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In my career, I’ve always pursued the premise of choosing the projects I would walk into. That could come from the simple choice and “going to the client” action or by saying yes to great opportunities that came to light. To work with musicians is very fulfilling. It has a wide common ground in composition with painting. I`m also a die-hard metal head, so painting album artwork is just both comfortable and fulfilling. I started working for all kinds of bands, trying not to fit a style since I love to hear all kinds of music, but to focus on the composition to attain any level or sort of feeling necessary to make it work. From Death Metal to Sleaze, from Power Metal to Progressive, I’ve been fortunate to exercise my creative brain-muscles in a way that has brought many fulfilling projects. And this is one of my favorites. I hope you enjoy it!

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Pain of Salvation

Pain of Salvation is today one of the most influential Progressive Metal bands in the world. Created by Daniel Gildenlöw (lead vocals, lead guitar), in 1984. It sets its lyrical pieces in an evolution of human emotions and turbulent stories, creating an unpredictable harmony of notes and concepts that float between the faces of good and evil in a raw and philosophical display with yet a beautiful and fluid charm. With a vast range of influences and a darkly poetic approach, it has a reputation of being stylistically experimental, with each album following the same premise: philosophical balance and gut-wrenching human experience.

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“I know what you're thinking. I must be the problem here. I think too fast, talk too loud, I barely touch the ground. Yes, I must be the problem here”

I received a peculiar e-mail from Daniel  that had many interesting discussions but one simple basic idea: Panthers Trapped in a Dog’s World. This initial concept was based on the premise that there is a collective conservative mind that gives society its rules of behavior and is averse to change. Everyone should be docile and obedient following a pattern with harmonious limitations. Behave like Golden Retrievers. But at the same time, there are restless minds that on many occasions are forced to see themselves as problematic. Minds that are different, outside the box, geniuses. Panthers. And sometimes Panthers can be a “problem to society”.

I won’t lie. It’s a hard metaphor to conceive and at the same time there was a big personal connection to the subject. Fortunately, Daniel and I hit it off very well and it was an easy task to evolve from this.

“How does it feel to be you? - She once asked me
I said, I feel like a panther trapped in a dog's world”

I think I should let the artists describe for themselves:

This album is for you, or someone you know.
It is for the restless, the shy, the motormouths, the passionate, the ones who go far beyond the point of reason for what you believe in, the outsiders, the diagnosed, the medicated, the hungry, the sad, the ones walking around daily trying to understand how to fit in with this species, with this era.
It's for everyone who always had problems sitting still in the classroom, or who never really knew how to speak up. The daydreamers, the relentlessly curious, the comedians, the inexplicably angry.
This is your album. Because you, my friend, are a panther. And you are a valued member of the Full Throttle Tribe. Ladies and gentlemen, rev your engines, the world is about to get panthered!

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The Job

At first they wanted a comic book artist because there was supposed to be the cover plus seven  illustrations that told a sequence of ideas. My work was both introduced as RPG illustrator and comic book artist since I have a self-published Graphic Novel in the market so it just made sense that we would follow such a path. As we were maturing the idea, it became more of a sequence of paintings resembling an existential view of the life of those creatures in a colorful but dystopian world.

Reference

“I followed you from the sun in my childhood. I followed you through the river to the sea. I followed you where the roads turned to wasteland. I followed you. Now they follow me.”

We drifted between references like Justin Sweet’s Blade of the Sixth Pride, Jeremy Mann’s bleakest urban paintings but what gave us that click was Juan Diaz Canales and Juanjo Guarnido’s Blacksad. The great thing about that comic book is that it brought the appeal we needed to make it relatable, since we could easily drift to a more fabulous and childish manner that wouldn’t be able to give out the message. Combined with these other references we could really be honest and unique with the lyrics. He also thought it would

be interesting to add tension by using some more despair filled paintings as reference, such as the famous painting

The Scream by Edward Munch.

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Exploration and Ideation

The first sketches were an exploration. I wanted to focus on the feel of the pieces and play with shapes whilst thinking of the dichotomy between dogs and panthers. Daniel had some ideas too and we kept talking almost on a daily basis to make something that was both truthful to the feel of the album and had a compelling storytelling. Some of them became extra artwork for the special edition. What was fun is that Daniel had a love for more sketchy vibrant painting styles that really gave me a lot of creative liberty.

Exploration is paramount in this process. Even if we stretch it too far, sometimes you can get surprised by the possibilities.

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Exploration is paramount in this process. Even if we stretch it too far, sometimes you can get surprised by the possibilities.

