Making a great album is one thing, but having a great album cover is another. I feel like sometimes album art goes underappreciated, especially in a time where music is mostly digital. Buying a vinyl that has the enlarged album artwork is a beautiful thing to own. Sadly, many people don’t buy vinyl or CDs. Even then, the artwork goes usually ignored with people not necessarily talking about how the cover looks like. Here we will be celebrating bands that do it right. Some of these bands may have an album or two that does not have the best artwork, but their overall catalog is full of beautiful, intriguing, and even brutal album covers that need to be given some love. A few of these bands have nothing but high-quality album covers that are all amazing to look at. The groups on the list are not in any order, so I am not saying anyone is better than the other. I am just looking at bands who get the right artist to create such beautiful pieces of art to go along with great music. Here are ten bands with consistently excellent album artwork.
#10: The Black Dahlia Murder (Metal Blade Records)
The Black Dahlia Murder has been one of the best death metal bands that have formed in the 2000’s. Not only do they make phenomenal music, but their album art is beautifully crafted. The first two albums were great, but the album art was not very interesting. Their album Ritual and Deflorate have a different style than their latest albums, but still beautifully crafted. What puts the band on this list for me is the fact that records such as Nocturnal, Abysmal, Into the Everblack, and Nightbringers all have one to two colors with some black for that added detail. The pure blue from Nocturnal, for example, is beautiful. The albums all have a high level of detail that makes you want to look at it to absorb all of the little details. This holds especially true to Abysmal which is full of details of people getting ripped apart from hellish monsters. The Black Dahlia Murder is one of those bands who will have trouble disappointing their fans with excellent music and album artwork.
#9: Amon Amarth (Metal Blade Records)
The thematics of a Viking metal band like Amon Amarth, it is hard not to have fantastic album covers. With the history of Vikings and Norse mythology at your disposal will make having the right album cover to go with the music should be a piece of cake. With albums such as Surur Rising, Jomsviking, Deceiver of the Gods, and Twilight of the Thunder God to be the prime examples of some of the best album art in heavy metal. Whether it is a firey battle from Surtur Rising or an image of Thor from Twilight of the Thunder God, there is something to look at in astonishment. Having an eye-catching cover will always draw in that curious metalhead who is looking for a new band to dive into. Almost every album in Amon Amarth’s catalog is full of extensive detail such as these albums.
#8: A Day to Remember (Victory Records and Epitaph Records)
A Day to Remember is unique in many ways. Mixing a pop-punk style with metalcore is really interesting and works out in a great way. Another aspect that is quite unusual is their album art theme. Every album features a man who is always facing away, so all you see is his back. The art is always stylized and as of lately, features a lot of detail. The best example being Bad Vibrations that opens up (if you have the CD or vinyl) to a whole lot more than meets the eye. References to previous material in this subway station are littered throughout. The biggest fans of the band would have to look at the album for hours to pick out every little detail. The band’s Sophomore album For Those Who Have Heart is much more simplistic with the man facing away as usual with a bat behind is back. The tan color with the silhouetted man is simple as can be but intriguing. Each album takes you on a different experience with the mysterious man to make for an iconic look to every album by A Day to Remember. Once you glance at a record, then you will automatically know who that it is ADTR.
#7: Cannibal Corpse (Metal Blade Records)
It would be insulting to not have one of the most iconic and influential death metal bands on this list. Not only has Cannibal Corpse been arguably the most influential band in the genre, but they have some of the most iconic album covers in heavy metal. With albums such as Tomb of the Mutilated. Butchered at Birth, and Eaten Back to Life that has brought people so much terror throughout the world. Zombies, disfigured corpses, and deranged killers are all featured throughout the band’s catalog. My personal favorite is Tomb of the Mutilated which shows a man ripped in half eating out a woman who is bound and been butchered. Now that is true metal right there!
