"some music was meant to stay underground..."

Interview

...And Justice For Art Presents: Look-alike Album Covers, Episode #3 - Lich King Vs D.R.I.

Lich King's "Do-Over" Vs D.R.I's "Crossover": A Thrash homage goes wrong.

American old school thrashers, Lich King, recently announced the release of their new EP "Do-Over." According to vocalist/founder, Tom Martin, the idea behind the recording was to give a second chance to some of their old material. "The first two albums are horribly recorded—I did them myself," Martin says. "The 'when will you re-record those albums' was a question we got often. So this is just five old songs, one cover and a demo of one of the new songs on a goofy EP. No big whoop."

One of the attributes that has always characterized this American band is its irreverent brand of humor. Because of this, it's perfectly to understand their decision of giving the new EP's title and cover art, a sort of postmodern, pseudo-satiric treatment. Taking as reference D.R.I's now-classic recording, "Crossover," Martin created (via digital techniques) a look-alike version of that blue-dominated artwork for "Do-Over." He would opt to feature Lich King's mascot (an undead king) instead of D.R.I's iconic running man present in the original.

Such thing was an obvious joke, aimed to cause a good laugh among longtime fans and newcomers. Instead of this, it has provoked a stir of negative comments all over the internet. As a consequence, the Greenfield-based collective ended up being accused of plagiarizing D.R.I. and has been described with a plethora of expletives.

Given the unexpected situation, many questions arise. Was taking inspiration from a well-known band/artwork, a step too far? Why does this cover have caused such inflammatory reactions? What does the band think about such a backlash? We gave Tom Martin the opportunity of telling his side of the story. Let's find out what he (and the band by extension) has to say...

Who came up with the concept for this artwork? Were you aware, at that point in time, of D.R.I's "Crossover" cover sleeve?

Tom Martin: I did. It came to me while sitting around at practice. We didn't know what to call the EP, and I was thinking of synonyms for trying to get something right the second time. Do-Over came to me, and immediately I thought of D.R.I's Crossover... Was I aware of the D.R.I cover before making something that looked exactly like it? I was well aware, yeah! I just didn't know which one "Crossover" was. I went to Google to check out what the album art for "Crossover" was, because if it was the one with four cards on the front (referring to the album "4 Of A Kind"), I was going to have trouble making parody art of it.

Luckily it was the one with the blue chrome D.R.I icon, and it fit perfectly with a dumb parody of that icon that we made to promote a D.R.I show we were playing on a year or two back. It was a very rapid thing. I went from not having a title or cover concept to having both and knowing exactly what I was going to do within three minutes. Ideas never come together that quickly.

Clearly, this cover seems to be a homage or satire. Even the name of the album (Do-Over/Crossover) feels like it. Is that what you were intending to do?

Tom Martin: Homage is a strong word for it, because it can't be said that I'm a big D.R.I fan. I meant it to be a quick reference to that album cover and title that Thrash people would get, and I meant it to be conveyed with respect, but it's not really hero worship at all. It's just a reference to something everyone who sees it will likely immediately recognize.

Lich King is not the first a Metal band doing this kind of thing—mimicking a well-known artwork and injected it with certain humor. There's for example S.O.D's "Bigger Than The Devil," The Black Dahlia Murder's cover for the video "Fool 'Em All," Cliteater's "Cliteater Back To Life," etc. Why is it that some people is reacting so harshly to this particular cover?

Tom Martin: I'm not entirely certain. I'm always astonished when people react to these things seriously. Every time I put out something that I'd expect people to get, in the same way you'd get a joke or a winking reference or a satire, there's a small but very vocal contingent of dummies that start caterwauling about how dare we do this. It's really polarized people on us, and the shame of it is that even if you explain to that person that it's a parody/joke/satire/reference/whatever. They're now so embarrassed that they didn't get it that they won't allow themselves to laugh it off and come around. They now are a permanent member of the "Lich King sucks" crowd, which now includes black metal fans, fans of other bands we jokingly insulted in a brag-song we did, people that don't get comical bragging to begin with and D.R.I fans. It's sad. If only these people got the surface gags, I think they'd really like the music.

Despite the resemblance with "Crossover", Do-Over's cover introduces some minor modifications on the main character and the skeletons. Can you elaborate about this?

Tom Martin: That's our mascot, he's an undead wizard king. He's on all our covers, usually looking a little more regal and less dancey and shiny. [About the skeletons] that's our mascot on the left and his nemesis the Nucleomancer on the right. They're not alluding to anything more than the skulls on the D.R.I cover, and they're positioned the same ways.

Did you ever expected such a reaction from people?

Tom Martin: I absolutely never ever expected this reaction, or to see such a sour response from the D.R.I guys themselves. "Don't trust Metal people to get the joke" is a lesson I keep learning over and over, and sadly, learning that lesson means giving up and just doing completely tepid songs about hell and thrashing attacks and killing posers and beer and pizza. Songs with boring subject matter like everyone else is doing. A lot of the fans do support the cover, but I think most of them think we're "trolling," and that's not what we're doing either. Trolling is just saying stuff to anger people. I only wanted people to look at it and think "Do-Over. Huh. That's kinda clever," and then go about their day.

If you could go back in time, would you do things any different?

Tom Martin: If I could go back in time... yeah, I think I probably wouldn't have done this. I still think the idea's completely solid, but this reaction sucks. The firestorm is good for promotion but who cares. We'll probably never play another show with D.R.I, and like I said, we've lost a number of potential fans, and all that is a damned shame.

Oscuro's avatar

Ramon Martos Garcia proudly writes for Metal Underground.com, PureGrainAudio.com and other metal/rock related websites. He's the owner of an indie record label and runs a site about Metal album covers, And Justice for Art.

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