Friday, May 14, 2010

Top 10 Heavy Metal/Hard Rock Album Covers

I spent all of my teenage years listening and obsessing over metal. Then with the arrival of ‘Grunge’, I shamefully denounced the hair spray genre, swapping my denim jacket & cowboy boots for flannel shorts and Doc Martins. Then a few years later retired my flannel shirts for the indie/alternative music scene.

But in the last few years I’ve been rediscovering the music of my teenage years and also how kickass the album covers were. It took me a while to whittle down my list to my favourite top 10. I’m sure I’ll come across a few later and wish I included them, but for now this is my definitive list in no particular order.

Warlock – Triumph & Agony
- Awesome painted cover: check.
- Chrome logo: check.
- Foxy blonde woman in leather being fondled by a demon: check.

Vinyl was king in the 80’s and hard core audiophile metal fans still prefer this format. The beauty of the large dimensions of vinyl covers is you can appreciate the detail and work put into painted artworks like this cover. This would look great on the side of a panel van.

Motorhead – The Bomber
This cover appeals to the plane spotter in me. Apparently there was a slight uproar that an English band would choose a German bomber, a Heinkel 111, over the English Lancaster bomber. Lead singer & bassists defended this decision: “Sure, it’s a filthy memory – but the fact is the bad guys make the best shit.” The scale of the band member to the aircraft is all wrong but I think it adds a comical air to the setting.
The Cult – Electric
The photo of the band is the only weak part of this cover and feels like a last minute add in. Sorry Ian Astbury, I’m sure that is your best raccoon hat.

But metal bands have the best logos, and creative use of typography and i think this cover is a great example of that. Metal band logo designs always seem to embody the nature of the group it is representing.
Def Leppard – Hysteria
This cover design is actually pretty cheesy and a good indicator of late 80’s graphix and that’s why i like it. The album is called ‘Hysteria’ so lets have a badly painted morphing of faces screaming. Overlay it on the plans to the Death Star from Star Wars IV and have a paint splattered album title, job done.

Judas Priest – British Steel
I’ve never understood the appeal of ‘The Priest’ but I’ve wanted to like them based on my fondness for some of their covers, which include Screaming for Vengeance & Turbo Lover. British Steel is my favourite.
This cover couldn’t be any more metal. A leather studded arm firmly gripping an oversized razor blade, all set on a “how more black could this be? and the answer is none – none more black” background. And their logo is just kick ass.

Kiss – Rock and Roll Over
I remember flicking through my friend’s extensive Kiss album collection for the first time and coming across this cover. It stood out in stark contrast to the direction of their other covers, and even other fellow metal groups cover designs at the time (1976). It feels like more of a designed cover then some artistic piece with it’s symmetry and very poppy japanese influence.

Poison – Open Up and Say.. ahh!
For me, this is the quintessential 80’s Hair Metal album cover. Day-glow colours, a Gene Simmons inspired tongue, big hair and a ridiculously unsubtle and misogynistic album title.  

Aerosmith – Permanent Vacation

I love this for the great Sailor Jerry Tattoo inspired illustrations and the way they are placed in a repetitive wallpaper pattern. The red illustrations on black also balance really well with the yellow Aerosmith logo.

Iron Maiden – Somewhere in Time
It would be sacrilegious to not have a Maiden cover in this list. They’ve had some great covers but I guess this one stands out for me due to the fact it reminds me of Blade Runner. It came out around the time I started getting interested in metal, making this the first Maiden cover I came across. It also features one of my favourite incarnations of Eddie.

Van Halen – Fair Warning
This cover

I’ve loved Van Halen from the day I first listened to Van Halen 1. They’ve had a few interesting album covers after their first two releases, with Fair Warning being the standout for me. This cover is a little disturbing, which is fitting for what was hailed as Van Halen’s darkest album. But it wasn’t until I researched this cover that I discovered the complete painting “The Maze” created by the Canadian artist William Kurelek. The painting is a depiction of the artist’s  tortured youth and makes for a very bold and interesting choice for a so-called “hair band”. Then again, as fans of the band already know know, they were always so much more than that.

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