Monday, 21 September 2009

GCT - ‘Black Holes and Revelations’ Cover Analysis

Artist: Muse
Album: Black Holes and Revelations

I have chosen to analyse the album cover ‘Black Holes and Revelations’ by Muse. I chose this album cover because it caught my eye as it was packed with semiotics and therefore it would be interpreted differently by different audiences. As it was in the same genre as my chosen track for my own music video I believed it would be very useful to gain a greater understanding of the genres artwork for when I have to create my own. This would also help me understand the use of semiotics in imagery

The album cover consists of four men sitting round a table which has horses on whilst on the planet Mars, this quirky situation signifies that the cover is part of something a bit alternative and from that the genre is clearly evident as indie. The artist’s are not shown on the cover showing that the artist’s are indie due to this being a convention of the indie genre. The reason that they do not show themselves on their cover art is because they want to prove a point that they are more about the music than their image and this separates them from other genres of music, making the album cover key for consumers identifying the genre. The outfits are also a key for the identification of the genre; this is because two of the men sitting at the table are wearing clothing with a repeating pattern on it. This repeating pattern is shown throughout the indie fan base and indie artists on MTV and other music channels, this makes it a modern convention of the indie genre and therefore identifiable as ‘indie’. Because indie consumers are normally focused consumers they need original, interesting and cleaver content, because of this the album cover adopts a incoherence by showing Mars, the four men wearing elaborate clothing and the horses on the table which are all seemingly random things to make it interesting for this target audience, this is another example of how the genre is evident.

Many visual techniques are used on the cover to connote and denote different things or just to comply with the common conventions of the genre. Firstly, the rule of thirds is clearly apparent as the land takes up two thirds of the bottom of the cover and the sky takes up one third at the top. The rule of thirds is also used in the framing of the men at the table who take up the lower third of the shot. This technique is used so that the picture does not look awkward to the eye and is easier to look at. Furthermore, the ground is bright orange whilst the sky is bright blue, these two colours are at opposite ends of the colour wheel and placing them together has been used for the aesthetic pleasure of the consumer. For identifying the band, a more linguistic approach is used, the word: ‘MUSE’ is spelt out in capital letters and in a bold font, taking up one ninth of the cover space, it is positioned on the left hand side so it will be the dominant reading line and therefore the first thing that is read. The word Muse is much bigger than the name of the album so that it will be the first thing to be read and so that the reading path goes from the word ‘Muse’ to ‘Black Holes and Revelations’. This visual technique is vital for the consumer to identify the band before the album. The text is also positioned at equidistance between the edge of the cover and the top, this technique is used for aesthetic pleasure. The texture in the front of the image has been used to denote the rocky baron landscape which the men are sitting in and the red colouration can be interpreted and signifies anger, rage and lust, all of which a very strong emotions. Contrastingly, the sky is blue which is cool and refreshing, being a calming colour this adds an interesting twist to the cover with contrasting emotions. The scene is lit very strongly which says a lot about the band, it connotes that they have ‘nothing to hide’ and are upfront about their music, where what you see is what you get. Semiotics in the cover are used to generate meaning for the consumer. The way in which the four men are sitting in a formal arrangement conveys the message that they are being very seriously, whilst what they are wearing connotes that they are not being serious, this contrast can be interpreted as ideological discourse on a macro level by representing formal businessmen as a ‘joke’. The cover art directly relates to the album name through the scene of mars being shown against the album name ‘Black holes and Revelations’. Pastiche is created by combining the science fiction and the conventions of the indie genre, which are completely contrasting subjects. The album cover could be considered as intertextual because at the time which it came out, Mars was the closest its ever been to the Earth and as close as it would get for sixty thousand years, this would have been useful for publicity and promotion for the band.

The band are represented through their cover art and album title to show their fascination with science fiction and political outrage. The fact that mars is shown on the cover shows Muse’s intellectual competence; this makes their ideas considerable and makes their political views and opinions more weighted and valid. This then creates a deep meaning in the bands album and songs to induce reading in a more analytical way and so that the preferred readings are read. The fact that the artist are not shown on the cover and that there are no material goods or clothing represents them in a certain way, it represents them as more about the music than their image, another convention of the indie genre. It shows them as not about building a meta-narrative purely focused toward mainstream stereotypical values of success which are about ‘what you’ve got’, for example money, clothes and material goods. As the band do not build their meta-narrative to be about their success they use it in other ways. Firstly the album cover is constructed to be seemingly random, but in reality this narrative fuzz creates a meaning for the consumer who believes they have worked out what it is about and this helps form the consumers relationship with the band, creating consumer satisfaction.

The Advert for Black Holes and Revelations is the same as the album cover and therefore I have covered most of the points about it in my cover analysis. The image has just been made wider and the text repositioned with a bit added which says “Out Monday”. This repositioning of the text has been done strategically so that the consumers follows the dominant reading path straight to the band name and album and then down to the date which the album is out. The Advert was featured in NME magazine but was located at the bottom of the page on the right hand side. This is a cheaper part of the page because it is the last place a reader will look as it is last along the dominant reading path. The way in which the band just use their album cover as an advert and do not show themselves in it comply with the conventions of the indie genre where it is more about the music than the band’s image. This also creates more of an enigma which entices the consumer to find out more about the band and that way lures them into focused consuming. This can also be looked at in conjunction with Dyer’s theory on ‘Stars’ where the consumer buys into thinking they have ‘worked out’ the advertisement and helps them form more of a relationship with the band.


  1. Well done - a very perceptive analysis.

    Level 4

  2. Good advert, conceptual, just as ours is going to need to be to convey our particular band image. Will have to be more sketchy or cartoony though.

  3. Look more into symbology to find the answers within this cover. This has nothing to do with the bands identity in the market or the ease by which consumers may identify the genre of music. Look to what appears to be an unfinished pyramid in the background; the eyes on the one mans suits; the symbols on the suit of the man wearing blinders; the mirrors on the man opposite the eyes, and the other in all gold.


  5. ! ur a dumb ass its all about they way things are run behind the curtain every thing that we know has been fed to us by who our government world leaders it could all be bullshit not how it is artistically made that guy in the blinders represents your dumb ass

  6. These are very interesting. I would like to add another point that each of the men probably represent something. For instance, the man on the far left has several religious symbols on his suit, so he probably symbolizes religion, the man in the middle left has eyes all over his suit, which I would imagine symbolizes surveillance, the next guy has a very boxy and shiny suit, which I believe represents technology, and the man on the far left has a golden suit, which probably represents money.

    Great observations btw...