Friday, 31 October 2014


MONOBLOG is proud to feature his iconic photograph of Bergen musician KVITRAFN, on our Halloween cover, below.

[ Image used with permission ]

Peter is a Houston-born photographer and social documentarian, most famously known for covering two very interesting and distinct music scenes: Houston Rap, and True Norwegian Black Metal.

His unique sense of culture and geography has meant that his work has been featured regularly in international art galleries and cultural events since the early 2000's.

'Koldbrann Horns' by Peter Beste, from True Norwegian Black Metal


''What's the point of having a band logo that you can't read?''

 - Thomas Haugen, guitarist, Emperor

Above: 'Emperor' logo, by Christophe Szpajdel

- It's a good question. Black Metal was the last great rock n roll movement to occur before the advent of the internet. Born in Scandinavia, and fed by fanzines and underground tape-trading, it was / is characterised by a certain extremist 'elitism' amongst some of its more reactionary practitioners.

However, after its tabloid-baiting inception, many key bands ( Emperor, Immortal, Cradle of Filth, et. al. ) matured musically and philosophically, and became respected members of the greater Heavy Metal pantheon, releasing acclaimed and complex albums, and playing to huge crowds around the globe.

Below: 'Wolves In The Throne Room' logo

Below: 'Northumbria' logo

Like all sub-cultures, Black Metal comes with its own set of aesthetic markers. The dress code ideally involves leather jackets, black jeans, Evil Dead / Kiss- style monochrome facepaint, spikes and bullet-belts.
Album art normally features snow-swept forest scenes, graveyards, or famous gothic art. And of course, the aforementioned 'unreadable' band logo. Let's face it, how much more 'cult' can you get?
The greatest practitioner of the 'Black Metal Logo' is Belgium-born artist Christophe Szpajdel, whose background in forestry directly informs his sinuous, organic designs. He originally bequeathed his famous 'Emperor' logo ( see top of page ) as a gift to the band while working on the fanzine, Septicore. This logo is actually marked by its distinct legibility, and perhaps goes to show that Emperor - from the very beginning - had ideas beyond the constrictions of a narrow-minded and parochial scene.
As Christophe tells MONOBLOG:

''The editor, Thierry, was in touch with Thomas Haugen ( Emperor's rhythm guitarist ‘Samoth’ ) who was playing in the death metal band EMBRYONIC, which then evolved into THOU SHALT SUFFER later on. In a letter addressed to Thierry, he mentioned starting a new band playing unholy metal of blackness and death - a band called EMPEROR - and I sort of surprised EMPEROR with a logo that shortly became their emblem.
At that time, I wouldn't have believed the Emperor logo could make me famous, and it happened when they released their legendary album IN THE NIGHTSIDE ECLIPSE exactly 20 years ago.''
Indeed, since those humble beginnings, Christophe's unique contribution to branding design has been featured in countless art gallery retrospectives, and even a deluxe design book, Lord of Logos: Designing the Metal Underground ( see links at the bottom of this page ).

Below: 'Lamentations Of The Ashen' logo

Christophe has long been a resident of the UK since the heady days of the early Black Metal scene, and aside from continuing to add to the list of 7,000 band logos that he has created over the years ( tip for artists: he charges 50% upfront for the initial rough sketch, which is non-refundable ), he tells us that 'this year I am running a very special exhibition at The Phoenix, in Exeter'. More details as soon as we get them!

Below: 'Grim' logo



Such has been the impact of Christophe's unique contribution to the art of the logo, that he was asked by design magazine Fast Company to put a cheeky spin on some well-known companies. Christophe explains:

''I got a fixation about PRADA since the movie THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA and to make it controversial, I did a PRADA logo just for my own pleasure. Last year I got approached by FAST COMPANY to do logos for 11 famous brands.''

MONOBLOG is sure you'll agree that it proves even Black Metallers have a sense of humour...for the full selection of Christophe's corporate logos, see link below. 

November 18 to December 31st 2014
Exeter Phoenix
Bradninch Place
Gandy Street
tel: 01392 667 080


Above: Lucy 03

In CGI, there is a danger-zone known well to animators and designers, known as 'the uncanny valley'. It is a place whereby a representation of something human - created by modelling software and texture-mapping -  somehow doesn't quite make it, and the result has the adverse effect of looking unintentionally creepy. Scientific theory tells us that this is because the human is hard-wired to be alert to genetic mutations, disease, or disfigurement. 
Indeed there is something in these pictures that eerily recalls photographs of returned World War I veterans, whose disfigurements - inflicted by newly industrialised, mechanized warfare - were unlike anything the civilian population were accustomed to.

This is the zone in which 'glitch' artist Mark Klink works.

So how does he do it? Mark explains:

The source material I sometimes model myself using Blender or I use Makehuman. Both are open source.  Some of the heads are examples. Sometimes I download models that are available on the web. For example, the "Lucy" model comes from the Stanford 3d Scanning Repository.

