For all of us who love good sci-fi and horror movies, dark art and metal, one of our visionary leaders has left us this week. H.R. Giger died Monday, and the world of black surrealism may never find another artist to replace him. Best known for his work on the sci-fi masterpiece "Alien", there is almost no corner of underground metal or of horror film making that has not been influenced by Giger's own brand of erotic, techno-occultism. Even if you are a fan of all things scary and heavy and are not directly influenced by the man's work, there is no doubt that someone whose creations you do find inspiring has been shaped by his paintings.
H. R. Giger was able to create a completely hopeless world of demonic ritual and overcharged sexuality cast almost exclusively in blacks and greys by combining two completely opposite painting styles. He was a master airbrush artist, which was easy to forget because he always tempered the free flowing nature of airbrush with the cold, defined rigidity of stencils. Whatever "life" there was in his paintings was typically engaged in some type of sex act or demonic sacrifice, was dead or dying, or was some freaky, menacing alien thrown against a backdrop of mechanized static. Simply beautiful!
It has always surprised me that an artist as dark as Giger was so embraced by pop culture. No doubt the success of "Alien" made that possible, though his paintings had already been on album covers for a few years before Ridley Scott's genre changing film freaked audiences out all around the world. But still, it's unusual for someone with such dark, and often satanic subject matter to become chic. There is something immediately arresting about his work. The image above is actually quite tame for him, and it happens to be the wallpaper on my phone. Maybe through Giger we were able to confront some of our own darkest fears. I know that I spent an entire summer scared to death that the monster from "Alien" would devour me while I stayed with my aunt and uncle in Arizona, but once the memory of washing out all of my underwear from that trip faded Giger became one of my favorite artists. I have never worried about fourteen feet tall demons impregnating me while being held in a high tech glass tube, but I do know plenty of people who have walked around afraid that they might be the next demonic seed bearer. Maybe they felt a little better about how that scenario might play itself out after studying some of Giger's paintings.
People who enjoy horror movies and metal are drawn to imagery of the kind he cranked out for thirty plus years. While I don't particularly care for tattoos, many of the coolest tattoos you will see are reproductions of his paintings. The Emerson Lake and Palmer album cover for 'Brain Salad Surgery' always makes it into anthologies of album art, and the cover of Celtic Frost's 'To Mega Therion" is fantastic. I've seen vans that were wrapped in Giger imagery in the same way we're used to seeing Aztec warriors with busty maidens clinging to their thighs while surrounded by wolves. Yes, the Giger version of things is almost always better than the traditional versions. Monica and I are going to see Triptykon next weekend in Baltimore. Since Mr. Warrior and H. R. Giger were so close, we're hoping that instead of canceling the show to be at his funeral the two of them may have had some kind of pact in which they agreed that whichever of them should die first wiould be used in the other's art. If Triptykon show up with a completely motionless second guitarist you better believe I'll be taking a really close look at his face! Same goes for any severed head that may be attached to Tom G. Warrior's prototype H. R. Giger guitar.
The world has just lost one of its more fantastic, dark visionaries. Horror and science fiction fans have just lost one of the most influential figures of the modern era. Before Giger created the monster and set designs for "Alien" most science fiction movies had more of a "Logan's Run" vibe. Before Giger showed us another way to bring horror into our spacecrafts the scarier sci-fi films used the freakish calm of the faceless HAL 9000 to create tension. HAL 9000 was never going to make an eleven year old like me quake in my bed for an entire summer! I have Mr. Giger to thank for that! Without H. R. Giger's nightmarish tapestries adorning album covers, the occasional van and the arms of people covered with body piercings one could argue that the world will be a brighter place. For me, I'll miss knowing that there is someone out there who has tapped into that dark, demonic place so that none of us has to. Farewell, Hans Rudof Giger! We will miss you. Here's hoping that the nightmares you had in this world, and that you so kindly shared with us were far more horrific than anything you'll be treated to in the next.