#6: Cattle Decapitation (Metal Blade Records)
Cattle Decapitation uses its gruesome and brutal music to provide an important message about how humans abuse animals and the environment. With this, they depict animals in rather positive ways and show humans suffering in the most horrific ways. The Anthropocene Extinction and Monolith of Inhumanity might be in my top favorite album artworks of all time. They are some of the most horrendous and brutal covers that I have seen in recent years. Besides the flashy gruesome bodies depicted in the images below, everything is incredibly well done. Full of detail and beautifully drawn out, well as beautifully as rotting corpses can get. Karma Bloody Karma shows a different side to their artwork by showing something magical of a part man and bull with many arms holding cleavers and knives. The symbolism and message are quite compelling. Not only that, but it is quite different from their other albums that usually show some guy getting ripped to pieces in some fashion.
#5: Job for a Cowboy (Metal Blade Records)
Job for a Cowboy might be a band who have gone quiet for a while, and questions are raised about whether we will get another album from the deathcore group. Despite these questions, what we do have are some stunning albums. Sun Eater can be looked at for hours by how beautifully crafted it is. A ritualistic image showing a woman who looks like she is performing some spell upon a burning city. Every album features a goat skull that has given an image to the band throughout the years. The skull might be slightly shown in records like Sun Eater, but their EPs and other LPs do display the head more prominently. Demoncracy and Ruination are dark and disturbing images that feature the infamous skull. The two albums are much more political by their imagery with the American flag being shown in Ruination or seeing lady justice with the skull on her head. She has an army of police with riot shield behind her as she holds up her scale that holds up some meat. Job for a Cowboy was one of the first deathcore bands that kickstarted the genre and will have some memorable albums to always look back on.
#4: Iron Maiden (EMI and Capitol Records)
Iron Maiden is one of the most prominent and most influential heavy metal bands ever. Not only is their music changed the world of rock and metal forever, but they also have one of the most iconic mascots in the genre. Eddie the Head is featured consistently throughout their catalog. Eddie goes from using a hammer to smash someone to pieces in Killers, to an Egyptian theme in Powerslave, or even in some futuristic world in Somewhere in Time. The possibilities are endless and have always been incredible with each new album. It is impossible not to love the iconic character.
#3: Skeletonwitch (Prosthetic Records)
Skeletonwitch feels to be quite an underrated band in the metal community. They mix quite a bit of different genres but mostly lean into the black metal world. Not only do they have incredible music, but some disturbing album art to go with it. Skulls and death plague each record just like any extreme band would have. The group lives up to their name by having skeletons and plenty of death to be featured on each cover. Breathing the Fire is one of their most brutal looking albums. Burned bodies and skeletons scattered throughout a firey field. At One with the Shadows is the band’s first album and it might be simple, but effective at being disturbing. The gruesome album features a Grim Reaper looking monster with a pentagram on his chest while holding several severed heads. The band has a theme, and they are sticking to it. A new album called Devouring Radiant Light is scheduled to release on July 20 of this year which will be the band’s first album in five years.
#2: The Acacia Strain (Prosthetic Records and Rise Records)
The Acacia Strain is one of those bands who may not be that well known, but they have had continued influence among many groups in heavy metal in the 2000’s. Something I have always loved, especially in recent albums, is their wonderful colors displayed in their artwork that are vibrant and beautiful. Often albums such as Coma Witch and Wormwood feature birds with some other symbols and objects. Or the utter chaos that explodes in your face from Continent. Whether they are going for simple or complete destruction, their albums are always beautifully stylized and well crafted. Almost every record in the band’s catalog is full of color despite being a group that is full of hate and not-so-colorful lyrics.
#1: Rings of Saturn (Unique Leader Records and Nuclear Blast Records)
The deathcore band Rings of Saturn have some stunning looking albums. Each one is full of vibrant colors that are impossible not to look at. With sci-fi horror themes featuring creatures and bizarre planets that are full of detail, you can look at any of their albums for some time and continue to pick out new details. With each album centered on a particular color, they manage to blend other colors to balance everything out to create a beautiful piece of art. Ultu Ulla has beautiful purple and green with a hint of blue in the mix. Another highlight in the band’s catalog is Dingir that is horrifying and at the same time beautiful. The album is full of various shades of blue and green to create something that is pretty to look at while managing to be quite disgusting at the same time. That is quite a remarkable thing to accomplish.
That makes it for this list. What did you think of the albums featured here? Who do you think has some of the best album art in heavy metal? Be sure to comment your thoughts below!