Friday, March 13th, 2009 | musiX
Metal can be summed up in one simple sentence: Dungeons and Dragons meets smut mag meets horror flick meets Marvel Comics. Of course, the music touched on most of these manly topics, but it was the album covers that drew pubescent boys into the seedy underbelly of heavy metal. And back when records ruled, you could get lost staring at the cover image.
It’s a topic that’s no doubt been endlessly written about. Since it’s Black Friday here at The Days of Lore as well as Friday the 13th, I’ve decided to make my own list of worthy heavy metal album covers. Click the covers to see a larger image, at your own risk, of course.
Vulgar Display of Power - Pantera (1992) According to metal lore, it took some 30 takes to capture this photo of Pantera vocalist Phil Anselmo socking a fan in the face. The volunteer was apparently paid $10 per punch. Well. One fan’s stupidity led to one of the best metal album covers ever … and a far cry from Pantera’s early years. I’m very happy to say I’ve only been on the receiving end of a Phil Anselmo hug.
Kill ‘Em All - Metallica (1983) The stark and eerie image is still one of my favorites. The cover of Metallica’s debut leaves a lot to the imagination, unlike the original concept for the original title, Metal Up Your Ass, which had this cover. About as subtle as … well, a large dagger up your ass. The idea for the Kill ‘Em All cover came from late bassist Cliff Burton—sort of sums up the fact that when he died, so did a lot of Metallica’s coolness.
Destroyer - KISS (1976) It would be silly not to include a KISS album. The band was ready-made for the visual aspect of metal. The Destroyer cover was painted by fantasy artist Ken Kelly, who studied under another well-known fantasy artist Frank Frazetta. Kelly also did covers for Conan the Barbarian comics as well as album covers for Manowar, Rainbow and later on Coheed and Cambria. He also painted KISS’ Love Gun album cover. Yes, with this cover the members of KISS remain forever young, even as they continue to tour as old farts in makeup and Spandex.
The Number of the Beast – Iron Maiden (1982) I remember seeing a poster of this and staring as long as I could without people thinking I was weird. I was 10. It scared me. And I wanted to own it. Derek Riggs created the famous Eddie mascot, who has appeared in one form or another on every Maiden album. The Number of the Beast was the band’s third album and first with vocalist Bruce Dickinson. The recording process was filled with bizarre occurrences, including a car accident involving producer Martin Birch and a “religious nutter.” Total damage to his car: £666.66.
Anthology - Manowar (1997) Umm … it’s Manowar. My guess is that the members didn’t have a lot of money for clothing at this juncture in their career. No? They were really proud of their workout routines? Wait, I got it. According to Norse mythology, real Vikings used baby oil.
Sabbath Bloody Sabbath – Black Sabbath (1973) This is a bit creepy. Consider it came out in 1973, and it’s fucking frightening. Artist Drew Struzan, a Portland, Ore. native, also did album covers for some other noteworthy satanic musicians including the Beach Boys, Liberace and Glenn Miller. He’s also done hundreds of movie posters, and became a favorite of Spielberg and Lucas as he created the images for E.T., Back to the Future and all of the Star Wars and Indiana Jones films. Wholesome family entertainment, just like Satan and Black Sabbath.
The Wretched Spawn - Cannibal Corpse (2004) I worked at a record store when Cannibal Corpse got its start with savory albums like Tomb of the Mutilated and Eaten Back to Life. I remember thinking they were pretty ridiculous. Well, those crazy kids really outdid themselves with The Wretched Spawn—little demonic things crawling out of other things all in the name of good ol’-fashioned heavy metal shock value. Comic book artist Vince Locke water-colored the cover, and actually had his tattoo-artist bro ink another CC album cover called Butchered at Birth on to his skin. Cannibal Corpse: Bringing families closer.
Overkill - Motörhead (1979) Just a classic. Joe Petagno created Snaggletooth B. Motörhead, the fanged menace that appeared on all but two of the band’s 19 albums. Petagno said he researched a number of skull types and ended up with some sort of gorilla-wolf-dog combination with over-sized boar horns. It’s as metal as Lemmy … and Lemmy is pretty fucking metal.
Betty - Helmet (1994) I’ve always loved the contrast between the sludgy riffs contained within and the squeaky-clean cover. It looks like a scene from a Leave It to Beaver episode. The cover was no doubt the ’90s’ answer to the excesses of ’70s and ’80s metal. Yes, it’s unlikely we will ever see another album cover dipicting a naked woman writhing in ecstasy atop a giant demonic serpent again. And that’s just sad.