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Behind The Artworks: Kalmo - Gehinnom (2021)


Mika: We are both currently working for the same company and have been discussing music during breaks. At some point we noticed that we are both interested in 3D animation and computer graphics. Jose showed me some of his art and told me he has done cover art for some bands. I told Jose that I am working on a new album for Kalmo. And so we agreed that I’d discuss the possibility of creating cover art with Jose.

Jose: Yes, it was great to discover we shared those common interests and as I knew Mika had this music project and this kind of music style, I told him to think about potential collaboration regarding the visual part. Most of my previous work has been for Power metal related bands, and I was looking forward to working on a Doom metal project, as I love the imagery and concepts usually found in this metal genre. So, I was really happy when Mika told me I could take care of the artwork.

Mika: The process of getting the idea for the cover art was, from my perspective, quite straightforward. We had some discussion sessions where I explained what I had in mind and Jose asked me questions. Jose did the first draft sketch during our first session and that was something we started to elaborate on. I wanted the cover to capture the theme of the end, the final moments, a character that is the orchestrator of it, and some details in the spirit of Franz Sedlacek’s ghosts on a tree.

Jose: As I pointed out before, I have been doing work for quite a few Power metal bands, including my own bands back in Spain. My current style and workflow started a little bit by chance as due to some time schedule I had to use the computer to create the whole artwork, instead of just using it for the final coloring as I used to do in some of my first commissions. As Mika said, we had some sessions to go through the concept. I had so much fun in that part as he is great guy to work with, he had a clear idea of what he wanted and together we kept adding some details, suggestions about the composition, which elements to appear, etc. Regarding my interest in art, I can say that some of my favorite artists are Hieronymus Bosch, Salvador Dali and Alphonse Mucha, so people can get an idea of the stuff I like. But I am a huge fan of album cover art since forever. I love the style of the heavy metal cover artworks from the 80s and early 90s. I am a great fan of the American artist Ed Repka. Regarding contemporary artists, I would say my favorite is Pär Olofsson from Sweden (and I dare say he is a fan of Repka too [laughs]).

Mika: As Jose got the cover art ready and we both were happy with it, we started to work on the back cover, the inner covers, CD label and the booklet. The CD version is a digipack with a booklet. Those all needed their piece of art too. We decided to utilise the parts and themes from the cover for the other parts. Jose had a great idea for the CD label and the tray art.

Jose: Exactly, we agreed on take elements from the main cover in order to create the rest of the visual assets needed for the booklet. As we said before, we had a great and productive session to being with the cover artwork. I have to say, I usually do not have the chance to work in person with the musicians as it is so common to work through the phone and email because the band members are not usually in the same place I live in. So it was nicer having “in person” sessions. Mika came up with the main concept of this character who is commanding over what happens, in this specific place (the valley of Gehinnom) and wanted to have the “Ghosts on a Tree” painting on it. I came up with a version of the painting, where the ghosts have skulls. On top of the main concept idea, we decided for the best stance for the character, the elements he could have or carry, the outfit, etc. I created the background valley based on some old photograph of the actual valley (regarding its orography), adding a lava river too and the pile of skulls. We spend some time thinking about ideas, elements and I just took notes on a preliminary sketch.

Mika: I did like the way the details were added to the art. The idea of taking the real picture of the valley was very cool. The devil is in the details, as they say *evil laughter* The CD version comes with a booklet containing lyrics in both Finnish and English. I didn’t want to have just white pages with black fonts or vice a versa. It needed to have the same story in images as the rest of the covers. While Jose was working on the rest of the CD cover art, I worked on the booklet draft. I took a version Jose had created for the ghosts on a tree as well as the sky from the cover art, drafted the booklet pages based on them, and sent the drafts to Jose to finalize.

Jose: Regarding the main cover art, I started working on it as usual, sending Mika some versions of it, and we discussed this or that element, agreeing to give it a reddish color, etc. As he said, I prepared different backgrounds out of the main cover art and exported independent elements, so Mika could arrange them and decide the design of the booklet pages, the back cover, and so on. I always work with a big canvas in Photoshop in case the band wants to print in bigger format or use parts of the cover itself for other purposes.

Mika: Yep, having everything in bigger size with high resolution and all the details in the images in their own layers makes utilising parts of the images easier. As summary of it all, I am very happy with the cover art. It captures the theme of the music and the lyrics of the album well. Gehinnom is a version of Hell and that is what is going on in the cover. The collaboration after we got things going went very well. I produced a music video for the song Kuolleen linnun laulu by combining 3D graphics and animation with live video. The character from the cover art is utilised as an important element in the altar in the video. Please, go and check out and support Jose’s work at https://www.instagram.com/kibusanima/

Jose: It was great to work with Mika and contribute to his album. As a musician myself, I love to be part of some music-related art project. Even more, if some good metal is involved like in this case. It was such a privilege he counted on me, I always appreciate that a musician chooses my work to develop the visual part of their music project. I was happy to have the chance to work on something darker than I usually do, as I do like that stuff. And I had a lot of freedom, which is something a visual artist really appreciates, so the artist can give the best. It was quite a big job too as I like to get into every small detail and I work with a big canvas as I said before, but it was worth it. For me, the most important part is that the band is happy with the result, and if they are not, I keep going until that happens [laughs]. I just want to add a big thanks to Mika for counting on me, and I hope we collaborate again in the future.

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