Most of the time artists use conventional 3d modeling software to create and reshape their models. However, I bring the raw data of the model into a text editor or even a spreadsheet and manipulate it there. The result are effects and distortions that could not be achieved otherwise.


Above: GlitchHead 019


Above: Lucy 10
Above: GlitchHead 012

Above: Lucy 01

 Above: GlitchHead 14
Mark resides in Carmichael, a suburb of Sacramento, California. By day, he's a 'computer resource teacher', which he describes as 'a great job' teaching six to twelve-year-olds in the Elk Grove District how to use computers.


Six years ago, I was on a summer holiday in Slovenia. The weather during the entire first week was terrible. To give you an idea just how bad, these shots are taken on a coach trip around the Karavanken Mountains, one of Europe's longest mountain ranges. Even though our guide was mortified that the weather did not show his country in the best possible light, I reassured him that these mist-shrouded peaks were, to a Brit such as myself, utterly spectacular. 

Being a nexus of Europe, Slovenia is a thoroughly modern country with friendly, well-adjusted people and excellent infrastructure, but its imposing geology is a constant reminder of the millennial weight of history and pre-history. 

I'd never been to the interior of Europe before, so was unused to the views that greeted me. At that elevation, the forests seemed to actually breathe, and the mist behaved more like plumes of smoke in a volcanic landscape, rather than the dreary fog we get back home.

I'm including these pictures for the Halloween edition of MONOBLOG because they evoke the forboding music of Mussorgsky's 'Night On The Bare Mountain'...even though they were taken in the middle of a summer afternoon.

They also resemble the sort of cover art you'll see in the Black Metal genre, and so perfectly fit the theme of this Halloween edition. All they need is a Christophe Szpajdel logo in the corner to complete the look!

All photos, copyright Alexi K, 2008

ALEXI K - HOMAGE TO GIGER ( MK II, work in progress )

To round off this issue, I thought I'd update you on my contribution to the MONSTER CLUB show, which opens in Birmingham, UK, a week from now ( Friday November 7th ).

After a failed attempt at a Giger piece earlier this year ( which you can see by scrolling further down the blog ) , I was determined to do the great man justice.

This is the current state of the work-in-progress. It's labour-intensive, but you really have to put the hours in to get the 'Giger' look. By the time the next edition of MONOBLOG is out, we will know if I have accidentally ruined it by over-working ( very possible ), or if it's truly a fitting tribute to the mastermind that inspired ALIEN and PROMETHEUS. Come back next time to find out!

Below: Scene in the studio.

Below: The face in the centre is actually Lady Gaga!


Tuesday, 13 May 2014

HR GIGER 1940 - 2014

Above: Li by HR Giger

One of the world's greatest and most unique artists has passed away. 

Hans Rudolf ( 'Ruedi' ) Giger was a huge influence on MONOBLOG, and to millions of other fans, artists and creatives around the world. 

For many, he was the gateway between fantasy art, film design, architecture, surrealism and contemporary art. RIP.



Tuesday, 22 April 2014


Tom G. Warrior's Monochromatic Art Metallers Return

Norman Lonhard, V. Santura, Vanja Slajh, Tom G. Warrior
( edited from an original colour photo by Christian Martin Weiss and Sylwia Makris )

In Heavy Metal circles, the name Tom G. Warrior ( real name: Thomas Gabriel Fischer ) needs no introduction. With Hellhammer in 1983, the Swiss musician pioneered a chaotic, atonal form of lo-fi thrash metal, and later, just as Hair Metal was assuming global dominance, achieved prominence with art metal outfit, Celtic Frost. Coinciding with the rise of America’s ‘Big Four’ ( Metallica, Anthrax, Megadeth, Slayer ), Frost brought a contrasting avant-garde sensibility to the Thrash movement.

In the 80s, Celtic Frost, Venom and Bathory’s innovative punk rock attitudes inspired the second wave of extreme metal that came out of Scandinavia in the 90s, and it was Celtic Frost’s groundbreaking use of haunting female backing vocals ( see ‘Rex Irae’ from 1987's Into The Pandemonium ), that inadvertently gave birth to the Female-Fronted Gothic Metal scene ten years later. Led by The Gathering, Nightwish, and Within Temptation, several of these groups went on to huge global success.

Sadly, Celtic Frost, notable for a singularly morbid ambience through the use of grunting vocals, heavy guitar distortion, orchestration, and ambient composition, failed to achieve its potential, due to a 'perfect storm' of record company interference, internal schisms, career mis-steps and the dawn of grunge. The band folded in 1992, but re-emerged triumphantly in 2006 with the stunning Monotheist. Frost imploded again due to internal pressures, and thus Triptykon was born, whose stable line-up of V. Santura on lead guitar, Vanja Slajh on bass, and Norman Lonhard on drums, is more like a ‘group of friends’ than a band, as Fischer puts it.

