Explore a course in the outlandish audiovisual partnership portrayed by Dr. Knudson.
Words by Luis (@HeaviestofArt):
"The key to living a good life is not giving a fuck about more; it’s giving a fuck about less, giving a fuck about only what is true and immediate and important" - Mark Manson
Mark Manson's The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck (2016) is a goldmine of honest and confrontational tips for life that stray from the typical "self-help" conventions. As the quote above would suggest, our efforts as people are best invested in what we deem significant to our own well-being. This sort of nonchalant, free-flowing approach is one employed by musicians across the spectrum that thrive in uncomfortable scenarios to avoid sticking by predetermined notions for what their art should be. Enter Nekrogoblikon — a band let their own creative ambitions dictate their delivery. Touching back on Manson's quote, consider them a unit that gives a fuck only about what is true to them, and that is their music and the camaraderie they've created amongst themselves.
Where Nekrogoblikon excel quite frankly extends beyond their boundless songcraft into their visual identity, as spearheaded by their ostentatious mascot John Goblikon. John, the band's album covers, and the entirety of the band's audiovisual endeavors are synonymous with one another's enthusiastic personalities. Come April 1st via the band's own Mystery Box label, Nekrogoblikon will usher in their next crazed chapter in the form of The Fundamental Slimes and Humours: an expansive feat that finds the band at compositional highs. Like its 2018 predecessor, Welcome To Bonkers, The Fundamental Slimes arrives alongside the vibrant art of Nicholas Knudson who so crazily captures the nature of it all with an anatomical cover to die for.
Though only a few collaborations in, consider the relationship between Knudson and the band akin to that of Cannibal Corpse and Vince Locke. By that, I mean one of outlandish ideas just waiting to be explored. A single look at the cover itself would leave one perplexed at the sheer insanity packed within the squared parameters of an album cover, indicating that the collaborative process was incredibly fruitful. When asked what Nekrogoblikon aimed to capture through Knudson's talents, guitarist and vocalist Alex "Goldberg" Alereza mentions, "We love Nick's imagination and style, so we just gave him the basic premise of a goblin medical chart knowing that he would have fun running with it and he blow our minds with the end result." The text messages between the two parties would certainly indicate that much fun was had following up on Welcome To Bonkers.
It certainly feels like it was pulled from a vintage anatomy book, which served as a key visual cue in Knudson's approach to the cover. Alex may have provided some direction, but the collaboration itself was limitless. "The original idea was brought up by Nicky (Calonne) and Alex I believe," says Knudson. "I don't remember the exact timeline, but I think that Nicky came up with the name of the album and visualized an old anatomy book. We all talked on the phone about the medieval era and how people knew next to nothing about human physiology and would just kinda make up a bunch of shit. That cracked us up."
Knudson continues, "I imagined some farty old wizard looking dude scribbling down the inner workings of the goblin by candlelight surrounded by jars of dead animals, just making shit up like a maniac. It also helps me visualize if I kinda take on the perspective of a character. I'll pretend I'm a wizard that's drawing the inner workings of a goblin with thick black eyebrows, in a castle, and I'm fucking crazy. A little down the line, I'll pull up some references to get inspired and see what I'm missing. For this piece, I looked up medieval anatomy illustrations on the interweb super highway to get more inspiration later on, and I also watched Evil Dead (1981) and Evil Dead II (1982) and thought about how fucking sick the illustrations in the Necronomicon are." The horror influence is evident, as is the maniacal state of mind that Knudson placed himself in for the project.
There's plenty to uncover in this anatomical piece: a wiener nail, an evil heart, death filled testicles, a Chili's menu in the stomach. We're only scratching the surface of what you could find in the Goblin's biological structure, a structure formed from more of the hilarious exchanges between Alereza, Knudson, and Calonne. An endless flow of ideas allows for things to stick as the development of the art piece continues, but it could also be detrimental in that it forcefully incorporates an array of visual elements that perhaps don't really align. Total creative liberty has its pros and cons, but Knudson operated under said freedom with excellence to create such a nutty cover that builds upon the band's lore. "I love hidden details," notes Knudson. "As the art progresses, I start discovering ideas that inspire me or make me laugh. If it makes me laugh, it will usually make Alex and Nicky laugh. The text convos below pretty much show the process that me, Alex, and Nicky go through. I usually just start and throw a shit at them and we hop on the phone and make fun of everything and come up with more ideas." For those wondering, this is not what your usual band and artist conversation looks like.
