Connecticut prog-metal band Soundscape approached me at the ProgDay 98 festival about doing the CD booklet for the follow-up to their debut album, 1997's Discovery. They were appreciative that I wanted my style of working with a band to be more like that of Hugh Syme or Storm Thorgerson than like Roger Dean- even though I hadn't done a CD before. With that in mind they gave me a test pressing of the CD before they finished the mix, so that I could get a feel for the whole album. Soundscape's keyboardist/vocalist, Rob Thorne, actively described how he wanted the whole booklet to "feel", the image he wanted to project: A society that looked mostly like it does today, but with a slight overshadowing of a technological Big Brother over everything.
The band had already purchased a 3D illustration from another artist to be the cover image, but wanted me to fill in everything else. They sent me photos of themselves and of Times Square, which they had sent their photographer to shoot for the interior pages, to go with the storyline. I combined all of these with elements I created myself or collected from the Web to make the page for each song a kind of illustration-in-miniature of the "story" at that point. It wasn't a true concept album in that sense, with a definite plot that advanced from song to song- just a thematic collection that developed from a negative state to a more positive one by the end.
The individual images are large, to help bring out their detail, so they've been linked to separately.
First Two Pages
I wanted all the pages of the lyric booklet to have these design elements that showed mechanical/electronic equipment, with the lyrics and photos showing up as images on some kind of display screen. The metal structures framing the screens with the images and lyrics were meant to be animated in a multimedia "enhanced CD" section of the album. I got the idea that overlaying them, semi-transparent, over the raw circuit board background would give the impression of a "Big Brother" entity, either man or machine, that was "cool and clean" and "raw and aggressive" at the same time. The barcode numbers underneath each band member is also a repeated theme in the booklet.
Second Two Pages
The first song "Grave New World" of course sets both the mood and the scene for the whole album, and the illustrative image that accompanies it in the booklet does so as well. The band apologized for the fact that all the location photos were in the rain, but I thought that worked better to give the all the images a more depressing look to them, since Times Square still looks bright at night. I intended for the elements overlaying the photos to look like the "Big Brother" entity was monitoring the public electronically. An element that Rob Thorne particularly liked was the lack of private identity, symbolized by the ten-digit number attached to the man as he crosses the street. You can also see "Big Brother" above the Jumbotron in the background. It was my idea to name him/it "The Server", which I thought had a kind of combination Microsoft/Orwellian feel to it in this context.
The illustration for "Digital Lover" is a lot more blatant of course. The reflection in the water on the street gave me a way of showing a stripclub in Times Square without having to use an actual photo of one- especially since their photographer didn't take a picture of one.
Third Two Pages
"Man And Machine" was the longest song, and fortunately it fell in the middle of the album, so I could use the center spread for one big photo for the one song. I'm using the image of the man from the front cover in a 2112-ish manner as the protagonist of the story, the one going against The Server- supposedly symbolized by his raised arm out of the taxi. Too bad the digital model for the man made that arm look more nazi-esque. The reason the taxicab is on the jumbotron is because, in my idea, The Server is showing the hero that he knows where his nemesis is- that's why he's identified on the readout with the red ten digit number in exclamation points.
Fourth Two Pages
"Big Brother" gave me a chance to re-establish what's going on with these computer readout images. It also gave me a chance to show more clearly the slogan I digitally added to the banners on the light poles- "How Can You Be Served Today?", which kind of jabbed at Microsoft's slogan at the time, "Where Do You Want To Go Today?". The implication is that The Server isn't serving people, in reality it's the other way around.
"Age Of Wonder" was too long for me to do a large illustration for, but I still wanted to use the kid.
Fifth Two Pages
"Resurrection" was another lyrically-long song that would have squeezed out it's full-size photo illustration. As the album closer, and the one song with a completely positive feel to it, I felt it was more important to illustrate that song than "Generation Why". This time I pulled my idea for the illustrative elements directly from the lyrics: "...shining through to the blue cloudless skies...becoming something else, not a man, nor a machine..."
So I pulled the rain out of the sky and replaced it with the bright blue sky and sun. The hero has freed himself, and thus become the eagle, which is why The Server is getting static on his close-up monitor- the sensors say the hero is there, but the camera can't find him.
Or something like that.
As I said before, the front cover was a digital 3D model illustration that the band purchased from another artist. I did design the album title logo though. For the back cover, I got the idea to merge a fish-eyed photo of another circuit board with a fish-eyed aerial of a city, which I used to mix the city-as-technology metaphor. I also thought the "No-Turn" symbol that I derived from the Times Square street signs could represent an opporessive technocratic society. My last idea, the"You have a message from The Server" line, sounded so evil to the singer/keyboardist that he used a computer voice to speak that phrase at the beginning of the album.