Oakland gore-grinders Impaled clocked in at number one on our recent list of the ten bloodiest metal album covers with their 2001 EP, Choice Cuts. The album cover has become almost mythical over the years, and West Coast Sound got the low-down on it from the band's bassist/vocalist Ross Sewage and guitarist/vocalist Leon del Muerte.
LA Weekly: What inspired the cover for Choice Cuts?
Sewage: I was working a night shift at an online digital photo processing company at the time. People would send in all sorts of digital photos...What really struck me were the home birth hippies who would take photos of the afterbirth. The long hours, chemicals, and hippie bush pushing out crotch vomit coalesced in my head into the image that ended up on the cover.
Where did you acquire the doll that was used for the baby?
Sewage: Toys R Us, where a kid can pick up a somewhat realistic looking baby doll and use it for abhorrent photos... and be a kid.
What exactly went down at Walgreen's when you developed the photos?
Sewage: Normally, when I took such photos, I would always take a few extra on the roll showing that everything was fake and everyone involved was okay. This time, I forgot to do that. I gave them my receipt, and the clerk pulled out the envelope containing my photos. She read a note on the envelope, and set it down while she turned and got on the public address phone of the store and called her manager to the photo desk. As the manager made his way [forward], I reached across the counter, grabbed the envelope containing my photos, threw down a ten dollar bill and ran out of the store.
Were you shocked by reactions to the cover?
Sewage: Honestly, yes. All I could think was that our little Grand Guignol photo set didn't compare to photos of actual dead bodies as seen on Disgorge, Brujeria and Carcass covers, for example. Our cover was a ridiculous satire of the miracle of child birth, desecrating no actual person's death.
del Muerte: I honestly was so in shock that anyone would be offended by what is so utterly hokey and phony looking, that it started to feel like we should be grateful for the controversy.
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Did you at any point say to yourself, "Maybe we are going too far?"
Sewage: The only thing I worried about was being perceived as a misogynist. I think death metal imagery that directs violence specifically towards women is painfully pedantic. While our music certainly has violent themes, I think we do it in a manner directed more toward a cynical take on the state of living; that we are all suffering during our inexorable march towards the grave. I really didn't think a baby doll with apparent seams on its extremities as being any more offensive than Cannibal Corpse's Tomb of the Mutilated cover, which shows a corpse having oral sex with another corpse. Ours seemed sillier.
del Muerte: To tell you the absolute truth, at the time we made that cover I was... totally against it. Not because I thought it was too gnarly, but more because I thought it was too cheesy. The obviousness of the doll struck me as lame.
Earlier this year, Impaled toured Europe and re-recorded their 2000 debut, The Dead Shall Dead Remain. You can keep up with the various music/art-related projects of Ross Sewage at www.doktorsewage.com. Leon del Muerte will be pulling double-duty at California Discord Festival on September 24th and 25th, playing for Exhumed and Murder Construct.