Sure, the text messages are not quite the norm for what is typically a professional interaction for a commission, but that's where the Nekrogoblikon find their strength. This level of partnership is one that comes about with confidence and mutual respect for one another's work in a way that also allows for senseless fun to be had. It's what keeps Alereza and co. coming back to Knudson, who also did the artwork for their Chop Suey! (2020) cover and a mural for the band-owned 1720 concert venue in Los Angeles. Alereza mentions, "Nick shares the same absurd, twisted sense of humor as us and I've always felt like he takes the same approach visually as the band does musically, which is allowing hilariously wacky ideas to be the source of inspiration and then fully and militantly committing to those ideas in detail and execution. On top of all that he's also just a really good friend of ours and is just so much fun to work with; most of the ideas we come up with together get officially cemented as plans once they've caused us to all laugh hysterically." They're a match made in heaven, or hell for that matter.
Knudson adds, "The problem with this is that we'll sometimes get ripping on a whole other idea altogether. In fact, if we're not careful, we end up running in a completely different direction all because it cracks us up. I kinda started on this album cover late February 2020, then took a break to work on some other projects including the 'Chop Suey!' single art. When the time came to revisit the 'Slimes', it was August of 2021 and we were in the middle of Covid. We wanted to hangout but be safe and shoot the shit, so we met up in Elysian Park to BBQ. Next thing we know, the album cover is a picture of Baby John Goblikon holding a tiny skeleton with tape over its ocular cavities and psychedelic rainbows emanating from his silhouette. The idea transformed again and again until I revisited the original concept and we all got excited about it again. Sometimes, we just have to work through all that shit and explore for the sake of exploring and I absolutely love that. Nicky and Alex are magic buddies and I'm stoked to have some cosmic hangs with them."
As requested, Knudson added psychedelic outlines in rainbow.
How many bands have BBQs with their cover artist? Not many, I can say that much. The friendship that Knudson and Alereza have built goes beyond professional into one that yields the ideal results. They may have not went with the baby goblin holding a tiny skeleton, but it was a fun sidetrack that was given the light of day. Sometimes, one has to get the idea out and see it through to verify if it is indeed the path to take. They went the medical route and after some months and memes, Knudson returned with what eventually became the cover we see today.
It was quite a pivot from the baby goblin route, but it certainly paid off.
Here it is in color as it evolved from phase to phase.
For Knudson, The Fundamental Slimes was a highlight in the ongoing audiovisual partnership, one that is representative of the fucks they give for another. When asked where The Fundamental Slimes stands among the works he's created for the band so far, he mentions, "Fuck man, I have no idea how to answer that. We laughed more creating this one. If I had to live with one tattooed on my chest, it would be 'Slimes'." Alereza adds, "It stands far above the rest! To me, it's the most 'Nekrogoblikon' album we've ever done."
Several listens in and hours gazing at the cover to put this piece together, I can confirm that this is indeed a culmination of a band genuine to their output as they continue to grow as one cohesive yet expansive ensemble. There's no question as to Knudson's continuing reliance as Nekrogoblikon's art guy given the strong audiovisual synchronicity present here. For those looking for an electrifying time free of restraint, The Fundamental Slimes and Humours is here to please. We only spoke about the art, but when the album's razor sharp riffs, hooks, and anthemic choruses come into question, we'd be remiss not to note this as one comprehensive experience. Is the world ready for this new twisted new Nekrogoblikon? We sure hope so, but when we asked Alex, "After what we've all been through the last couple years, absolutely!"
The Fundamental Slimes and Humours arrives April 1st via Mystery Box (Order).