Feb. 5, 1940 – May 12, 2014
I was all set to write about this year’s Maryland Death Fest, but as usually happens in life, your plans tend to get changed by circumstances beyond your control. This piece seemed more timely due to H.R. Giger’s recent passing.
“Only very creative and very insane people like my work.” – H.R. Giger
My dad remembers the special edition of Omni magazine that had a full spread about “Alien,” which had just come out (1979). At the time, Ridley Scott’s movie was heralded as a new era in sci-fi, and “the magazine of science fact and science fiction” was eager to get on board.
The man responsible for that film’s iconic status, H.R. Giger, died recently at the age of 74–falling down the stairs.
His extraterrestrial creation that terrorized the crew of the Nostromo was reptilian, biomechanical, and insectlike, its long, sleek head and body parts blending in with the exposed piping and machinery of the ship. Though appearing only rarely in the first Alien movie, it appears more and more openly in the sequels.
Nobody really pictured aliens to look like that at the time. Popular imagery had them as humanoid–like Richard Kiel in “To Serve Man” (your grandpa’s Alien, if you will). Now you can create anything you want with CGI.
But Giger’s work wasn’t limited to movies. When I started buying metal albums like Danzig III, Epistera Daimones by Triptykon, and Heartwork by Carcass, I thought the album covers were very similar to Alien. I go to look it up–voila, same guy.
I found other metal musicians who admired his work, too. The cover of Meshuggah’s “Alive” DVD is a shoutout to the movie poster. Samael frontman Vorph plastered his bedroom with Giger’s work to stoke his creative spirit. John Davis from Korn commissioned him to design a microphone for his live use.
Giger’s fandom only grew over the years. In the late 90s he bought himself a Swiss chateau and converted it into a museum, living quarters and studio. Serious fans even opened a bar–yes, a bar–inspired by the Alien sets. “Surreal” is the best way to describe it all–bizarrely elongated limbs in metallic gray-green. Hallways of vertebrae and walls of ribcage, serpentine vaults. You could even describe Giger’s creatures as Lovecraftian in a way. Monster and machine, intertwined into what is now a merciless horror icon.
“H.R. Giger became our mentor, against all odds, when we, somewhat audaciously, first established contact with him some 30 years ago,” Triptykon/Celtic Frost frontman Tom Warrior writes in memoriam. It’s fitting that one of Giger’s last pieces of work, the album cover for Tryptikon’s Melana Chasmata, should have been done in service of one of his closest friends, for the very creative (and only slightly insane) world of heavy metal.
Dead at 74. RIP.
Written by Matt P