One thing about Mastodon, they are the masters of expressionism from the cover to the guts. Guts is what you get, spread in horrific fashion on their debut full-length Remission. As optically fun as their other album covers are, Remission yields a painful beauty as the horse torches and decomposes in the midst of a dank backdrop. Call this chaotic clash of baroque/rococo-meets-surrealism a pictorial of society's erosion or call it an ode to mankind's capitalist greed going so far deep as to pinpoint horse owners who are forced to put down their animals when they blow a leg on the race track because it's the "humane" thing to do. With songs called "Trampled Under Hoof" and "Workhorse," there's all sorts of interpretations left to the imagination. That's good art, when it leaves a subjective space for the viewer to derive their own interpretation.
Mastodon used no direct concept for the songs on Remission, yet the legend behind this painting by Paul Romano comes from a nightmare drummer Brann Dailor had. Dailor's sister took her life at age 14 (Dailor was 15) and he conveyed a vivid dream to Romano involving his sister with a burning horse and nuclear fallout. In a sense, the album could've been called Repression as Dailor reportedly never really found a way to express his grief (even when part of bombastic noise impresarios Today is the Day), beyond his fill-splashed drumming. Dailor is ranked amongst the most elite drummers in metal today.
Romano, who has done all of Mastodon's covers, has employed a recurring theme of the five earthly elements to thread the albums together, i.e. Leviathan and water, Blood Mountain and earth, Crack the Skye and aether and Remission, fire. Should be interesting to see where Romano goes to round out the Greek table of the five elements with air on the next Mastodon album.