Exclusive: David Davidson and Tom Strom Give You An In-Depth Look at the Album Art for Revocation’s Deathless


Revocation‘s fifth full-length album, Deathless, isn’t just one of the most highly-anticipated albums of the fall — it’s also their best record to date, further cementing this still-young band’s stature as one of modern metal’s finest acts. (Read MetalSucks’ review of the album here.) And while there can be no doubt that the most important aspect of any album is the music it contains, metal is almost as much of a visual medium as it is an aural one — and so it’s no surprise that the Deathless cover art, by Tom Strom, is an absolutely stunning representation of the record’s tone and feel.

To celebrate the release of Deathless one week from today (that would be October 14, duh) via Metal Blade, Revocation and Strom graciously provided MetalSucks with some exclusive, in-depth photographs chronicling the creation of that totally killer album art. And as if that wasn’t enough, Strom and guitarist/vocalist David Davidson took some time from their busy to schedules to let us pick their brains about the art as well!

Check out the gallery of exclusive images below, followed immediately by our interview with Dave and Tom. And don’t forget to pre-order Deathless right here!!!

How important is it to Revocation to have the “right” album art? 

Dave: Album art is very important for us. I remember going to CD stores as a kid and picking up albums just based on the artwork alone. Album art is often a first impression for fans, so I always want our art to be intriguing and draw people in, even if they have never heard us before.

How do you approach album art in this day and age of digital downloads, where some listeners will never see the art as anything other than a tiny box on their mp3 player?

Dave: I don’t really keep that in mind when working with artists. Sure, some people will just download the album and never look at the art, but as a  music lover, I’ve always been a fan of the whole package.

Tom: The right album art for any band I think is important, as it’s usually the first impression of a band for people. I’ve bought countless death metal albums solely because of the artwork, and have discovered many bands that way. I almost feel like the artwork can make or break an album. If it doesn’t pull me in visually, I’m almost always not even  going to be interested in listening to the album. There is also a pretty rich history of death metal bands using actual painted artwork, which most fans are into just as much as the bands. Even in the age of digital downloading, where the artwork might not get seen as easily, I find myself looking for it anyway. It represents, in one image, what that album is supposed to be about. So, for me, it’s important to see it.

Dave, how did you first become aware of and meet Tom? 

Dave: I was looking for a tattoo artist that really matched my tastes and found Tom’s work online. I ended up sending him an email and asked him if I could get some work done when I came through Minneapolis (this was way back when we were opening the Despised Icon farewell tour). He responded, and as it turned out, he was already a fan of Revocation, so right of the bat there was a mutual respect between the two of us, which was cool. We ended up really hitting it off and we’ve been friends ever since.

How did you decide that Tom was the right guy for the job with regards to Deathless?

Dave: Tom is an incredible tattoo artist, but he’s also an immensely talented painter. When I would stay with him to get tattooed, we would hang out in his art room and I would marvel at the different paintings that he was working on. He has a very unique style and he’s also a huge death metal fan, so I thought he would be perfect to work with. We actually first worked with him on a t-shirt design for our song “The Hive,” and he totally knocked that one out of the park. So having him do the album cover was a no brainer.

Tom: Dave had no choice in the matter, really. I’ve been planting the seed subconsciously in Dave’s brain since the day we met. It’s been a goal of mine to paint death metal covers for a long time, so I was waiting for the chance. This just seemed like the perfect fit.

How much discussion (if any) did you guys have before Tom started doing the cover for Deathless? What was the subject of those conversations (e.g., themes, lyrics, a particular vibe you wanted to convey, a color scheme, etc.)?

Dave: Tom and I spoke at lengths about the cover art before he started working on it. I talked with him about some lyrical themes and about the general vibe of the music. I told him that the new record was very dark and heavy and that I wanted the color scheme to be dark blue to fit with that vibe.

Tom: Dave always has great ideas that he’s very good at conveying through dialogue. There wasn’t too much talk about with regards to what the actual image would be, but we did discuss the concept of things being “deathless.” Dave asked for an overall color concept of blue, which was a good starting point for my palette.

Did you look at/discuss any other album covers for reference?

Tom: Not really. I’m a huge fan of the Polish painter Zdzisław Beksinski, which is one of the biggest connections that Dave and I have. We sat down and looked through his collections to pin point things that we thought would be good aspects to convey the feeling of the piece. Beksinksi had a way of painting very dark and ethereal images without being overly graphic in nature, which we knew was what we were looking for in the piece. Plus, it was a way for me to be able to pay homage to him in my own way and paint something different than I normally would.

How did Tom proceed? Did he do concept sketches for you to sign off on?

Dave: Tom is very thorough, so he sent over some sketches before he got started on the piece just to make sure we were on the same page.

Tom: I always start with a good concept sketch to see if I can convey the feeling I’m looking for. I’ve had this idea for a while now of walking tombstones that really seem to fit the “deathless” theme. I took that idea melded it with Beksinksi’s approach, and it just seemed to come out naturally. Once I had that, I sent it to Dave to get his thoughts. He usually just lets me do what I need to though, as we are pretty good at being on the same page with things at this point.

Were there any adjustments made to the piece once Tom handed it in? If so, what were those, and why were they made (again, could be to convey vibe, or you thought something could look cooler, or whatever)?

Tom: There was a few more things added in to the piece as I painted it. They were conscious and personal additions that don’t really mean much to anyone but myself and Dave. The first was in the floating skeletal bones coming off the walking tombstone. I added in a Reaper with a broken scythe that is pointing down to the left hand corner of the painting where I have a tombstone with my signature on it. It basically represents a point in my life from a couple years back where I had a pretty severe back injury that really put my livelihood in jeopardy, and I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to really recover from it. It was a brutal time for me. I felt like death was chasing me down.

Another addition was up in the right hand corner, again in the floating skeletal remains, where I put a half skull face with windows for eyes. This represents two things. One, it’s a self-portrait that is looking in at the painting to pay homage to Beksinki and his style. Second, the windows for eyes are a concept that I first used on an upside-down skull tattoo on Dave’s elbow, so it was pointing out our early connection between each other. Most of my paintings have very personal things in there that aren’t obvious to anyone but myself, but I wanted to keep that going even though the work was for the band. I feel like it only makes the piece even stronger rather than being some random image.

Where is the original piece now?

Dave: Tom gave me the original, so I’m very proud to say I have it hanging on my wall in my room next to the original artwork for “The Hive” shirt.

Tom: Dave is the only one who should rightfully own that piece after all the support he’s shown me. I can never thank him enough.

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