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Justin Bartlett: From the Underground

A Parallel Planets piece by Julia Escano
There are few worlds these days that barely see the light of day, given how every single detail of humanity has been dumped into the internet. But there are still some, like Justin Bartlett's world, which continue to stay in shadow. It might be the preference of those living in it, or it might be the nature of the world itself: dark, grotesque, and uninviting. Personally I find it an acquired taste, but its obscurity does make it all the more fascinating.


Justin Bartlett, it could almost be said, was born of the underground. Early on in life Bartlett has shunned the norm, finding art classes depressing and "pretty much a joke". Instead, he taught himself the medium of pen and ink, and developed his own style.

The California-native first made waves working with hardcore metal and underground bands such as Kvelertak, Lord Mantis, Gorgoroth, SUNN O))), and Watain. He specialized in occult symbology like goats, skulls, and corpses and incorporated them into intricate artworks which both encapsulate and give a whole new dimension to the underground music scene.

Working with bands, he said in an interview online, gives him the freedom to flex his creativity and at the same time contribute to a world that's such an intrinsic part of who he is. His works have since been on album covers, gig posters, and band t-shirts. As for making a living through musical affiliations, Bartlett admits that he barely scrapes a living through it, which has led him to venture out into other avenues. He has since worked for Swedish fashion brand Anti Design, Creature Skateboards, Converse, Assassin's Creed 3, and even SA Studios Global's film, The Raven, which starred John Cusack.


Looking at his illustrations, it makes perfect sense why he belongs in such a niche community. When skulls vomit serpents, eyes bleed out, and hogs' heads are crucified on half-human half-reptilian bodies, you know you're looking at something the masses wouldn't flock to. Add to that inverted crosses and pentagrams, and you're looking at something legitimately occult. It is a very unfamiliar and a very mysterious world, but a glimpse of it through Justin Bartlett's eyes has shed a very interesting light on an otherwise veiled community.

For a deeper look into the occult, check out Justin Bartlett's website, Vberkvlt. He can also be found on Facebook and Twitter, where it's surprising to see him helming a pretty active (and, dare I say, normal community).

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