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 Review archive:  # a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Jean “Valnoir” Simoulin - Analogue Black Terror(Book) [Nuclear War Now! - 2019]

At the beginning of their careers, any band or musician wants their music to be heard. With the development of modern technology and the Internet, this has become a lot easier with the likes of Bandcamp, and similar services. But, at the end of the last century and at the beginning of the present, technology was not as advanced. So attention was paid to physical media. Therefore, novice musicians recorded their demo albums on audiotapes. Cassettes were distributed at underground concerts, ordered through magazines, and copied at home. I think that almost all styles of heavy music went through such a period. But, in my opinion, the most interesting and fascinating of these is the formation of Black Metal as a genre- here we have a recent book looking at the art of the black metal promos through out the years.

A few years ago, French designer Jean “Valnoir” Simoulin began collecting J-cards of demo tapes of classic Black Metal bands, aiming to put together the most complete collection and publish it as a book. It is worth noting that Jean is a very famous person in the world of extreme music. He is the artist behind the album covers of a huge number of famous Metal bands, giving preference to working with Black Metal bands. Jean is a member of the bands Irwin and Nova Sodomia, and also participated as a guest musician in recording albums of several groups. I would define Jean's style of work as a designer as a mixture of Industrial, Engraving and Art Nouveau, striving for symmetry in a heraldic style. In almost all his works, the theme of death and mysticism is clear. So, Jean Simoulin, in search of original covers, spent several years looking for it in various ways, including communication with band members. As a result, having collected a huge number of covers, cataloging them, Jean called titled the collection Analogue Black Terror. And In 2019, the famous American label Nuclear War Now! Productions published Analogue Black Terror in book form. This is a 13 "x 13" Hard cloth-bound book with 260 pages. You can purchase this book on the label website.
 
 
The book is fully executed in black and white, which is not surprising, since the covers of the early demo tapes were made almost at home, using blueprints. The front cover is an impressive collage. In the center is the image of the Earth, from which many spikes or stakes stick out in different directions. In a circle, like the rays of the sun or flower petals, there is a huge number of photo portraits of Black Metal artists. Portraits of different sizes and seem to be cut from the covers of demo cassettes. Corpsepaint is on the faces of almost all artists, so this whole group collage looks rather overloaded. Surprisingly, in the main mass, I was able to recognize Euronymous(Mayhem). The background of this impressive collage is white rays that flash from the center to the edges of the cover. In the center of the composition, against the background of the image of our planet, there is a black rectangle on which the name of the book is written in white Gothic capital letters - "Analogue Black Terror". It seems to me that this is a very successful cover, despite the not too original and simple idea - to combine the Earth and a large number of artists to show the mass character of such a phenomenon as Black Metal. However, I understand that this is the easiest and most explicit way to display the contents of a book.
 
 
It is worth saying that the book does not contain any author's text. This is a collection of high quality scanned tape J-cards. The book is divided into several parts, each of which corresponds to the years of the release of various albums. There are nine parts in the book, and I would like to talk a little about each. The first chapter is the "1980's". It contains demos of the earliest representatives of Black Metal, such as Mayhem, Morbid, Darkthrone, Rotting Christ, Blasphemy and so on. These are hand made covers copied using blueprints. Some of them are collages, some are simply drawn with a pencil or pen. Also on the J-cards panels, there is a large amount of information about artists, a large number of thanks, and so on. Basically, all this information is written by hand, but sometimes it is printed on a typewriter. The album cover themes are completely different, but they all seemed too straightforward and infantile. Nevertheless, the period of the 1980s is the very beginning of the birth of the most massive and extreme genre of heavy music.
 
The second chapter is "1990, 1991". This is the shortest chapter. It presents the covers of the first tapes of such bands as Burzum, Impaled Nazarene, Beherit, Profanatica, Dissection, Absu, etc. In terms of cover design, significant progress is noticeable. The choice of subjects has become more meaningful and creative. Various printed fonts are used to provide information. Of course, the spirit of the 1980s is still strong, and it will make itself felt for a rather long time.
 
The third chapter is "1992". Beginning of the Dawn of Black Metal. Here are the first albums of Cradle Of Filth, Samael, Carpathian Forest, Enslaved, Emperor, etc. For this year many of the covers feature artists corpsepaint. In general, the aesthetics of the covers preserved the spirit of previous years. However, non-standard formats and sizes appeared. For example, the cover of Emperor's Wrath Of The Tyrant is transformed into a poster.
 
The fourth chapter is "1993". This year more than a few bands appeared  with their own original outlook on the genre - like Fleurety, Ulver, Primordial, Evol. Satyricon, Carpathian Forest (which went through a rather long period of demo tapes), Forgotten Woods, Vlad Tepes, Mutiilation, etc. According to the style of design, the covers have not changed significantly. Perhaps the print quality is a little better. There is also handwritten information, but in most cases, a gothic font is used.
 
The fifth chapter is "1994". Dawn of the genre. A large number of groups appear, which later will either become classic acts or will be forgotten. Here are Abigor, Belketre, Mutiilation, Tulus, Vlad Tepes, Naglfar, Setherial, Grand Belial's Key, etc. The style and quality of the covers repeat the style of previous years. However, some J-cards look professionally printed. For example, the cover of the Grand Belial's Key album Triumph of the Hordes. Widely used white gothic font on a black background. However, sometimes handwritten elements still occur.

The sixth chapter is "1995". Viking / Pagan metal time. Many covers are oriented towards northern mythology; many runic inscriptions appear. However, most are classic covers for previous years. This chapter introduces Aura Noir, Morgul, Trelldom, Tulus, Grabesmond, etc. The names of some bands, to be honest, I see here for the first time. Interestingly, this chapter features of Dungeon Synth pioneer Mortiis  - Fodt Til A Herske.
 
The seventh chapter is "1996". Honestly, I am not familiar with most of the bands represented here. I can only mention Funeral Mist, Agalloch, Seth, Belenos. The style of the covers has not changed significantly. However, it is worth noting that the balance of graphic and text elements has become more professional.
 
The eighth chapter of "1997". Unfamiliar bands have become even more. I can only mention Unholy and Behexen. Covers are made in the style typical of the previous two or three years. In my opinion, this is the weakest chapter in the book. I did not see any interesting cover, unfortunately.

The ninth chapter is "1998, 1999, 2000". The sunset era of demo tapes, but prolific years for Black Metal in general. This chapter presents from the ones I know - Antaeus, Archon Infastus, Deathspell Omega, Behexen, Pest, Candestine Blaze. And also the industrial project  Puissance, which is not related to Black Metal. It is noticeable that PC software is used during the design, which makes the covers no longer so attractive. The feeling of the underground disappears. All this begins to resemble an imitation of retro style.
 
The book is finished off with band index and Contributors. The backside of the hardcover of the book is also composed of fragments of the covers of demo tapes. Also in the upper left corner, on a white rectangle, there is information about the author, assistants and the publisher.
 
 
Analogue Black Terror is a titanic work- with the collecting and organizing  of the covers, layout, and preparation for printing, work on collages. You can really feel through-out  the passion the author for the genre and it's art. Analogue Black Terror is a great book that clearly shows the evolution of the covers of Black Metal demo tapes from the very beginning to its logical conclusion. And most importantly it's a real book that you can hold in your hands and smell the pages.

Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5

Sergey Pakhomov
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