concept & explore the figure of Lucifer as the light bringer.


Touching back on the front cover, there’s a vast attention to detail throughout, indicating a great time investment and concentration into every inch of the wide painting. How long did the cover(s) take to complete? Did they perhaps require any revision or major direction changes?


Marald: This whole project was such a breeze from the start. Due to my busy schedule, I had plenty of time to think of the concepts before I could start sketching. This could have been a receipt for conflict if James didn’t see things my way; I’m all for killing your darlings but I don't think I would have given up on this idea easily. Thankfully, we hit it off from the start.


Going though my progress pictures, the sketches were done mid May, both taking like a day to finish. The actual art was made in June, which took around 3 weeks to complete. The only change I made was on the inside art, where I opted for a different color scheme, adding blue light source, pushing the imagery further, and making the concept shine even more. I do remember I had to postpone the initial working date on this project due to my dad’s funeral. The offer of resetting the deadline was made but proved to be unnecessary, so that proves how easy the transition from thought/idea to actual art for this album was realized.

gost prophecy, gost new album, dark art, marald van haasteren, gost interview.
Full Gatefold Cover Illustration by Marald van Haasteren

Surely there’s a cathartic feeling with seeing your art shared alongside an album unveiling, especially after having lived with it unannounced for so long and having to go through a parental funeral in the process. Seeing as each painting means something unique to you, is there a feeling of detachment that you get from seeing it released? This goes not just for “Prophecy”, but in general.


Marald: This year has been so hectic on all fronts that I sometimes “forget” a finished project. Normally, I take the time to acknowledge & appreciate the “closing of the book” and take some time to reset my mind to a new project, but this year, it’s been going straight in to the next.


There’s always a sense of grief when you finish a piece, which might explain why it’s sometimes difficult to stop working on a piece; having a deadline is really helpful for me. Making art for me is always about the process, the journey so to speak. I try to keep myself in check when album art is revealed because it’s the time where the ego comes into play & comments on social media can inflate or damage you. Receiving the finished product never gets dull, it’s such an honor to have my art on an album cover. It’s the introduction/invitation to the music, at best already setting and enhances the atmosphere. In my heart, I’m still that teenager playing records in his room while gazing at the album art. I hope my art provides that same experience for people around the world. One more plus of making album art is literally getting to put the finished product on the shelf.

There's nothing quite like it, I'm sure. I can confidentally say your covers sit on shelves across the world. In closing, Gost exists in a distinct niche within electronic music and metal, drawing praise from both communities. The signing to Metal Blade was a full circle moment for your roots in metal, James. Reflecting on when this all began with “Skull” (2013), what do you take from the trajectory you’ve had as we set our eyes on the release of “Prophecy”?


Gost: I have been truly humbled with the reception of Gost from the very beginning. Signing with Metal Blade is a perfect fit for “Prophecy” and the current concept of the music. I grew up with Metal Blade's releases, so it’s definitely a materialized childhood dream. I am honored to have “Prophecy” visually represented with Marald’s art and released through Metal Blade.

 

Prophecy arrives on March 8, 2024 via Metal Blade Records (Order).

gost prophecy, gost new album, dark art, marald van haasteren, gost interview.
Cover Artwork by Marald van Haasteren

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