Visual Darkness: The Artwork Of Mike Hrubovcak
Released by: Azure Emote
Released on: January, 2016.
Purchase From Bandcamp
The first edition of Visual Darkness: The Artwork Of Mike Hrubovcak sold out fast. Really fast. In fact it sold out pretty much immediately, but to the delight of dark art lovers everywhere, it’s back in a second edition courtesy of Azrure Emote.
Metal fans will be familiar with Mike Hrubovcak even if they don’t necessarily know the name immediately from his artwork alone – he’s also the vocalist in Monstrosity, Vile, Abraxas as well as a few other past projects. He currently also works on his own project Azure Emote – so clearly this is more than just a hobby or a passing interest for the guy. But getting back to the project at hand, he’s a pretty prolific illustrator responsible for some ridiculously extreme pieces of cover art for bands like Six Feet Under, Sinister, Mortician, Cattle Decapitation and loads more. There’s a very good chance that if you’ve seen a piece of album art on a death metal record that’s grossed you out, that Hrubovcak was the guy behind it. To call his work extreme would be a bit of an understatement.
This forty-page full color book features a LOT of his stuff taken from basically twenty-years of illustration starting in 1996 and heading straight up to the present day. The first page features an introduction from Hrubovcak himself that offers up a quick biography of sorts. From there, we’re off on a pretty crazy journey though his portfolio starting with some less extreme examples of his work, like a piece done for Revolver magazine depicting Nile and Behemoth but as you flip through the pages, things definitely get more intense, and very quickly at that.
Album cover art pieces for bands like Being Killed, Dark Disciple, Mortal Decay, Gorevent, Cerebral Incubation and Laboratory Of Mortuary really show Hrubovcak’s knack for conjuring up genuinely disgusting imagery and rendering those concepts in an insane amount of detail. Not for the weak of heart, these and other pieces represented in the book often depict corpses in various states of both decay and disarray, graphic bodily mutilation, and dark, twisted, sexual overtones. Not all of Hrubovcak’s illustrations will damn your soul to Hell just for looking at them, however – there is occasionally a lighter piece thrown in here and there and in the case of the artwork for Rumpelstiltskin Grinder’s Living For Death, Destroying The Rest album, there’s even some humor (it depicts a giant Cyclops emerging from under the streets of a big city where it battles various creatures and military types). The illustration for Throatplunger’s Weapons Of Ass Destruction is also a good example, as gross as it is (it shows Hillary Clinton in a rather unorthodox pose and in need of a bidet!).
There’s also a lot of what I guess you’d say is dark fantasy artwork in here, pieces that focus less on the in your face gore shock tactics of some of his pieces and more on art that conjures up scenes of wizards in place of serial killers. The piece for Imperial Crystalline Entombment’s Apocalyptic End In White is a good example, there’s not a drop of blood or an aborted fetus in sight but instead a quartet of white robed humanoid figures lunging towards us, the tentacles of some Lovecraftian beast subtly emerging from the background. The Aurora Borealis Worldshapers album cover looks like it was influenced by Stargate and the Six Feet Under Zombie Blood Curse piece looks like it could easily have been taken from a vintage Romero movie.
Alongside the album art, the book also contains a selection of logo designs that Hrubovcak has created for various bands over the years. There’s also a selection of T-shirt artwork here too, but it’s the more intense and completely repulsive pieces that stick in your brain. Pieces like Fecal God’s Thee Flesh We Mutilate, Inhume’s Moulding The Deformed and Chainsaw Dissection’s Zombie Decimation album all really push the envelope, taking the very concept of good taste and flushing it down the toilet. There’s some cool horror movie references worked in here and there, Mortician’s Re-Animated Dead Flesh cover piece being a prime example as it pays an obvious homage to Stuart Gordon’s Re-Animator. The collage style piece for Mr. Death’s Detached From Life piece works in some actual horror movie DVD/VHS covers in the background
Certainly not for all tastes, Hrubovcak’s art is definitely intense and challenging stuff. While a lot of times the actual content of the art, what it depicts, will stop people from admiring it once you can get past the initial shock value and appreciate the technique, it becomes clear that he’s a very talented illustrator. There’s tons of detail in a lot of these pieces, sometimes to the point where it seems obsessive, and the use of color even in the more revolting pieces, is frequently very impressive.
Note that a PDF was sent for review. In terms of the actual physical product, according to the press release “the size of the book is a square 8.5" x 8.5" with forty pages of full-color art featuring two-hundred or more designs. The paper stock is 80# gloss interior and 100# Gloss premium cover stock. This is the final pressing of the book, limited to only fifty copies. A free digital download of The Gravity Of Impermanece - the latest album from Mike Hrubovcak's personal solo music venture, Azure Emote - comes free with the purchase of the book.”
All images used in this review are credited to Mike Hrubovcak and VISUALDARKNESS®.