Thomas Cole was an American painter during the long-ago days of the 19th century. His work is rather impressive and is quite in keeping with the taste of the Romantic movement which was sweeping the western world at the time. But what does that have to do with anything I've discussed here?
Among Cole's curriculum vitae is a tetralogy of serial paintings entitled The Voyage of Life. As you might imagine, each painting represents a stage of life--childhood, youth, adulthood and old age, respectively. The Swedish Doom Metal band Candlemass adopted two of these for use as album artwork.
Candlemass adapted Cole's Old Age for use as the cover art for Nightfall, their second studio album. Several songs on the album deal with death, in particular the song "Samaritan," in which the narrator is confronted by angels on his deathbed who will guide him to heaven in reward for his good deeds in life.
Cole's Youth was used as the cover art for the album Ancient Dreams, and it too was certainly an appropriate choice. The ethereal castle in the painting represents the aspirations of man--the dreams, if you will--which, tragically, the voyager will not achieve. The titular song on the album reflects this idea in its lyrics:
Chase the horizons, catch the illusion
Remember the child within
There's no tomorrow just sadness and sorrow
Hold on to the Ancient Dreams
Candlemass considered using another Cole painting--Manhood, from the same tetralogy--for the cover of their next album, Tales of Creation, but bassist Leif Eidling opted instead to use a modified version of Gustave Dore's The Creation of Light, which he remembered seeing in his old family Bible. But when the band did use Cole's artwork, they clearly made wise decisions.