For die-hard fans of thrash, the release of Infidels is a major event. At War were an important part of the underground thrash scenes in the 80â€™s and were well known for the pro-military themes that run through their work.
The thrash trio hark from Virginia and many of their friends and family are in the military. This could explain why one of their songs includes a po-faced recitation of the Riflemanâ€™s Creed, or why their last album (released over twenty years ago in 1987) was called Retaliatory Strike.
Back in the 80â€™s the enemies were the communists. Looking at the cover art for At War it doesnâ€™t take long to figure out what the new menace is. Much has been made of the chorus of Want You Dead:
They want you dead
They want you dead
Open your eyes
And the cover art is as uncompromising, paranoid and aggressive as the lyrics. The artist behind it is Claudio Bergamin, an industry legend that has been responsible for a prolific output of metal covers.
He explains that the album â€œstands for the bandâ€™s values, which are very much America against the Muslim world.â€ While stressing that this is not his worldview, he says that the cover was designed to be controversial: â€œI like controversy and I like to make people angry. I think that is one of art’s functions – to generate dialogue and debate. But this particular work does not necessarily represent my personal ideas and values.â€
â€œThe band wanted something very straight forward; a statement about how war on terrorism is perceived in America nowadays. They wanted to portray their pride on their way of life and how ready they are to defend it against fundamentalist intolerance.â€
â€œI guess because of the nature of the concept, I wanted something very heroic in a classic way. The message is pure Americanism and let’s be honest, most of the material you get on this matter in movies or comic books is cheesy as hell. I didn’t want that; I didn’t want to go Rambo or GI-Joe. I wanted it to be very elegant. So I pointed my art compass towards classic school – artist like Goya, Caravaggio and DorÃ©.â€
It took him several weeks to develop the concept and he jokes that â€œI think Paul thought I’d escaped with the money at some point!â€
The band were happy with the eventual idea â€œbut the character was not right for them: they sent me an email saying: “we like it, but please give the character bigger muscles and long hair”.â€
The cover was produced in London.
â€œI used life models as reference for pose and lighting. The main character was someone my girlfriend knew from the gym and the Muslim warriors are basically my nutcase flatmate Ubaldo Esteban in costume holding a katana for arm position. Next step was painting the illustrated versions of the characters on Corel Painter. I wanted thick brush strokes for it. I painted just four Muslim warriors and just one AK-47 template; I cloned them and slightly varied them on Adobe Photohop to achieve the battalion effect.â€
On the anniversary of the day that initiated the â€œwar on terrorâ€, many will be reflecting on the shock and sadness the attacks caused. This cover is a reminder that for many Americans the tragedy also inspired a galvanising and furious anger.