More Awful Heavy Metal Album Covers
Greetings, and welcome once again to "Veterinarian's Hospital," the continuing story of a quack who's gone to the dogs... oh, wait, sorry, wrong column. Seriously, greetings and welcome to the second installment of Retro Metal Rant's Hilariously Awful Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Album Covers. Once again, we'll be taking a tour through some of the ugliest, the goofiest, and the just plain worst examples of heavy metal album art ever unleashed upon the world's unsuspecting record buyers. You'll see some well known pieces by the genre's heavy hitters, as well as some minor league obscurities that have stayed deservedly obscure. Some of these picks were suggested by readers of our last installment so if you see yours on this list, consider yourself officially patted on the back and given the title of Friend of the Column. I'm sure you're all dyin' to see what horrors await us in our Gallery of Metal Badness so in the words of "This is Spinal Tap" director Marty DiBergi, "Enough of my yackin', let's boogie!"
Iron Maiden - DANCE OF DEATH (2003)
Iron Maiden's Dance of Death, released in 2003, is a decent album that is unfortunately saddled with a monstrosity of a cover. In the early '00s Maiden had a falling out with artist Derek Riggs, who'd been producing "Eddie" artwork for them for the bulk of their career, and thus they were forced to give other artists a whack at portraying the metal icon. For Dance of Death they tapped British fantasy artist Dave Patchett, who was best known in metal circles for some of the truly bizarro covers he'd produced for cult UK doom metal overlords Cathedral. With Patchett on board and a title like "Dance of Death," you'd expect the accompanying artwork to be dark, surreal and creepy. Unfortunately, this computer-generated vision of Eddie as a Grim Reaper, surrounded by half-naked "dancers" in Mardi Gras style party masks, looks more like a scene from Leather Fetish Night at the local roller rink. Apparently the band approved this image before it was fully completed (there are numerous glaring errors in perspective and anatomy amongst the characters, if you look closely), angering Patchett to the point that he declined to be credited for the artwork in the album's liner notes. Considering the reaction from the Maiden faithful to this cover (i.e. "It sucks!"), this was probably a smart move on his part.
Barren Cross - RATTLE YOUR CAGE (1994)
When the Christian metal soldiers of Barren Cross returned with a new album in 1994 after a five year layoff, God-fearing headbangers rejoiced worldwide. The album itself isn't bad at all but the cover - a stylized green "BC" logo that resembles a pair of islands, set against a spacey, tropical computer generated background - looks like it was done in an hour on a demo version of Microsoft Paint. This image would've been more suitable as a logo for a smooth-jazz radio station, not a hard 'n' heavy rock band. Looking at it now, I can almost hear a laid-back disc jockey voice intoning "Heyyyy, man, you're listening to BC101, your source for the smooooo-thest sounds in the San Fernando Valley. Groovy. Now here's the latest platter by Kenny G..."
Megadeth- CRYPTIC WRITINGS (1997)
1997's Cryptic Writings was one of Megadeth's most laid-back, radio friendly efforts and it actually managed to hit #10 on the Billboard charts, despite the most boring album artwork of their long and storied career. At least the band had a good reason for half-assing this one -- the album's original title was supposed to be Needles and Pins, and a photo was shot for the cover featuring a model holding a pin covered voodoo doll. Megadeth mainman Dave Mustaine was unsatisfied with that image (he described it in an interview as looking like "Bjork holding a f**kin' piece of chicken!"), necessitating a last minute title and artwork change. I still wonder how bad the "Bjork" photo could've possibly been, considering that this replacement looks like it was drawn in Crayola by a fourth grader during recess.
Exodus - IMPACT IS IMMINENT (1990)
I'll be honest, in my book the Bay Area Thrash Metal legends in Exodus never really had any great album covers (though the "Demon Baby Siamese Twins" cover of their Bonded By Blood debut does have its juvenile charms), but 1990's Impact Is Imminent is definitely the worst of a bad batch. After three successful underground releases on independent labels, Impact was the band's big-deal major label debut on Capitol Records, and apparently one of the marketing geniuses at their new home decided that it would be cool to portray the band racing down the freeway in a convertible, pursued by a giant pinball. Um... yeah, great idea fellas! From the cover, you'd think that Exodus were a goofy, humorous lite-thrash band, rather than the frenzied, mosh-pit inducing killing machine that they truly were. This cover is further proof that no one at the major labels understood Thrash metal.
