Introducing the music of ONCE

File this one under “support your friends”. I’d like to introduce my good pal Lucas Gardiner, aka ONCE. I met Lucas a few years back when we ended up working at the same company and became fast friends. A brother in metal with the same passion for old school video games. And to this day he knows more about gaming than anyone I know.

Lucas is also a crazy good musician. Plays guitar and bass like it’s nobody’s business. But today I’m here to showcase his other musical talent, electronic gaming music. I went to visit Lucas last week and he started playing a bunch of music he had built on the computer and it blew me away. Some are rockin’ and intricate while others are ambient and atmospheric. Some are Contra, others are Secret of Mana. Seriously good stuff, real diverse. Lucas put together a ONCE sampler pack for you to check out:

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And here is a ONCE bonus track for you video game super nerds out there.

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I know there are some independent game developers that hit my blog, so I’d like to angle this portion of the post at you. Are you developing a game and would like a CUSTOM soundtrack to add the right atmosphere to your masterpiece? Lucas would love to work with you. This kind of music is his passion and he’s DAMN good at it. If your interested, drop him a line.

Can’t say enough good things about Lucas and his ONCE work. Guy is brimming with ideas and nods toward that old school, golden age of video games. These tracks take me right back to when I was 9 years old, rockin’ my NES. Signalnoise got your back ONCE.

Sword & Sworcery + Jim Guthrie

I’m a bit late on this one, or early if you consider the post I did on Toronto’s own Superbrothers 3 years ago (link). Last year they launched their first game for the iPhone and iPad, Sword & Sworcery. The game flew under my radar and was suggested to me via Twitter. After a few seconds the thing was being downloaded due to my being a fan of their work for some time now.

I’m not going to review the game or anything, but I will say that I’m absolutely loving it. The ’80s, Commodore 64-esque graphics really hit home for me, bringing me back to my childhood playing all those little adventure games for hours on end. Beautiful use of design, colour and effects, but the glue that holds everything together is the sound and music provided by Toronto’s Jim Guthrie.

I bought and downloaded Guthrie’s soundtrack, Sword & Sworcery EP: The Ballad of The Space Babies and have been playing it all day. In the process of downloading Guthrie’s newest album now, Children of the Clone. Both album covers seen above were designed by Superbrothers.

If you’re looking for a new game that’s awesome to look at, a wonderful adventure story, and is funny as all hell … I highly recommend Sword & Sworcery. Very immersive and wonderful atmosphere. Check out the Superbrothers website and say hello on Twitter. Also, here’s where you can find Jim Guthrie, and his Twitter as well.

The Sword: Warp Riders video trilogy

This post is a bit overdue, but has to be done. You’ve probably heard me talk about my favorite metal band on the blog and Twitter, those heavy rockers from Texas, The Sword. Been a fan of these guys since hearing Age of Winters for the first time back in 2006. Fan for life. Instantly.

The years following I’ve watched the guys explore their own brand of metal, with the raw power of Gods of the Earth (2008), and my favorite to date: Warp Riders (2010). They’re always in my music rotation. Not a dull moment on any of those albums. Just this year I’ve been lucky enough to work with the guys on an official t-shirt for their tour with Kyuss Lives and my poster was used to promote their tours in Australia and Europe earlier this year. Pumped.

This post is to show off their 3 most recent videos, the Warp Riders trilogy. Not only do I love The Sword’s diverse musical ability, but they’re wonderful storytellers diving into myth, legend and in the case of these videos, the cosmic. The videos above for Tres Brujas, Lawless Lands and Night City are in the order you should watch them. They released them in chapters, wonderful bit of forethought right there.

So throw on those headphones, turn up the volume and rock these things.

T-shirt for The Sword

Here we go. On the list of “cool stuff I hope to do during my career as a designer”, this project lands right at the top, filed under “1. Design a shirt for my favorite metal band”. Enter the heavy as hell, talented Texans known as The Sword.

Back in 2006 or something I came across a link to their Myspace and immediately thought “The Sword, that’s a cool name for a band” and decided to give them a listen. I fired up Iron Swan for the first time, which is a funny introduction to the band’s sound considering the fairly long subdued intro. I was sitting at my desk with headphones on, then the song tore into the heavy and almost took my head clean off. Fan for life, right there. No foolin’. Been listening to the boys consistently ever since, throughout their albums Age of Winters, Gods of the Earth and their most recent space epic Warp Riders.

“Man, I’d love to work with those guys someday.” said James, years ago.

Last February I sit down at my computer and a tweet from the band pops up “Hey, we’re looking for an artist”, or something like that. 20 seconds later I had my website link over to them. 2 minutes later I shot over an email. Suddenly I’m emailing back and forth with the guys in my favorite metal troop, developed a poster that was used on 2 of their tours (Australia and Europe), and now a brand new t-shirt the boys will be having on-hand as they tour with Kyuss Lives this fall. So damn proud.

Shown above is what I created for the guys. Total artistic freedom, they let me run hog wild on this thing and offered some helpful tips along the way. You can definitely hear a vast metal influence in their sound so I wanted this design to be thrown back to the roots of metal … way back, talkin’ Black Sabbath days with a twist of The Sword in there. I used their older logo because it just reeks of old school metal. Love that thing. Shown here are 4 different colorways.

Be sure to check out the tour schedule, and watch for this shirt at their merch table and their online store (I would assume). Also, go listen to them. Now.

Small moral of the story. You never know what will happen when you try and chase down those dream projects. Sometimes it’s just an email away.

