Amazing album cover art has become absolutely essential to what makes Stoner and Doom so special. Some of the most talented illustrators and creative visionaries have flocked to this scene in particular and made their art the silent heroes of Stoner Rock.
In preparation for this article, I reached out to David Paul Seymour, Digital Illustrator & Painter and beloved Stoner Rock artist, for his perspective on art in this scene. He said, “The amazing part of metal music is that visual artwork and the music have always gone hand in hand and forever will. As a visual artist who’s also a fan of heavy music, being a part of the scene is something that has provided me with indescribable joy over a long many years, and I’m so stoked to be a part of the scene!”
With that as our guiding light, let’s dive in!
The Early Days…
Psychedelic music is sometimes closely related to the general broad term of “Stoner Rock,” and it’s not hard to see why. What’s important here is the typography. Many of these styles are still used today to create that essential Stoner Rock vibe.
Obviously, there was no Photoshop, and many album covers were hand lettered and illustrated, a practice that I am proud to say continues today in this genre. There’s something about knowing the artist touched ink to paper to create the iconic imagery, much like there’s just nothing quite like hearing the needle hit the vinyl. Much like the music of Stoner Rock itself, sometimes it’s the imperfections that really make you feel something.
I’m no stranger to Photoshop myself, and many of my designs include digitally enhanced photographs, perfectly aligned, computer-generated fonts, and a plethora of digital effects, but it’s the rawness of these early covers that certainly still appeal to the Stoner Rock genre today. The way the image is slightly off center, or the lack of consistency in the letters, or the brush strokes you still see in the colors… these are what make the art, as well as the music, “real.” This was art created by a living, breathing human, and given to us to hold and feel as the music takes control.
There are a few album covers that immediately come to mind when I hear the term Stoner Rock. Perhaps I spend a bit too much time on Instagram and see a few too many Sleep memes, but one cannot have a Stoner Rock album cover conversation without mentioning the iconic Dopesmoker. The iconic art we all know and love was actually created for the reissue in 2012 and created by Arik Roper using watercolor and gouache. Arik has also created artwork for Desertfest, Windhand, and more. It’s the desert, it’s cosmic, it references weed… it might be perfect.
Another cover that has to be mentioned is Truckfighter’s Gravity X. Despite the controversy of the use by Stoned Meadow of Doom, (we won’t get into that), this album is simply iconic on its own merit. It was originally created by John Byrne for the comic book cover of Space:1999. Does this sum up Stoner Rock or what? It’s a little retro, a little spacey, and a lot of “I’m running out of fuel!”
Electric Wizard’s Dopethrone is certainly an iconic album, and the cover has become synonymous with Stoner Metal. Interestingly, the cover was created by Electric Wizard bass player Tim Bagshaw’s brother, Tom Bagshaw. Guitarist and singer Jus Oborn actually envisioned the concept as he explains in an interview in 2011: “I came up with the cover idea [a satanic figure getting stoned]. I did a basic line drawing, but it was Tim’s brother who conceived the final version that we used.”
Finally, the Welcome to Sky Valley album cover is so iconic that Kyuss and Stoner Rock fans travel across the globe to take photos in front of the now newly renovated welcome sign in the desert. The photograph was taken by Alex Solca, a photographer of many bands and many more things. This cover really speaks to the scene at the time. This was not staged. This was the desert exactly as it was. This is where they came from, where they played, and what they represented. This is why Kyuss was the real deal. Welcome to Sky Valley.
Just look through Kyuss World’s Instagram feed to see how many fans pose with the iconic sign!
We are talking about Rock/Metal music here, and Stoner Rock is no different. There is no shortage of nightmare-inducing skulls, gore, and violence.
Wo Fat happens to have incredible art for basically all of their albums, but I absolutely love everything about The Conjuring’s imagery. This was created by artist Alexander Von Weiding, who has produced great work for bands in the scene including Rollerball, Karma to Burn, Kings of Frog Island, and Greenleaf.
It’s difficult to pick a favorite King Buffalo album cover, just as it’s equally difficult to pick a favorite King Buffalo album. But for me, The Burden of Restlessness is album cover perfection. Originally painted by dystopian surrealist painter Zdzislaw Beksinski, who passed away in 2005—sixteen years before the album was even released. This album cover sits slightly closer to the “Metal” side of things in most regards, but once you listen to this incredible album, you realize their vision and it begins to make more sense.
