Ringworm is a hardcore band from Cleveland, Ohio, that was formed in 1991. They released several demos and splits via Lost and Found Records, Deathwish Inc and Stillborn Records, while their last four albums were released on Victory Records. In 2013, the band announced they had signed with Relapse Records. The result is an outstanding album called ‘Hammer of the Witch.’
The tremendously impressive cover artwork was created by Ringworm’s Frontman James Bulloch. In an interview, he gave insight into the idea and process behind it: “It is called ‘The White Witch’ and it was about a year and a half ago that I curated a gallery show in Cleveland. It was basically all of my favourite black and white ink-style illustrators from all over the globe. That is the style that I am really in tune with, a lot of my work is based on the ink. I put the show together, and that was the piece that I contributed to it. The show was called ‘Life and Death in Black and White’ and we may be doing the second one, so keep your eyes out for that. Moving on, around that same time of finishing the piece, you know I was euphoric with the way it turned out. It was really striking and bold. We were starting to put together ideas for the new record, and I usually do not get involved in the songwriting process until the music is written. There is not too much for me to do until it is time to go in there and scream, so aesthetically and theme-wise it is my job to give ideas about what the new record should look like.
When this piece was done, I knew I wanted to use it for the record in some aspect. It is a pretty bold and striking picture, and it commands a lot of attention. That kind of dictated the name of the album and title track. It all fell together, and we just all felt that we should use it for the cover. We did not even put our name on the front, we just used the artwork to get your attention.”
There are several things that make this artwork stand out. There is the iconic but very detailed style enhancing the dramatic lighting by using dotted shades and bold outlines. The conspiratorial Black Mass light from the bottom creates bright shadows on arms and neck, while hair and decorative frame form a delicate counterweight with softer light and more details to discover.
The cover features several historical references and symbolisms. The title may refer to the Malleus Maleficarum, or ‘Hammer of the Witches’ written in 1486 by Heinrich Kramer, a German Catholic clergyman. The primary purpose of the ‘Hexenhammer’ (the original German title) was to systematically refute arguments claiming that witchcraft does not exist, to discredit those who expressed skepticism about its reality, to claim that those who practised witchcraft were more often women than men, and to educate magistrates on the procedures that could find them out and convict them.
In the background we can read the names of different Egyptian Gods – Thoth, the ibis-headed god of knowledge, hieroglyphs and wisdom. Hathoor, Goddess of the sky, love, beauty, joy, motherhood, foreign lands, mining, music and fertility. Amoun, king of the gods and god of the wind. And Nephthys, goddess of death, service, lamentation, and nighttime. Then there is the moon, the dark eyes crying blood and, of course, the horns – also, if you look closely you will see that the hands are held together by a snake.
I love these kind of covers where you can discover different elements and stories while listening to the music. That way a cover artwork is not just an invitation to buy or listen to the album, but also a visual companion adding background and inspiration to the music while listening to it.