On Album Art

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There’s an interesting discussion going on on the Linkin Park Association forums, specifically concerning the revealing of LP’s new album title and art. After what can only be described as a pop-infused electronic-rock album that was Living Things, Linkin Park has apparently claimed that the very type of music they were known for making for the better part of three years is now not the kind of music they want to hear. Which, as an artistic statement, I can respect. I love Linkin Park for a lot of reasons, most of them being pretty much a cookie-cutter explanation of once being an angsty teenager, and finding their music to be of the same mentality. But then I grew up (at least a little bit!) and they, too, changed their music, as they matured as artists. Which led to Minutes to Midnight, which is a bit of a misnomer, since the album had basically nothing to do with the doomsday clock. But I digress.

In 2010 they dropped what I consider to be the best album I’ve ever heard. 4 years later, it’s still my favourite album. A Thousand Suns, their only real concept album to date, was a stark achievement for them. I could probably write a whole post about that album, but smarter and more musically inclined folk already have, so I’ll skip it. It was incredibly divisive, however, which is a quality I find inspiring in a piece of art, since it essentially shows which “fans” are willing to experiment and broaden their tastes, and which really like a certain kind of music and want to stick with it. Nothing wrong with either approach, but I prefer the former, myself. After that, LP dropped what I consider to be their worst album to date, Living Things. I personally felt that Living Things was too pop-ish, too designed for the radio, and lacked the creative spark that was present on all of their previous albums. I still like it, of course, and both the official remix album, Recharged, and the fan remix, Reliving Things, were great listens.

Which leads to now, and their new album which drops on June 17th, called The Hunting Party. Linkin Park has promised a harsher, more aggressive, more “rock” album, as opposed to their decidedly “electronic” previous records. They dropped the album art, which looks like this:

Linkin Park - The Hunting Party (Official Art)

Linkin Park – The Hunting Party (Official Art)

…Huh?

That’s, uh, pretty washed out for an album that is being trumpeted as a super edgy, “true rock n’ roll” album, or as one of the band members said, “the prequel to Hybrid Theory.” I mean, I was expecting more colour. The detail work is interesting, and I don’t think anyone can say that a bow and arrow doesn’t evoke a hunter in the mind. But, man, that is really colourless. You can see the ice-themed stuff, kind of, but it’s hard to really make out any kind of imagery beyond the bizarre shape of the “hunter.”

Now, no two people’s tastes are the same. If I’m going to critique this album’s art, you need to understand my preferences to some degree. To that end, I’ve picked ten album covers that I absolutely love:

Album Art Ex

 

Now, what I tend to like about an album cover is bold colouring, abstract or interesting shapes, and generally something that is unique, or that separates it from another, similar piece. The problem with the album art of The Hunting Party, in my opinion, is that it lacks pretty much all of these things. First, the bow and arrow combo has had some sort of weird resurgence lately, where it’s been in basically everything. The Hunger Games, Hawkeye in The Avengers, Arrow, Far Cry 3, Tomb Raider, Crysis 3… the thing is everywhere. The idea of a hunter using a bow and arrow is obvious, and I don’t consider it to be a risky idea at this point.

Secondly, it’s all washed out. I don’t know who’s decision this was, but the fact that there’s crystals all over this hunter guy is kind of missed, because they blend in with the background far too much. Is there a thematic element to the ice for it to be present, or is just cool looking? There’s a fine line between abstract and stupid, and this one really skirts that line.

Finally, it’s a white background with a thing in the middle. Not terribly original. It’s even less original when considered with Linkin Park’s other albums. Minutes to MidnightA Thousand Suns, and Living Things all feature white backgrounds with stuff in the middle. Out of the four they have now, I still find A Thousand Suns to be the best one, simply because of what it evokes: a nuclear explosion. What does The Hunting Party portray? I honestly have no idea.

In response to this, several members of the Linkin Park Association began photoshopping the album art into something they much preferred. While you can see the full range of reinterpretations by clicking the above link, I found one that I really loved, and here it is:

Linkin Park - The Hunting Party (Zombie Jeff)

Linkin Park – The Hunting Party (Zombie Jeff)

Now, I’d rather that ugly beige border be removed, but otherwise, this is much more evocative album cover. I really feel the passion and intensity that the album is supposedly going to sound like. Also, the idea of a hunter coming out of the heavens and striking on those below it is very reminiscent of the divine wrath of an angry god. In fact, if you stack The Hunting Party‘s album art on top of the Living Things art, it clearly looks like a hunter about to kill a mortal being. The fact that the dude on the Living Things cover has his skin flaking off instantly made me think of it being charred and peeling off, revealing the red muscle-mass that is the human body. How wonderful of Linkin Park to make a statement on their own music, having a hunter killing the previous pop-ish sound they cultivated. Too bad they missed that chance.

I could not manage to think of a better album art than Zombie Jeff of LPA, but since I’m a photoshop lover, I couldn’t resist taking a crack at it. So here’s mine, even though I freely admit that I’d rather have the burning flame version above:

Linkin Park - The Hunting Party (Guglio)

Linkin Park – The Hunting Party (Guglio)

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