One of my favorite artists in this space is Hypnotist Design, the designer behind the LáGoon artwork for Skullactic Visions, as well as art for Ethereal Sea, Hazemaze, Grandier, and more. His use of color, photos, and design elements is consistently executed flawlessly. “For me,” Hypnotist Design says, “the art in the scene is almost more important than the music itself. Something that both catches the eye and that depicts the band’s music that just screams that this has to be checked out!”
As Stoner Rock is often times about expanding your mind and taking you on a trip, good artwork is often the same way. Some art is just simply mind-blowing. Another great thing about this scene is that vinyl has made a massive comeback and holding the art in your hands and exploring the intricacies while letting the music take control is damn near essential.
It is absolutely impossible to mention Stoner Rock artwork without bringing up Steven Yoyada. Steven has become THE go-to artist for merchandise, singles, albums, and everything in between. His style essentially defines Stoner Rock art at this point. The Ape Vermin album cover is just one of an endless supply of work Steven has done in the scene. “You can never go wrong with Steven Yoyada,” says Twin Wizard, a fantastic stoner metal band and frequent client of Steven’s. “Watching him take over the Stoner Rock scene has been truly remarkable and his work speaks for itself. He is a complete pro to work with and always creates your next best-selling piece of art.”
I can’t say enough good things about Lowrider and their latest album, Refractions, and the art is no exception. Illustrator Max Loffler created the beautifully grainy art, but the interesting part is that Lowrider bassist/singer Peder Bergstrand directed the art. Peder himself also created the art for Greenleaf’s latest, Echoes From A Mass, and Dozer’s “Vultures.” Both have great album covers.
One of my favorite albums of 2022, and frankly one of my favorite Stoner Rock bands in general, is Sasquatch and their album, Fever Fantasy. The Fever Fantasy artwork was created by Ian Permana (aka Iannocent), a very talented digital fantasy artist. If you don’t have this record on vinyl, I highly recommend it just for the fold-out artwork of Ian’s. Neon green and pink are probably not your typical Stoner Rock color pallet, but that only makes me love this choice of artwork even more. Think outside the box and get weird.
Some art just completely stands on its own, following no clichés or traditional elements. Just like the out-of-the-box thinking bands in this scene, many of these album covers just cannot be categorized.
The latest Monolord album, Your Time to Shine, features a dead rabbit laying in the grass surrounded by flowers. It’s dark, it’s beautiful, perhaps puzzling, and it honestly sums up this Monolord album pretty well. The photograph was done by an illustrator by the name of Sin Eater. This is not your typical album artwork, especially for a heavy band. In fact, it doesn’t even feature the band or album name.
Fostermother’s latest, The Ocean, featured artwork by the very talented painter Ryan T. Hancock, who’s work you may recognize from album covers for bands like King Buffalo, Robot God, and more. He has a unique talent for using color to transport you to another world that perfectly fits many bands in this scene’s vision.
One of my favorite aspects of Stoner Rock bands is the fact that they rarely take themselves too seriously. Whether it’s tongue-in-cheek or downright hilarious, there are so many bands approaching their music with a sense of humor.
Volcanova’s Cosmic Bullshit cover was created by Skadvaldur, who creates a wide range of artwork for all sorts of bands, many that look much more evil and dark than this illustration of a skeleton gliding through space while batting a can with a tennis racket! Typical cosmic bullshit, right? Art like this is what I love about Stoner Rock. It’s fun and cheeky, all while a cloud of darkness hangs overhead, and it’s straight up out of this world.
Mad Chicken have maintained a “chicken-themed” sense of humor since 2016, but I particularly love their latest effort, Poultrygeist. The artwork was created by Shiron the Iron. It’s beautiful, comic-book-style outlandishness.
The van: A cornerstone of Stoner Rock. You can get laid in it, you can get high in it, you can (usually) get to the next gig in it. Van Groover’s perfectly named Honk if Parts Fall Off captures the essence of the Stoner Rock struggle. It’s a little funny, but seriously, honk if parts fall off.
The Big World of Stoner Rock Art
Of course, the art mentioned here only begins to scratch the surface of the amazing world of Stoner Rock art. There are many more amazing artists not mentioned here, and many more bands that are always seeking out the best artwork to complement their music.
Stay tuned for part two! Let us know your favorite Stoner Rock art in the comments below!