From Hell’s Heart-Top 5 album covers

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From Hell’s Heart-Top 5 album covers

Art and Metal have been inextricably linked.  From the early (and maybe current again?) days when Metal fans would make vinyl purchase decisions on artwork alone, to the modern multi-media presentations on youtube promoting albums, artwork has been critical to the success of many bands.   There have been iconic mascots, instantly recognizable logos and fonts and a host of artists who have become households names, at least among Metal households!  There are at least a dozen books dedicated to album cover art or collations of works by artists who create those amazing covers we love to look at.   In a seemingly impossible task some of our staff have picked some (but not all!) of our favourite album covers.  Enjoy! 


This is one of the hardest Hell’s Heart’s I’ve had to do. Pick just 5 album covers out of the 10,000 in my collection? I don’t even know where to begin. I really procrastinated on this assignment. Do I pick ones that are universally admired? Iconic album covers? Do I pick ones that are objectively superior? Do I pick album covers based on my enjoyment of that album?   It’s a tough call. When it was first decided we were going to tackle this topic, I quickly jotted down my Top 5 without even thinking…the first five that came to mind and them a ‘bonus five’. I was surprised what I noted and found a pattern. The pattern oddly enough was circles. I seem to like album covers with circles on them. Who knew?

KINGDOM COME-In Your Face (Polydor, 1989)


Elegant simplicity. A speaker, simple black and white design and a clever tie-in with the album title. And a circle.

WHITESNAKE-Restless Heart. (EMI, 1997)

Whitesnake - Restless Heart
Whitesnake – Restless Heart

Back in 1987 the Whitesnake design team came up the with the circle motif that the band has used a variation of in no less than a dozen Whitesnake releases to date. The European and Japanese cover of Restless Heart is my favourite of the series. I’ve added some bonus Whitesnake album covers to demonstrate the pattern/theme.


RAGE-Black In Mind (Gun, 1995)


Rage has always been about the circles and their mascot, ‘the Soundchaser’ . I could have picked one of a hundred Andreas Marshall covers but again, elegant simplicity, creepiness and circles make the cut.

r4 r3 rage2

MANOWAR-Kings Of Metal. (Atlantic, 1988)


This iconic image by Ken Kelly pretty much defines Metal and has influenced literally hundreds of album covers since.   The iconic hero, undefeated stands tall, a symbol of Metal against the world.

KISS-Destroyer. (Casablanca, 1976)


If there is any cover that panders to my love of the music as well as the actual art is another Ken Kelly creation. This is pretty much the album that got me into Metal (and millions of others) so the art has stayed with me.   Note the similarity to Kings of Metal, my # 4 pick.

Gallery of Mentions honourable mentions. (alphabetically)

CANCER-To The Gory End (Restles, 1990)


Blunt and to the point violence.

DARKTHRONE-A Blaze In The Northern Sky (Peaceville, 1992)


Iconic and the style spawned 1000 black Metal album covers.

DEMOLITION HAMMER-Epidemic Of Violence (Century Media, 1992)


Creepy and effective work by Michael Whelan (full version)

HEAVENLY-Carpe Diem (AFM, 2009)


Those chicks are hot and sex sells. Gores’ (reminiscent of Luis Royo) sexy- fantasy art has appeared on dozens of Metal albums.


For this list I am purposefully leaving off universally loved album covers from the likes of Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Manowar, etc. As well, since I don’t really have a single favorite, this list is in alphabetical order.

1. Amorphis – Silent Waters
Amorphis - Silent Waters
Amorphis – Silent Waters
I loved this art so much that my wife bought a print for me. It now proudly hangs in our house. The darkness of the background and the beauty of the swan, for me, perfectly encapsulate what Amorphis’ music is all about.

2. Bal-Sagoth – Starfire Burning On The Ice-Veiled Throne Of Ultima Thule
Bal-Sagoth - Starfire Burning On The Ice-Veiled Throne Of Ultima Thule
Everything about this band is epic; including their album covers.

3. Immolation – Failures For Gods
Immolation - Failures For Gods
I’ve always liked this cover. Evil demon guy overlooking the hordes of the damned. Metal. Death metal to be exact.

4. Old Man’s Child – Ill-Natured Spiritual Invasion
 Old Man's Child - Ill-Natured Spiritual Invasion
“Evil armoured warrior” is a pretty common motif on metal album covers, but for me, none have done it as over the top as this.