Album art of Boris

It’s no secret that I like my metal, so I wanted to post a little something outside of the regular Signalnoise content stream. If you’ve been into metal for any length of time you may have crossed path with the Japanese 3-piece drone, sludge, psychedelic rock outfit Boris. These guys have quite a history and seem to put out 100 records a year.

Now I’m the first to say, Boris is certainly an acquired taste. I was introduced to them by my friend Ryan Grant some time ago, at which point I had the “what the hell is this?” look on my face. Noisy, confusing, fuzzy. Made no sense to me back then. But I never stopped giving them a chance and eventually I came around. Now they’re one of my favorite bands, nothing sounds quite like them, and I dig that.

But let’s get back to design. I have to give Boris some huge respect for their album artwork and band identity. They never seem to sit still on a design or theme, constantly re-inventing their look and logo every time they release something. When you hear rumbles of a new Boris album, you never know what you’re going to get. Crazy generative artwork, a beautiful painting, a sombre photograph, hand-drawn something-or-other. Yet it all works, somehow. Coming up with new and wildly different artwork just CAN’T be an easy task. You gotta respect that.

And look at those Boris logos. All different, all awesome. The albums above are just a handful of their releases.

So here’s to you, Boris. Keep building your walls of sound. Visit their Myspace for some musical samples, and check them out on Twitter.

Signalnoise poster for The Sword

Here is something that started as a personal project, kind of. A couple of weeks ago I was sitting at the computer reading some tweets and doing some surfing when my favorite metal act, The Sword posted a tweet in search of an artist. That was essentially as specific as it was so, needless to say I had a message with portfolio link back to them in seconds.

When approaching a new client, or more specifically another group of artists, I always find it awkward simply sending my portfolio as I know the work I do for them will be much more specific. That was the case with The Sword as nothing in my portfolio fit the theme of sci-fi metal, at least not as much as I’d like. So I decided to go that extra step and create a “test” poster to show something in the theme of the band. Heck, I’ve been listening to these guys for 6 years or something, this is a long time coming.

Well, the test poster took on a life of it’s own and I pushed the design through to the finish. Heavily influenced by the likes of Roger Dean and Moebius, I wanted this one to have a very painterly and textured feel and something that call backs to sci-fi novel covers from the 70s with a bit of Heavy Metal magazine in there. A couple of ’80s cartoon references were thrown into the mix as well, Lion-O’s sword from Thundercats was the basis of the style and I wanted the landscape to look like Eternia from Masters of the Universe. All of this influence makes sense if you’ve listened to The Sword’s newest album, Warp Riders.

The concept came together rather quickly, and I moved from the sketchbook to Illustrator to Photoshop within a day. I started just last Thursday. After that it was a matter of adding all the textures, shading and atmosphere you see in the final. The poster has already been sent and seen by the guys and got some very positive feedback. Kind of a dream job. Rock n’ roll!

The overall concept behind this poster: What being was wielding that sword?!

I’ll hopefully be sending this poster to proof this week sometime before getting a full run printed off, with the permission of the boys since it sports their logo of course.

Lord of the Logos, Christophe Szpajdel

Things are going to get heavy around here. If you are a metal head, you might already be familiar with this guy, but for those who aren’t allow me to introduce you to the mighty Lord of the Logos, Christophe Szpajdel. Christophe is a pillar in the underground metal scene, designing hundreds and hundreds of band logos for groups all over the world including the likes of Emperor, where he created their iconic, symmetrical and often mimicked logo.

Some of his logos are unmistakable in readability, while others are cryptic. Some are straight up type while others are illustrated and atmospheric. Some are beautiful while others are macabre. Now it must be said that this style of logo is not for everyone. Being a metal guy I absolutely love this stuff, and the cryptic nature of these is almost a code among metal heads. Think what you will of these, but what is painfully obvious across the board is Szpajdel’s unrelenting command of typography and organic form.

And are you ready for this? All of the logos you see in this post were hand-drawn. With all of our fancy-pants computers today we can’t come close to the conceptual execution Christophe can achieve with simply a pencil and paper.

I selected a handful of logos for this post, but going through Christophe’s portfolio for favorite images is like walking into a forest and finding your favorite branch. Swing over to his Flickr stream to see a tonne of his band logos and photography, and there’s also an interview with Christophe over at Maelstrom. If you like what you see I highly recommend picking up his book aptly titled Lord of the Logos. Thanks to my buddy Fulton, I have a copy right by my side.

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Measurements of Sound: Volumes 01 – 04

Measurements of Sound: Volume 01

Measurements of Sound: Volume 02

Measurements of Sound: Volume 03

Measurements of Sound: Volume 04

I’m going to change the pace today and post about some music. Other then my tangents about metal, things are normally design-related around these parts but one of my good friends and fellow designer, Ryan Grant has been creating some outstanding podcasts well worth noting. If you’re anything like me, you enjoy having some good music playing as you get things done, and I can’t think of a better soundtrack then what Ryan has put together.

He runs a music-related blog called Here to Destroy, where he posts all kinds of interesting articles, videos and yearly music round-ups. His podcast series is called Measurements of Sound and he currently has 4 excellent installments. The images you see above are the digital covers Ryan launched with each release. I highly recommend checking them out, here are the direct links to the ‘casts and the track listings:

• Measurements of Sound: Volume 01
• Measurements of Sound: Volume 02
• Measurements of Sound: Volume 03
• Measurements of Sound: Volume 04

In terms of my own musical tastes, I owe Ryan a lot. We met in graphic design back in 1995 when I was still an 18-year-old dummy, and it was because of Ryan that I took such a great interest in music, specifically of the metal variety. So I can vouch for him, these podcasts are quality. Be sure to check out HeretoDESTROY.com, and say hello to Ryan on Twitter.