Riot - NARITA (1979)
Riot was a New York based band that were once expected to be the Next Big Thing out of the Big Apple. Though they would amass a frenzied cult following (particularly in Europe and Japan) on the backs of seminal early '80s LPs like Fire Down Under, Restless Breed, and Born In America, they never broke through in a major way. Many of their early LPs sported a seal-like mascot creature on the covers who was apparently known (depending on which source you consult) as "Tior" or "Johnny the Seal." On the 1979 album Narita, Tior/Johnny's head appears on a sumo wrestler's body, wielding an axe amidst a field of cartoony looking skulls. If this picture wasn't already strange enough, an airplane is coming in for a kamikaze attack behind Johnny/Tior while Mount Fuji watches placidly from the background. In one fell swoop, Riot managed to make an album cover that is weird, disturbing, and potentially insulting to their loyal Japanese fans. Nice work, guys!!
Squealer - THE PROPHECY (1999)
The German speed metallers in Squealer have a recording history that dates back to the late 1980s but to the best of my knowledge, this is their only album that was released in the U.S. Looking at the cover, it's not hard to see why this one didn't fly off of store shelves. Everything about this cover - from the band's logo to the poorly drawn artwork - a melted candle with a face, whose wisps of smoke reveal a skull and a woman who appears to be saying "Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi, you're my only hope!" - absolutely screams "pure cheddar." The Prophecy is apparently a concept album of some kind, but don't ask me to try to explain its storyline because there are no lyrics on the inner sleeve of the CD, just this mysterious almost-English quotation: "...some people lose their faith because Heaven revealed them too little... but how many people lose their faith because Heaven revealed them too much?" Uh... yeah, OK! Thanks, Squealer, that really clears things up.
Manowar - ANTHOLOGY (1997)
If you're a metal fan, you've gotta love Manowar and their stalwart dedication to playin' nothing but the loudest, most anthemic, sword swingin'est, over the top fantasy-inspired Power Metal out there. Depending on which headbanger you talk to, Manowar is either one of the greatest bands ever to exist, or a prime example of why Heavy Metal has such a bad rap amongst mainstream audiences. I'll be honest, just about any of Manowar's album covers could've easily made it into my Hall of Shame, but this best-of collection from 1997 is perhaps the worst of them all. Nothin' screams "METAL!" like a shot of muscular oil-covered dudes wearing furry loin cloths and other "Conan the Barbarian"-esque acoutrements. If the Village People ever cut a metal album, its cover would probably look like this. Mind you, I actually like and own many of Manowar's albums, but I refuse to allow this one into my house simply because the cover looks like the front of a gay porn video. Perhaps a more appropriate title would've been "ManOporN?"
Grim Reaper - FEAR NO EVIL (1985)
The British metallers in Grim Reaper were compatriots of Iron Maiden during their struggling UK club days, but while Maiden quickly rose to well deserved superstardom, Grim Reaper were left behind and didn't snag a record deal till the New Wave of British Heavy Metal ship had already disappeared over the horizon. Today they're best remembered for the verbal thrashing that their "See You In Hell" video received from "Beavis and Butt-Head." Fear No Evil was their second album and the awesomely bad cover depicting the Grim Reaper crashin' a Harley through a church's stained glass window was not only already dated as hell by 1985, it also appears to have been crafted in colored pencils and pastels. If you've never heard this record, suffice to say that it contains songs called "Rock and Roll Tonight," "Lay It On The Line" and "Lord of Darkness." Oh yeah, originality abounds here.
WET ANIMAL (2005)
Wet Animal was an obscure side project featuring bassist Ron Holzner and guitarist Rick Wartell of the much-beloved doom metal band Trouble, who were broken up at the time that this album was released. Wet Animal's album is actually pretty good; perhaps they wouldn't have remained so "obscure" if their album cover hadn't featured a model that looks like a pre-Jenny Craig Kirstie Alley, walking barefoot in wet sand against a sick looking purple background. Somehow I doubt that this dreary image attracted many potential record store customers.
"My Eyes! My Eyes!"
Had enough yet? in case your eyes need a break, it's time to bring this second installment of "Hilariously Awful Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Album Covers" to a merciful end. Fear not, headbangers, I am still stockpiling deserving candidates for future entries in this Hub series, so if you didn't see your favorite artistic travesty in this column, keep on reading, because it may appear in Volume 3, coming soon to a HubPages near you!!
Thanks to everyone who suggested bad album covers for this article, and feel free to keep the nominations coming in the Comments section below. Till next time, in the immortal words of former MTV doofus Riki Rachtman, "Keep one foot in the gutter and one fist in the gold," and may all your animals be wet, your writings be cryptic, your cages be rattled, and your heavy metal album covers be BAD!!