Tonight Norwegian power rock band Kvelertak play Webster Hall along with Georgia stoner hardcore metallers Black Tusk. (Canadian punks Cancer Bats open, as well.)
Besides loudness and shouted vocals (in very different languages), what do Kvelertak and Black Tusk have in common? That would be the artist who created their album artwork: John Dyer Baizley, better known as the guitarist of sludge metal band Baroness, also from Georgia.
See also: What Makes NYC Metal?
Baizley’s art is easily recognizable for its primal beauty, and he’s been commissioned to create covers for quite a few bands–not all of them metal, and, as in the case of Kvelertak, not all of them from the Savannah, GA, sludge scene.
We’re not visual art critics, so we’re not going to rank the covers. And we’re not going to rank these bands, either. Just think of this as a greatest hits list of the best music with Baizley artwork.
Flight of the Conchords
Album: I Told You I Was Freaky (2009)
Ok, ok, this isn’t a band in the traditional sense. It’s the two-man team of Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement, New Zealand stars of the HBO comedy Flight of the Conchords. Their folk parody songs have been compiled into several studio albums. I Told You I Was Freaky features Baizley-painted cover art and the notable rhyme of “asshole” with “casserole” in the tune “Hurt Feelings.”
Albums: Worship the Witch EP (2006), Beyond the Permafrost (2007)
A five-piece from Athens, OH, this band combines speedy thrash riffs with death and black metal vocals. The defining characteristic of their music is, simply, fast. This is black metal for people who get bored with the drone of black metal. Two Skeletonwitch records bear Baizley artwork, including Beyond the Permafrost, the title track of which completely rips.
Album: Phantom Limb (2007)
Last year, Pig Destroyer’s record Book Burner topped many a best-of-the-year list (not ours), but it’s the cover of their 2007 album that puts them on this list. Gods of grindcore, these fellows from Richmond, VA, excel at crafting abrasive, gnarly tunes. See above.
Albums: Kvelertak (2010), Meir (2013)
When you think of Norway and metal, you probably think of black metal. Enter Kvelertak: from Norway, not black metal. This band’s music is kind of an anomaly. It’s power punk and hard rock, but the vocals are shouted (not sung). It’s brighter than most metal, but there’s still an edgy undercurrent. Maybe the fact that we have no idea what they’re singing about makes them seem more mysterious. Their name means “chokehold,” and the title of their new album Meir means “more”. And as far as translation goes, that’s all we’ve got.
Album: Static Tensions (2009)
One of the standouts of the Savannah metal scene, Kylesa continues to evolve with each album. Their 2009 record Static Tensions is heavy sludge with doses of hardcore and a hit of psychedelia. Singer and guitarist Laura Pleasants is at her most guttural and possessed-sounding on this album; she’s softened slightly (as has the music) with each subsequent record. The upcoming Ultraviolet (out May 28) is the band’s trippiest effort yet. They’ll play the Music Hall of Williamsburg in June.
Albums: Passage Through Purgatory (2008), Taste the Sin (2010)
Early on, Black Tusk sounded almost indistinguishable from Kylesa. On one hand, this isn’t surprising, as both bands emerged from the same small Southern town, and both bear the earmarks of that stoner mecca for sludgy metal. On the other hand, it’s a little odd, considering Black Tusk are three dudes, and Kylesa are four guys and a girl. Perhaps recognizing this, Black Tusk ratcheted up the heaviness and “evil”-ness (see song “Bring Me Darkness”) on Set the Dial in 2011. We hear their live shows are wild; we’ll find out tonight.
Albums: First (2004), Second (2005), A Grey Sigh in a Flower Husk (split LP with Unpersons, 2007), Red Album (2007), Blue Record (2009), Yellow & Green (2012)
Of the Savannah metal bands, Baroness are the O.G. Among their peers whose records bear chief guitarist Baizley’s art, Baroness have explored the broadest range of songwriting and stylistic experimentation.
In 2012, the band were involved in a life-threatening bus crash in England; the event left several members injured–Baizley suffered a broken arm and leg. Thankfully, Baroness are back on the road; they’ll play Irving Plaza in August.
This week, the band announced the Baroness Relief Fund, an auction of signed merch donated by Meshuggah, Napalm Death, Saint Vitus, Kylesa, and others. Proceeds will help cover the cost of medical bills sustained due to the bus accident. So, should you want to help the guy whose work adorns many a great album, you can do so here. Dig deep, y’all.
(Honorable mentions not on this list: Torche, Darkest Hour, Daughters, The Red Chord, Gillian Welch, Vitamin X, Cursed)