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Exploration is paramount in this process. Even if we stretch it too far, sometimes you can get surprised by the possibilities.

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Exploration is paramount in this process. Even if we stretch it too far, sometimes you can get surprised by the possibilities.

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The Art

“My generation was fooled to pursue our dreams but
it is not what it seems. You never need what you want
and you rarely want what you need.”

What started originally being a comic book of a different world became an organic concept. It surprised us in a very positive way as we went on. These characters were drawing breath from the music. We could create a whole movie on it. We started off with a few ideas of both of us, and then we chose eight to be the main images.

The Ballerina

The Ballerina

A personal favorite. Ballerinas are some of the most complete athletes out there. The fact that they can make herculean efforts look effortless was the perfect metaphor for what the album meant. Daniel was right on board with it. We started a bit too colorful but in the end it ended in a darker and more soothing atmosphere.

The Bluesman

The Bluesman

Melancholy is a big part of any artist’s life and it would be an understatement to say in a world of retrievers there would be panther artists everywhere. I really focused on his expression

The Pill

The Pill

This one originated from the meeting idea that Daniel wanted, and became this sad and powerful image. The pills that make you become what they want, that you willingly take to “be better”.

The Parkour

The Parkour

We added this one in order to reflect the difference between species. Not only by their prowesses but also the idea that they had a rogue feeling to them. They would not touch the ground as “normal people” would. It's a way of showing both rebellious and free sides of the panthers.

The Riot

The Riot

We had to be especially careful with this one. We wanted the panthers to be unhappy with society and talking, getting together, but we didn’t want this to raise any flare for political inclinations and misconceptions with the audience since it was never the focus.

The Rain

The Rain

The Rain falling on the shoulders of this reflexive being. I think staying in the rain as everybody uses their umbrellas is pretty powerful and gave birth to the concept I thought of for the final version of the cover.

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One Last Thing. Panther Band!

It came up as a later idea but they asked me to conceptualize the band into panthers for the traditional band photo of the album. Personally it was a challenge to anthropomorphize the fellas but I like a good challenge.

The Cover

“I can see that you're trying to understand. Make it to the top or just take it to the tip of my hand”

We kept experimenting with this part. We were striving for the emotional, so I decided to take things a bit to the more Iconic side, trying to depict the minds of the panthers and their dreams rather than just focus on a situation. It would resonate with the early concept of the comic book but keep musical in a sense.

I won't lie. This winged dude in chains was a favorite of mine. But it looked too metal for Daniel.

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I wanted to aggravate the notion of a fragmented ego. We understand it as that bad part of us that speaks in absolutes, characteristically selfish. But in a broader view it’s the very notion of who you really are in the world, your identity. It turned out as a wild creature caged by society's rules. A broken sense of self.

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These almost made the cut, but there was a bit of worry that a straightforward image could become generic and lose its strength to the audience. But the mandala really was a favorite since it promoted an existentialist sense of self. In the end it was incorporated to the album as the background for the case, the front faced panther was cut and put into the Main CD and the “tar panther” painting became the adornment for the Bonus CD. It had a transparency so it got a pretty neat effect.

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I won't lie. This winged dude in chains was a favorite of mine. But it looked too metal for Daniel.

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Symbols and Design

Daniel manifested an interest that the work should follow a new identity to Pain of Salvation in two sides. One, a symbol that

he created that he wanted to give some sense of evolution to and incorporate it in this album in a new version. It was first manifested

on the album In The Passing Light Of Day.

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The Chosen One

“I have left you in the rain again. You're still hoping for me to change again. For how long can you wait?”

Finally we got to the decision. It was somewhat of a happy accident. I had listened to some of the songs while he was figuring the last touches and one just caught my soul in both senses of rhythm and composition. The wave of the inner thoughts running through the panther moving while the rain fell on his back. The sense of weight and the idea that the world around him was not only made of obedient and happy dogs, but they were kind of shallow, almost ghost-like.

Lyric Video

After we finished the production, I was asked to help with the production of a lyric video for the band with the song Panther in it. I called my good friend, Felipe Rolli and fortunately they were very interested in his work. We took all the illustrations I worked on and managed to make them come to life in this awesome clip. Check it out!

Merch and Goodies

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Special Thanks

I`d like to thank Daniel Gildenlöw, Rob Palmen, Pain of Salvation and everyone at Glassvile, Sony Music and Inside Out for this great opportunity. For me art is a single thing, regardless of media, and being able to mix images and sounds not only by making an album artwork project but with this particular band is a great achievement that will always make me incredibly proud.