5. Swallow The Sun – The Morning Never Came
 Swallow The Sun - The Morning Never Came
Stark, creepy, and evil; just like this fantastic band’s music.


1.       Iron Maiden – Killers
Iron Maiden - Killers
Iron Maiden – Killers

As a kid walking through long defunct mall record stores like Camelot Records, this vinyl album cover used to fascinate me.  A few years later I would end up owning it and Iron Maiden would become my favorite metal band for the next 3 years.  KILLERS is one of artist Derek Riggs most striking Maiden covers and one that proves that from the beginning Maiden was about the complete package: visuals, music, and merchandise.

2.       Dio – Holy Diver

Dio - Holy Diver
Dio – Holy Diver

Most lists will include this one, and for good reason. HOLY DIVER is my favorite Dio album, slightly edging out THE LAST IN LINE, but the album art on HOLY DIVER is definitely better.  This was definitely an eye catcher in the days of vinyl that are now returning.

3.       Vandenberg – Alibi

 Vandenberg – Alibi
Vandenberg – Alibi

Sure, I wonder, just like everyone what the hell is a crocodile is doing bursting through the ruins of an ancient temple?  Does not matter, this is a kick ass album cover and what is even more impressive is that Adrian Vandenberg himself did the art work.

4.       Helloween – Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part I

Helloween: Keeper of the Seven Keys 1
Helloween: Keeper of the Seven Keys 1

Another old favorite, Keeper was my first introduction to Helloween back in 1987.  The artwork was pure metal that captured the magical feel of the album itself and the fresh music within. Helloween has had other great album covers, but this one still holds a special place in my memories of absorbing the art as I listened to the album.

5.       Megadeth – Peace Sells

Megadeth - Peace Sells...But Who's Buying?

That nuclear fallout cover, the destruction of the United Nations, and Vic Rattlehead posing as the apocalyptic real estate agent.  PEACE SELLS is still my favorite album, nobody sounding quite like Megadeth on this album.  The art work announced the emergence of one of Metal’s best bands after a somewhat mediocre debut album.

Honorable Mentions
1.       Celtic Frost – To Megatherion
2.       Judas Priest – Sad Wings Of Destiny
3.       Death Angel – The Ultra-Violence
4.       Mercyful Fate – Don’t Break The Oath


Megadeth - Peace Sells...But Who's Buying?

Megadeth – Peace Sells…Buy Who’s Buying?
This dark and somewhat disturbing image has always been one of my favorite album covers from my fav Megadeth album.


Iron Maiden – Powerslave
I can’t list my fav album covers without including something from Iron Maiden. It would be easy for me to have a few of them in my list, but I’ll limit it to one, my fav by them – Powerslave.  The hidden things in this art, like many of their covers, plus the Ancient Egyptian theme is excellent.

Yngwie Malmsteen - Trilogy

Yngwie J. Malmsteen – Trilogy
Another cool album cover is Yngwie’s Trilogy. I love how the sky looks and the three headed dragon looks bad-ass. I love all things dragon-related and have since I was little and Mom read the Hobbit to me. 🙂 The addition of Yngwie defending some magical realm from atop his sea-side mountaintop perch adds to the epicness of the art!
Slayer – Hell Awaits
Brutal. Evil. Nothing more needs to be said about this glorious artwork depicting demons ripping shit up.
Testament – Dark Roots Of Earth
 I noticed when looking this over, the running theme for my album cover selection seems to be the use of a lot of orange… So to break that trend, here’s a different one form Testament. I ALMOST when with Practice what you Preach which would of completed the orange theme. I love a lot of this band’s album covers but the killer details on this one tip the scale.

Jarod Lawley

1. Dissection- Live Legacy

Dissection - Live Legacy
Dissection – Live Legacy

2. Megadeth- Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying?

Megadeth - Peace Sells...But Who's Buying?

3. Abigor- Nachthymen (From The Twilight Kingdom)

Abigor - Nachthymen (From The Twilight Kingdom)
Abigor – Nachthymen (From The Twilight Kingdom)

4. Black Sabbath- Black Sabbath

Black Sabbath
Black Sabbath

5. Death – Spiritual Healing

Death - Spiritual Healing
Death – Spiritual Healing