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The Unused Cover Art of Maruta’s Remain Dystopian

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Philadelphia-based artist and illustrator Alex Eckman-Lawn created the cover for Remain Dystopian, the third album by Miami grindcore band Maruta. Today he shares with us his creative process, as well as unused illustrations for the album. Follow Alex on Instagram at @AlexEckmanLawn, or on his website.

The boys from Maruta have a special place in my dried out, blackened heart. This band was one of the first I ever worked with when I graduated from art school way back in 2007 (or 1865, or whatever impossibly ancient date you feel like filling in here) and I’ve been their art guy since. I was proud to be the artist on Forward Into Regression, heartbroken when the band broke up in late 2011 and genuinely ecstatic when they reformed to sign with my hometown label/crush Relapse Records last year.

Basically, I’m stoked on these guys and was beyond psyched to make the grimy pictures for Remain Dystopian (which is fucking killer by the way). I thought in celebration of the new album, and to selfishly show off some of my hard work, I’d talk a bit about how the art for the album came together.

Dont’ worry, it’s mostly pictures from here on out.

So this job started in pretty much the best way possible, Mitchell [Luna, vocals] said they were looking for an “apocalyptic cityscapes with piles of skulls, bodies, old computers, and outdated technology.” This is pretty much how everything I touch winds up anyway so my brain just about flooded with endorphins right then and there.

You might notice that I get a little bit carried away with all of these “sketches.” I’m like a 6 year old and when I get excited I have a hard time reigning myself in. These are like 80% completed illustrations. Don’t work like me, kids.

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So, this was the first thing I sent over. I like this design but it doesn’t feel enough of a progression from the last album. It’s nasty and decayed, but maybe apocalyptic instead of post apocalyptic. So, as Darkwing Duck said, lets get dangerous.

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I’ll be honest, I was sure this was going to be the cover. Looking at it now, I get why this Isn’t the one we went with, but I had so much fun working on it at the time, adding hundreds of tiny skulls, trash, bodies, old tires, grime, sewers, filth, etc, that I was kind of blind to it as an image. It was like staring into the magnificent, bleached asshole of the sun for 8 hours. Anyway, this isn’t the cover, but we did wind up using a slightly more refined version of it for interior artwork. How’s that for incentive to buy a physical copy?

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Somewhere in the process I briefly toyed with the idea of the landscape literally gushing rivers of blood. I still think it’s a cool concept but I tend to get carried away. This was probably a little too far.

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I’m honestly not sure if this one got used for anything. I dig it but it’s certainly not a cover to me. I like the tiered steps of destruction, but it doesn’t feel iconic enough to represent the album. It might have ended up somewhere in the booklet.

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Here’s a close up of my favorite part of the above draft; the top left, or as I like to call it, the overflowing skeleton slumber party.

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Enough fucking around. here’s the actual cover. I wound up going back in to add some rust and scum here and there, but this one was pretty near finished when I sent it over (again, this is a stupid way to work). You might notice I used the first sketch as a base for this one and built/ knocked down the scenery around it to make things as hopeless and bleak as possible. I like to think of this as the same location but another couple decades later. oh and more skulls, because grind death fuck *ungh*. Mitchell suggested adding those gestapo police silhouettes on the horizon at the top right.

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I thought it was especially brutal and depressing to think that even after everything falls apart and the landscape is reduced to mountains of skulls and dead bodies, the cops are still hanging around to ruin your day. These guys wound up on the back cover and tee shirt as well.

So there you have it, a peek behind the curtain of my ass backwards “artistic process” and the journey to find the right cover to represent the epic slab of deathgrind that is Remain Dystopian. There are a few tracks streaming below, so check those out. It’s a killer album and a worthy next step for an amazing band.

Now they need to hurry up and write another one so I have an excuse to make some more of this stuff.

—Alex Eckman-Lawn

Remain Dystopian is out now via Relapse. Follow Maruta on Facebook.

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