Monday, April 20, 2009
FROM HUMAN SKULL CODPIECES TO ZOMBIE SEINFELD: SELECTED HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE ILLUSTRIOUS HISTORY OF THE HEAVY METAL ALBUM COVER
Hey gang, back from tour with nose firmly pressed to the ol' Illogical Contraption grindstone once again. Trip went well, good shows, no arrests, showers every day (!!!) and no van trouble (pictured above). That being said, let's get back to business.
Today's focus is the Heavy Metal Album Cover. I post pretty frequently on this subject, and for good reason. The topic is a bottomless wellspring of ridiculous imagery and confusing concepts, a veritable maelstrom of ideas running from silly to brilliant. I'm handing out some awards today, commending some of the finest moments in the History of the Metal Album Cover. This is but a small cross section of what the field has to offer, but I hope you enjoy it anyway.
Without any further ado, let's move on to our first category:
MORTIIS - THE STARGATE (1999)
Okay, so maybe Mortiis' goth-tinged brand of John Tesh-esque medieval electronica doesn't qualify as 100% Metal. But let's cut the guy a break. He played bass for Emperor for awhile, so he's at least had some credibility at SOME point. And for fuck's sake, we're talking about a guy with who had the balls to appear on the cover of his own album rocking a HUMAN SKULL CODPIECE (above, left). The cultural impact this act had on both the worlds of fashion AND Metal cannot be overestimated. Mortiis tore down the barriers between good and bad taste for good the first time he strapped that thing on, forever redefining the way people think about Art. He must be commended for his ground-breaking decisions and pioneering spirit.
Second, take a look at his pointy fingers (right). While they may be prosthetic, I for one prefer to think that Mortiis has actually had his body surgically altered to appear more troll-like (that goes for the pointy ears and nose, too). You would think that it would be hard to play keyboard with fingers like that. It isn't. Mortiis is THAT GOOD.
SCOTT COLUMBUS ON THE COVER OF MANOWAR'S ANTHOLOGY (1997)
Scott Columbus' moustache on the cover of Manowar's Anthology truly speaks for itself. Classy, well-groomed, and well-proportioned, this amazing little strip of lip hair is somehow both commanding and soft-spoken. Mr. Columbus is obviously secure in his role in Manowar, in addition to being completely secure in his role in life. Mr. Columbus is a Man's Man, as equally at home pounding the drums on a huge stage with all men playing on ten as he is sipping a fine cognac late at night next to a crackling fire.
Consider his moustache the delicious icing on a big old slab of hot beefcake. Pure class, pure Metal, pure Manowar.
-BEST DEPICTION OF A ZOMBIE CELEBRITY
MORTICIAN - DARKEST DAY OF HORROR (2003)
Wait a minute. Is that...?
Holy SHIT! It IS!
Zombie Jerry Seinfeld made his first and only appearance on Mortician's 2003 drum-machine Death Metal masterpiece Darkest Day of Horror. An explanation was never provided by the band, but in a way I feel as though none was ever really needed. The image of a zombified Seinfeld stands on its own as a postmodern expression of the absurdities we all face in the world, an abstract tribute to the unexplained and the unexplainable that defies contextualization.
Where is Zombie Jerry Seinfeld going? Where did he come from? Mortician isn't telling, and in denying us all an explanation they are in fact teaching us about ourselves. Life lesson learned, Mortician. Well played.
ATTACKER - BATTLE AT HELM'S DEEP (1985)
Do I even need to explain why this is the best logo ever emblazoned accross the cover of a Heavy Metal album? Are you that dense? Didn't think so. Moving on...
-BEST REDUNDANT SELF-REFERENCE (tie)
1) DISMEMBER - MASSIVE KILLING CAPACITY (1995)
Speaking of logos, Dismember got all sneaky by featuring their logo on the same album cover twice. While self-referencing is rather commonplace for many Thrash Metal and Punk bands, a thinking man's Death Metal band like Dismember must take a slightly more obscure route to display their redundancies. While the giant biomechanical warrior on the cover of Massive Killing Capacity is impressive on its own, the real wonder here is the winged-skull/Dismember logo stenciled on the front of its leg.
How did that logo get there? Perhaps one of the members of Dismember (Dis-members?) themselves snuck up and spraypainted it on there while the big guy was powered down, snapping a photo of it later when he woke up and flew into a rage. Or maybe we are being led to believe that this guy painted it on himself, because he's a huge Dismember fan. I, for one, visualize something along these lines when I try to picture a typical Dismember fan in my mind's eye. Raging accross a barren battlefield, guns blazing and chainsaws churning as he rocks "Override of the Overture" on his iPod. Sweet.
BOLT THROWER - IN BATTLE THERE IS NO LAW (1988)
Another triumph in obscure Death Metal self-reference, this time on the cover of Bolt Thrower's debut album In Battle There Is No Law. Again, a great album cover altogether, but allow me to direct your attention to the dude pictured in the bottom-left quadrant. For those of you not familiar with either medieval weaponry OR the Warhammer 40K role-playing game (you poor fools), that guy is holding a diagram of a piece of war machinery called a "bolt thrower", which is basically a big-ass mounted crossbow. It is also where Bolt Thrower got their name from. But let's take a closer look at this ghoulish fellow. He seems to have met his demise due to a large arrow to the cranium. Was this arrow fired from a bolt thrower? The redundancy and self-reference are strong in this one.
And speaking of redundancy, just in case you didn't realize that Bolt Thrower likes to sing songs about WAR, they wrote it accross this guy's forehead. Just in case.
-BEST FUCKING HEAVY METAL ALBUM COVER EVER
YNGWIE J. MALMSTEEN - TRILOGY (1986)
It's like Yngwie somehow got inside my head, distilled my thoughts and fantasies into a tangible, coherent image, and placed it on the cover of his album. Simply amazing, from the fire-shooting guitar to the three-headed dragon.
BEST. METAL. ALBUM. COVER. EVER. PERIOD.
Editor's Note: At the request of I.C. reader Third World Man, here's a link where you can get that sweet Attacker album:
ATTACKER - BATTLE AT HELM'S DEEP
Posted by Shelby Cobras at 1:00 PM