A lot of bands take for granted how important a solid image is. When a band really dials in an aesthetic that fits its music, it demonstrates a focus that most people tend to ignore. But try to separate the music of Black Flag from the artwork of Raymond Pettibon and it seems impossible. It's something more musicians should consider; even in the digital age, album art is important—and at the young age of 20, Thomas Gray, lead singer, guitarist and founder of Snot Goblin, already has a vital partner in his younger brother Lloyd Gray, whose drumming and visual art help place the band years ahead in the game.

Snot Goblin released its debut EP, Into the Boiling Pot, last Halloween, and it's visually introduced by what appears to be the band's mascot. Like a lo-fi version of Iron Maiden's Eddie, Snot Goblin has their own green creature featured in all of their art, its maniacal grin and witch's hat working to brand exactly what they're selling—a cartoonish splatter-punk collage of horror elements and grave-fresh riffs that all sum up to be one of the most fun metal releases New Mexico has seen in years. The album cover has it all: A foreboding Scooby Doo-esque background, the goblin itself and a noxious green-gas-
gurgling cauldron—the titular boiling pot from which the Gray brothers birthed their monster.

"We draw a lot of inspiration from other bands but mostly from horror movies. We try to stay true to that and weave in our own stories." Lloyd tells SFR. "[The EP is] the kind of a concept album about being born from the boiling pot. We're describing all the ingredients that go into creating this monster and birthing it. Then throughout the songs it's kind of like gathering the ingredients, and at the end it's like the death of it, decaying."

The music is in line with other story-driven metal bands such as Detroit's Acid Witch and Chicago's self-described "murder metal" act Macabre. Like those bands, Snot Goblin doesn't just rely on gimmicks. The songwriting is solid and the tracks are performed well, especially notable given Boiling Pot's home recording and lack of professional production. And whereas potential muddiness is the pitfall to any home recording project, Snot Goblin's material has clarity and punch in a way plenty of metal acts struggle to find even in the studio. Besides, we're talking punky thrashers who would surely suffer under the weight of too much studio sheen.

Take "Path of the Shrunken Heads," a track that starts with a sample from 1971's Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory before vaulting through a carnival ride of breakneck guitar riffs, tremolo-picked leads and demented vocals. Even with the focus on horror imagery, the musicality keeps you grinning.

So how does such a relatively young band have it so together? According to Thomas, it has something to do with the specific type of collaborative songwriting between he and his brother—and it all starts with the artwork.

"Lloyd's visual art really helps us craft the songs," he says. "We'll look at an image and say, 'Dang, we need to write a song about that,' then we'll come up with a track name and add all the concepts into each song. It will eventually tell the story of the image of the album."

While unorthodox, it has clearly focused the band's ideas into something fresh: the creation of visual worlds first, then the creation of a soundtrack to match that unique iconography. Now joined by their older brother Daniel Mapp (also of local metal band Marrow Monger) on bass and friend Zach Vigil on second guitar, Snot Goblin is already crafting new material for a sophomore follow-up.

Catch them on the Southside this week with Denver-based jazz-inflected noisegrind crew Giardia and Santa Fe's recently unleashed grindcore weirdos St. Victims.

Snot Goblin with Giardia and St. Victims
8 pm Friday Jan. 4. $10 suggested donation.
Zephyr Community Art Studio,
1520 Center Drive, Ste. 2.