Orgasmatron: The Heavy Metal Art of Joe Petagno

By Laura Wiebe

Although Joe Petagno’s work reaches far beyond the Motörhead discography, a book highlighting his art seems like appropriate fodder for Hellbound’s Motörhead month. If the title, or Orgasmatron image on its cover, wasn’t enough, the foreword – in the words of Lemmy Kilmister himself – marks this coffin table eye-catcher a worthy piece of Motörhead paraphernalia. And it’s Petagno’s hand, after all, that gave the band’s viciously iconic mascot its unmistakable face.

I came upon this visual delight when it was still fairly new – at McMaster University of all places, and couldn’t walk out of the bookstore without it. Three pages of text introduce Petagno as a man and artist, but neither the words, nor the portrait by Sanne Glisson, are as enigmatically revealing as the nearly-100 pages of glossy artwork that give the book its substance.

Consistent in atmosphere and colour scheme, the works vary more in representational detail. The paintings are almost all darkly fantastical, but while some depict mythic or hellish scenes, a few gesture toward more abstract ideas. The vibe is a familiar one to most any metal fan, most explicitly with examples Petagno’s other record covers (Krisiun, for example, or Sigh). But it’s the Motörhead albums that provide a multi-pane centerpiece, with other pieces interspersed throughout like a recurring motif or reiteration of an underlying theme.

Personal favourite: the least typical of the set, “Foundry of the Graven Image” fuses factory and cathedral in an occult monument to the religion of industrial production. Closely followed by the radioactive glow of “Motörhead: Hammered… the Dull Green Light of the Asura World.”

Foreword by Lemmy Kilmister
Introduction by Steffan Chirazi
Cover Design by Gregg Einhorn

(Feral House, 2004)

Sean Palmerston

Sean is the founder/publisher of Hellbound.ca; he has also written about metal for Exclaim!, Metal Maniacs, Roadburn, Unrestrained! and Vice.