Now with Triptykon’s second album  - Melana Chasmata - the band distils and indeed improves on the legacy of Hellhammer and Celtic Frost, at the same time laying down the gauntlet to other groups who affect to dwell on the ‘dark’ or 'gothic' side.

The first impression upon hearing this album ( and do try to hear it direct from your CD or vinyl before transferring to your MP3 player ), is the luxurious SOUND. The trend in modern European metal is to ‘go big’ with your production, but too often than not, the end result is a computerised production-line effect that goes for sheer volume with no nuance or variation, rendering many bands indistinct. Here, the warmth and organic sonics perfectly complement the variety of human emotions so effectively portrayed on the album. Opening with a squeal of feedback, kick drums and an ominous bass rumble, Tree of Suffocating Souls is an epic, multi-layered thrasher; a mix of swirling atonal Black Metal, crunching Thrash, and Sabbathian doom, as well as a startling oriental guitar solo.

Fischer’s previous two albums ( Celtic Frost’s Monotheist, and Triptykon’s Eparistera Daimones ) - like this one - continue the vein of emotional starkness that is uncommon in rock music. It’s raw and unnerving, but at the same time, rescued by its humanity. Indeed, the nearest comparison I can think of would be Joy Division.

Where Melana Chasmata improves on the two preceding albums, is the greater balance and depth of ideas. It’s more coherent, and feels satisfying in the way that a hard-to-put-down book is. Amidst all the sturm-und-drang, you have the soaring ‘Aurorae’, the Emily Brontë-inspired ‘In the Sleep Of Death’ ( where Tom revisits his ‘Mesmerised’ vocal style from Pandemonium ), and numerous appearances by the fabulous Simone Wollenweider, who lends her eerie vocalisations to many of the songs. The album concludes with the gorgeous ‘Waiting’, an ambient piece containing vocal samples, a simple bass motif, distorted guitars, incantations, and a beautiful blues guitar solo.

Throughout, the band’s facility with a seemingly endless array of CRUSHING, minimal two-three-and four-note riffs never ceases to amaze. Here, less is definitely more.

Melana Chasmata has been carefully crafted ( see the liner notes in the booklet ) and visually complimented through the use of HR Giger’s nightmarish paintings  – so that the end result is not simply that you are listening to the latest rock release - you are experiencing a work of art.

The deluxe box set ( above ), containing poster, candles, seven inch single, CD booklet, pendant and bag is available from Century Media here.

Friday, 14 February 2014

VALENTINE'S DAY SPECIAL STARTS HERE! cover by Leonidas Giannakopoulos

Scroll down to see new art by previous contributors, Leonidas Giannakopoulos, Lamprini Boviatsou, Federico Bebber, Emila Sirakova and your editor, Alexi K, and welcome new guests Yiorgos Kavounis and recording artist Vanessa Daou.

Have a great weekend!

ps: You may want to plug in your earphones for an optimal experience ;)





Thursday, 13 February 2014



Pic: George Pitts, Painting by Mark Sheinkman


This week MONOBLOG is proud to celebrate the release of electro-diva Vanessa Daou's sensual seventh album, LIGHT SWEET CRUDE. 

Originally discovered by New York's underground electronic label NuGroove, Vanessa's debut on the international pop scene was with the release of the major label album ZIPLESS ( Krasnow/MCA, 1994 ). Now viewed as a landmark, it was simultaneously a shiny slice of classic pop, as well as a stunningly-realised electro-jazz hybrid, and thus was set apart from its contemporaries ( Portishead, Morcheeba, Tricky, etc. ), thanks to its combination of throbbing electronica and fluid jazz interludes, topped by Vanessa's trademark spectral vocal delivery. With lyrics taken from the poetry of ERICA JONG ( 'The Fear of Flying' ), it was a cool look at relationships and sexual politics, with the kind of frank lyrics that you're unlikely to find in a pop release, even now.

Being one of the first artists to navigate a career transition from major-label compromise to internet autonomy, throughout her career, Vanessa - also a dancer, visual artist and poet - has maintained a hardcore following amongst fans, DJs and producers, often popping up on chillout and electronic compilations, remix albums, in between her own lauded studio releases.

Fast forward to 2014, and Vanessa now releases LIGHT SWEET CRUDE, which sees the 'Daou sound' transition comfortably into contemporary sonics.

To celebrate the event, MONOBLOG presents a scrapbook containing the artist's statement and recent lyrics, with links to all the songs featured. And if that's not enough you can find Mark Reeder's Monochrome remix of 2012's Black & White on our MONOMUSIC tab above.


Danger Ahead


Dirty Blonde ( Non-album B-side )




Footnote: Vanessa has hinted that she and Erica Jong are collaborating again, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Zipless. Whether that means a brand-new album, or a deluxe repackaging with contemporary remixes, stay tuned.