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Cover Story: “Master Of Puppets” Artist Interview

Don Brautigam Pulls The Strings In This Cover Story…

The Painter Speaks on His Cover Art Contribution To Metallica’s First Multi-Platinum Masterpiece.

When the world-class illustrator Don Brautigam sat down to talk about the “Nightmare at Arlington” scene on the cover of Metallica’s 1986 album, Master of Puppets...His first words were: “I wish I could remember more, but I suppose you just stop keeping track after the first few hundred paintings or so!”

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We guess with a resume that included illustrations for the artwork of books by Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and H.G. Wells —not to mention album cover art for the likes of Mötley Crüe (Dr. Feelgood), AC/DC (The Razor’s Edge), and Anthrax (Persistence of Time) — it’s easy to understand why the details of an image Don painted over 30 years ago (completed in December of 1985, to be exact) might be a tad bit, and understandably…fuzzy.

“Don’t go straining your eyes but If you look closely at the bottom corner of the picture, you can see my initials, ‘D.B.,’ in the grass.”

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What Don does remember, however, is this: Sometime in 1985, he was commissioned by Metallica management to create an image for the cover of the band’s third album, a now multi-platinum disc that features such unstoppable thrashing classics as “Battery,” and “Welcome Home (Sanitarium).”

Master Of Puppets would also be the last to feature bassist Cliff Burton, who died tragically in a bus accident just six months after its release.

Despite the presence of a soldier helmet on the cover — an apparent reference to the antiwar track “Disposable Heroes” — Don didn’t hear a single riff before painting the image. “Although it would have been possible to hear it, I don’t recall ever getting an advance recording.”

“But I’d have to say that the helmet did have relation to the song because the bands usually have a decent portion of input for ideas when it comes to image selection. In this case, it worked out well but was certainly not my idea.”

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The work was completed in acrylics using a combination of airbrush and paintbrush — in just three days, while juggling numerous other commercial commissions.

“When you had as many top-end jobs coming in as I did back then, you’re forced to work at a grueling rate but are still expected to produce nothing less than the best artwork,” Brautigam explains.

The finished work was 17×17 inches on an illustration board with a backing to prevent warping. The original was purchased by Jon and Marsha Zazula of Megaforce Records, the label that released Metallica’s 1983 debut, Kill ‘Em All. Today, the artist says it’s one of his favorites. “It leaves a warm feeling in my heart to see artwork that I did over 30 years ago plastered on T-shirts and posters all over the world,” he enthuses. “I hope it has something to do with the painting and not just the popularity of the band!”

Metallica – Master Of Puppets [Full Album]

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