Visual mastermind LGRDMN walks us through the nightmare that fronts the band's latest.
Words by Luis (@heaviestofart):
On November 11, Detroit's Fell Ruin ushered in a new chapter, Cast In Oil The Dressed Wrought — a boundless beast bridging all ends of the metal spectrum to unfolding effect, welcoming multiple visits led by an ambiguous visual identity crafted in unison by the band's own LGRDMN (Brian Sheehan). LGRDMN, who has illustrated the entirety of Fell Ruin's output so far, is at home here, treading freely down a multitude of creative avenues to develop a comprehensive piece worth dissecting. Blood red tones wrap a harrowing figure built as a byproduct of surroundings, a figure shapeshifting along inner traumas and events crafting a persona. Photography and graphic design collide to extend the narrative of Cast In Oil The Dressed Wrought tenfold.
LGRDMN provides us with a glimpse at the inner workings of the album cover's creation as we display the extensive nature of it all:
It’s great to be speaking again, Brian. Last we connected, we took a view of your work as a whole and now, we hone in on the art of cover development for Fell Ruin’s new album, ‘Cast in Oil The Dressed Wrought’. Seeing as the album’s visual identity expands beyond the cover illustration into additional imagery, where did you look to take this chapter of Fell Ruin?
LGRDMN: Sonically and lyrically, CIOTDW is an experiment in truly embracing our influences. Any inhibitions we might have had in regards to what this band is were full heartedly cast aside. The result is something more realized and honest than we have been before. The art needed to come from that same, new place. Dark, hallucinatory...yet still a guide through the narrative.
You achieved that, and you mention having the opportunity to really visually explore the music with this release, free from conventions and true to your own artistic ambitions. Would you say this is a culmination of your artistic endeavors? The growth is certainly evident.
LGRDMN: Whenever I get to do new art for one of my projects, I feel this unwarranted desire to break the mold of what I traditionally do. The visual interpretation of the music has always been the opposite side of the same coin for me. When working for other bands, commissions with full creative trust are grand, but those projects still have some reservations. It is nothing short of a purge of ideas when working on your own album.
With all the delays we had between recording and releasing, I had the greater part of two years to explore this one, creating an entire body of work that expands beyond something for each song.
It's an honor to be able to showcase that here today. Though oftentimes underplayed as a marketing element, color palette selection is critical to the message being conveyed and ‘Cast in Oil’ utilizes strong red tones and contrasting black and whites throughout the core imagery. What role do you feel that color plays here?
LGRDMN: Color palette for me has always been an extension of the mood and themes of the album. Red has always been a subtle embellishment with our previous releases. CIOTDW has this overall feeling that needs to bleed out all over the place. Red conveys a sense of power and sensualism that this record dances with.
Very fitting, and it serves as the surface level introduction to the layers you pack within it. Every record is like a photo, capturing a time and place for the musicians involved. Of course, that changes from one record to the next as musicians learn from past experiences and develop new mechanisms for coping. In what state of mind does ‘Cast in Oil’ find you in and how did that inform the creative development of it all?
LGRDMN: Coming from the standpoint of vocals/ lyrics and visuals, I found myself revisiting roots. I incorporated elements of nostalgia and esotericism, the nostalgia being that of my love for gothic horror. This is, on the surface, a dark surreal tale that loosely translates to the contemporary world.
Musically, the record is perplexing and quite harrowing, perhaps an apt byproduct of our socio-political surroundings as you note. With it being narratively driven as an extension of your own personal perspectives and emotions, where did you find a common ground between art, music, and lyricism?
LGRDMN: The pieces (songs, art, and lyrics) play out similar to that of alchemical drawings / recipes of old. Without denying influence from the current state of the world that surrounds, it has always been far more appealing to acknowledge cryptically.
I also find it important to let the voyeur discern what the works are about. The album is filled with intention, but tangible enough for each listener to come to their own conclusions.
That's the best thing about it. You provide only a piece to a puzzle best completed by one's own perspective. Like most of your work, the cover, and really every image created for this, thrives in surreal collage art, bridging a variety of distinct elements to create one, or many, unified themes within one core image. What, if anything, informed the element selection for the project? Perhaps the connotations given to the elements, like the haunting portraits or pain contained within?
LGRDMN: I wanted to create a sense of transformation and ascendancy throughout the work. The protagonist chases immortality by any means necessary. Some of these trials contort and disform rather than deify, all of which inevitably lead to the fully realized form (depicted on the front cover art).
The sequential nature of the art here builds up one comprehensive piece that surely stands among the most inviting Fell Ruin works yet. Thank you for your insight, Brian. In closing, what role do you feel the arts play in the contemporary world, especially as messengers and avenues for understanding?
LGRDMN: A plethora of things, but ultimately, commentary on the times. It is much easier to look back on a specific period to notice the similarities that might derive from what was happening at the time. It might be difficult to come to these conclusions when in the thick of it, but impossible to deny.
Additionally, everyone is just trying to leave their legacy behind in one shape or another, from ancient times through now. 'Cast in Oil The Dressed Wrought' is no different. The subject works through and attempts to grasp their own immortality. Our only hope is that we made a piece that will remain as timeless as it is to us.
Cast In Oil The Dressed Wrought is available now via Tartarus Records (stream/order).