4/26/2013

THE ART GALLERY: Altar Of Plagues - Mammal (Timo Ketola)


There are two aspects in which "Mammal," the second full-length of Irish black metal group Altar Of Plagues, is nothing short of unsettling. The first element is the music, which is some of the eeriest specimen of atmosphere-laden black metal one will ever unearth in the scene. The second aspect, on the other hand, would be the creepy album artwork, painted by Finnish illustrator Timo Ketola, also known as Davthvs. He is an artist who has been known well within the underground metal community as a user of various art techniques and forms, including woodcarving and painting, and as the one behind his haunting cover artwork for albums for bands such as Deathspell Omega and Watain.

The cover depicts a very bleak, unsaturated, and dark picture of two stone monoliths with a vast  space in between. Vast, except for the fact that there is a ghoulish, boney figure of a creature in the midst of the gloomy sky. The fact that it seems so half-faded into the background makes its presence even more haunting and creepy once the viewer can make it out. It appears to be in a  hibernating state, seemingly curled up in slumber. However, considering how grotesque the animal-like being looks, it does not seem like something that one wants to awaken and disturb it from its rest. The bottom of the cover shows part of this black sphere, maybe referring to the song "When the Sun Drowns in the Ocean," so it might be the sun cast in molten black in a deadened state. 

In a way, whatever the intended meaning behind this cover artwork was, this piece can actually be derived from the stories of H.P. Lovecraft. In some of his fantasy-horror literary works, he treads along  the subjects of the insignificance of humanity in comparison to the powerful forces of the supernatural, and this cover could serve as a representation of this. In some form of the apocalypse, with the sphere potentially being the blackened sun, it unveils the appearance of this ghoulish animal-spirit creature, showing how threatening and imminent this supernatural force is towards humanity, serving as one of those horror-based mythologies and lore. One example could be the Sirens from the Odysseus chronicles, who are bird-human creatures who lure sailors with their beautiful singing voices. Like fishes to a rod, the sailors are infatuated by the charm, and crash into rocks or other obstacles and drown. It could demonstrate, especially from the Lovecraft perspective, of how threatening and potentially cataclysmic supernatural beings that humanity perceives as myth can truly be if they were, or maybe if they actually are, real. This dark background makes this album cover even more unsettling, which was already rather intimidating to begin with. Combine this with some visually bleak yet stunning artwork, and you have one of the greatest album covers for one of the most stellar groups in black metal.

Timo Ketola's profile on Encyclopedia Metallum: http://www.metal-archives.com/artists/Davthvs/144223