All bands have logos, but for metal bands the logo has special significance, and in fact the trained eye can determine a lot about a band by their logo. Here I will delineate the many features of logos, and how you can tell a good band just by their logo. After all, a logo tells you what a band is all about, if you know what to look for. The following 5 features are key when deciphering logos:
Legibility: A logo which is totally unreadable is a good sign, as no commercial or trend-poser band is going to have a logo no one can read. This is often a feature of Black or Death Metal band logos, though it isn't exclusive. In general, the more unreadable the logo, the blacker the band is, and the more underground they are. Behold some stellar examples:
A fantastic logo that no human being on earth could read unassisted. Not only does it contain all the letters in a bizarre circular pattern, but it forms an inverted pentagram. (That's the logo for Summoning, in case you are a complete poser and didn't already know.) Here's another one:
Awesome, with the spiky letters and shit, which brings us to point two.
Typeface: The best Logos don't even have a typeface, but instead look like they were hand-drawn in study hall. Art-style logos are always better than printed ones. Agalloch have a great one:
That scores on both the artistic and illegibility points. Notice how even without any detailing, it still looks like it was carved into a piece of wood. Here's some more good ones:
Symmetrical and completely illegible, great fucking logo.
Masterful use of spikes to create symmetry.
In hand-drawn logos, there is a division between spiky or drippy. Me, I prefer spiky, but there are strong examples of both. Drippy:
This is perhaps the most illegible logo ever. It looks like rat puke. Awesome.
Please note that there are bonus cool points for logos where all the letters are unnecessarily joined together. Also, major bonus for letters that are made to look like metal:
If you're going to go with an actual typeface and not something illustrative, then you need to pick something cool. Gothic calligraphy is classic, but is not a sure indicator of quality.
Celtic calligraphy is also a good bet, and gets used quite a lot:
Beware the band who just have their logo printed in stupid block-style letters.
A logo that might as well say "This way to the bathroom".
What? Is that a clothing label?
Custom-made for skate-punk jackoffs to stick on their boards. Awful.
A fairly sure bet is that if the logo looks like it was made to be read by stupid people, then the music inside can be fairly assumed to be made for stupid people as well. Not to say that a readable logo is a sign of poor quality, far from it:
Metal letters. Bonus point.
I want this on the front of my car.
See? Readable does not mean crappy, but a plain, unadorned, unimaginative logo typeface is a strong indicator of music with those same qualities.
Symmetry: Symmetrical logos are cooler than ones that are not, and the more weird shapes they have to contort the letters into to make it that way the better. Notice the nice shape attained here by simply reversing one letter:
It must be noted that reversing a letter for any reason other than symmetry is gay and cannot be tolerated. Observe:
Attaining symmetry by dint of malforming letters with long spiky protrusions is definitely the way to go, and the longer and more elaborately spiky they are the better.
So an illegible, hand-drawn spiky logo is the best, especially if you make it symmetrical. But there are other things that can make a logo cool, and a major one is:
Inclusions: Inclusions are designs or elements that have nothing to do with the spelling of the logo, but are just there to be cool. Pentagrams, sword blades, inverted crosses, etc, that are not there in lieu of a letter, but are just worked into the design to help balance it or just to look more bad-ass.
Inverted cross and a "666" worked in.
Pentagram with lightning bolt!
Check out the trident.
These are all examples of inclusions, which are distinct from-
Substitutions: These are letters that have been replaced in the design by something else that either approximates the shape or is twisted to assume the shape of a letter. If there is a snake or dragon in the shape of an "S" or a sword in place of a "T", then that is a substitution.
Note the dragons, also helping to make the logo more symmetrical.
And one of the ultimate logos:
Note the hand-drawn look, the drippy stuff, the severed head, the scythe, and the inverted cross in place of the "T". The only thing it lacks is symmetry, but you can tell just by looking at the logo that this is a cool band.
So there is a simple five-point system for evaluating logos. When looking into an unknown band just add 'em up and if you get 3 or better then the band is at least worth checking out. Some genres, like Funeral Doom, do not go much for elaborate logos, and so they are harder to rate. But this checklist will at least help avoid the cloacal torrent of Stoner and Metalcore shit that has been clogging the scene lately. Also, a last point:
Beware The Changed Logo: When a band changes their logo to something more legible and boring, then you can be pretty sure the music has been changed in a similar direction, witness:
Any band that changes their logo in this fashion must be viewed with extreme caution, as they may have begun to suck the almighty root of all evil, and not in a cool way. And remember, a big logo is a good logo, so an all-black album cover with nothing on it but a hand-drawn, unreadable, symmetrical logo with some sword blades, axes, pentagrams, and an inverted cross in place of a "T" is pretty much guaranteed to be cool.
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