Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Life and Death Album Cover

If you're a fan of Iron Maiden, you know that the majority of their album covers (featuring their undead mascot, "Eddie") were painted by artist Derek Riggs. His covers have long been considered by fans an important ingredient and essential component of the band's legacy. Everyone has their favorites (mine are Somewhere In Time and Live After Death) , but ever since the band and Riggs had a falling out over the proposed cover art for "The Wicker Man," he hasn't done any work for the band since.

So what have they done lately? Generally, pretty weak covers. The painting for Brave New World is decent because the "cloudy" Eddie was lifted from the rejected "Wicker Man" art. The cover for Dance of Death, however, is absolutely terrible. The image of Eddie himself is fine, but all the costumed dancers look like they were created by a teenager using Microsoft Paint. An aside: I personally believe the dancers, and the album title itself, were inspired by an episode of the TV show The Prisoner entitled "Dance of the Dead," wherein protagonist Number 6 is at one point taunted by costumed partygoers that bear remarkable resemblance to the characters on the Dance of Death cover (and considering Maiden's love for The Prisoner, this is not a farfetched idea).

Which leads us to their newest cover, A Matter of Life and Death. This art is superior to Dance of Death, but I can't help but be disappointed with two things. First, Eddie is not dominant in the piece, and second, the style is very comic book flavored.

A trip to the artist's blog was revealing. The man in question, Timothy Bradstreet, has in fact done a lot of bona fide comic book art. Plus, it seems that he actually had to sumbit the Life and Death work to Maiden multiple times before they approved, and Eddie himself changed three times. It's clear to me that if Bradstreet had his way, this wouldn't have happened, but the client gets what the client wants.

And what are the chances of Riggs coming back to the fold? Next to zero, if we believe this email from Riggs himself:

"Hi it's Derek Riggs no I didn't die or something. I am alive and well I got a bit sick of all the bullshit maiden were putting out so I moved on. I did the occasional cover for them a few years ago, then I stopped completely. they came to me recently about some more covers but the negotiations came to nothing. Maiden decided that they wanted to do a comic book style cover. I heard from a sorce inside maiden that they think the new digital covers (including the "dance of death" cover) are "really great" (this is an actual quote) it seems that they can't tell good artwork from bad. and people wonder why I don't feel very appreciated working at maiden you could give that person my website address, it seems he needs to see some good artwork. have fun all the best D"

So there you have it. Maiden is maddening when it comes to approving art, and this time around they were specifically looking to display a comic book style piece on the shelves. I guess I can understand their desire to do something different, but nevertheless, I can't help but think that it's a gargantuan error in judgement.


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