The Most Influential Metal Album Covers
November 21, 2023, 3 months ago
Artwork is an extremely powerful tool, and when it comes to visual representation, having something that stands out amongst the others can immortalize any subject matter. This is true across a huge number of different practices, whether it’s the product design that captures the attention of the nearest shopper, the latest logo design for the biggest sites at Limitless Casino, or an album cover that’s got enough edge. We’ll take a look at the most influential covers on albums, and the unique artwork that some have displayed.
Black Sabbath's eponymous debut album not only lay the groundwork for heavy metal, but it also introduced a visual aesthetic that would reverberate throughout the decades. The artwork depicts an ominous purple light bathing an unknown man in a bleak terrain. The basic yet eerie artwork set the tone for the band's dark and heavy sound, and creating an artwork blueprint within the metal genre that many bands would later follow.
"The Number of the Beast"
The famous artwork for Iron Maiden's "The Number of the Beast" by Derek Riggs is linked with the band's legacy. The cover features the frightening figure of Eddie the Head, a recurring character in Iron Maiden's discography, looming over a hellish environment. The album's colourful visual perfectly complements the album's violent and anthemic tracks, confirming the album as a metal historical landmark. Whilst at the time artwork like this may have received some criticism from certain groups, even today it stands the test of time as a strong visual representation for the band.
"Master of Puppets"
Metallica's "Master of Puppets" is not only regarded as one of the best metal albums of all time, but it also features an album cover that has become indelible in the minds of metal fans. Don Brautigam designed the cover, which depicts a graveyard with tombstones bearing puppet strings, symbolising the concept of control discussed in the album's lyrics. The incredible sound of the album is certainly mirrored by the fantastic artwork that covers the album.
"Reign in Blood"
Slayer's "Reign in Blood" is a never-ending barrage of speed and fury, and the album's cover art reflects that. The cover was designed by Larry Carroll and includes a blood-red background with a disturbing depiction of a skeletal figure. The album's colourful and unsettling picture perfectly complements its harsh musical assault, cementing its place as a seminal release in the thrash metal genre.
"Peace Sells... But Who's Buying?"
Megadeth's "Peace Sells... But Who's Buying?" artwork by Ed Repka is a satirical masterwork that mirrors the album's socially concerned lyrics. Vic Rattlehead, the band's mascot, is dressed in a business suit and carrying a "For Sale" sign on the cover. The combination of corporate images and the rebellious attitude of thrash metal encapsulated the 1980s zeitgeist and became an enduring symbol of the genre.
Whilst the album covers alone aren’t what sells the specific album, it’s safe to say that the artwork associated with the album cover can have a huge impact on how that album is perceived over time. Whether it’s the ability to influence bands for decades to follow, the ability to evoke certain emotions from fans looking at the album covers, or even just something to keep as part of a collection, there’s no denying just how important good artwork covers are for any metal album. It’s a trend that has slowed in recent years with the switch to digital music, but something that many fans hope can come back in the future.