My Top 10 Favorite Metal/Hard Rock Album Covers

Perfectly classic.

Nigel Tufnel of Spinal Tap: “I think he is right, there is something about this, that’s that’s so black, it’s like; “How much more black could this be?” and the answer is: “None, none…more black.”

Nuff said.



don't be alarmed now...

#9  DOWN – II A Bustle In Your Hedgerow…
If you never heard Down and looked at this cover, wouldn’t you think of drinking some whiskey, smoking a joint, rocking out to Skynard, Zeppelin, and Sabbath, wrestling alligators in the swamps of Louisiana, and then recording an album in the woods? Yes? No? Either way, another great cover that defines the sound of the band. Zep reference is cool too.



Don't go into the light, Carol Ann (but listen to this album)

On this list because A) It’s a great fucking album (as are most on this list) and B) the original was packaged with a lenticular jewel case–which is a multi-image case–so when you move it around the images change. The inner sleeve shows a map of the west coast, which when rotated, disappears to make Arizona Bay.




Do I even need to write anything?



Sssscccccrrrrrreeeeeeaaammmmmmiinnnnnnnggggggggggg (for all the right reasons)

The popular choice here is usually British Steel–which definitely warrants serious consideration–but I’m going with SFV because it’s just such perfectly executed metal artwork. That, and I used to have this print on a tapestry that hung above my bed.



Paint this!

Took me some time to really think about this: Ride the Lightning vs. Master of Puppets. You could really go with either because both are such classics. In the end I decided by asking myself, “which looked cooler painted on the back of a jean jacket in 1989?”



Imagine skipping through the woods one day and coming upon this scene.

The one that started it all. The grainy, sepia toned photo of…what exactly? Is that the Blair Witch? A ghost? A serial killer from the English countryside circa 1917? This image (I hope it’s not a real photo) sets the listener up perfectly for those opening moments of the album: Rain…Bells…Sabbath!



Galloping beats? Songs about mariners? Awesome album cover? Yep, its Maiden.

I know you might be thinking: How could he not put Number of the Beast or Killers? But to me, the artwork that constitutes the cover of Powerslave is the most intricate and interesting. There are tons of cool hidden gems throughout this artwork, and though it doesn’t heavily feature Eddie, I find that to be the biggest reason why it’s so enduring.



Ouch! That hurt.

Considered this for #1 actually, because it is the one album on this list that truly defines the band. This is what it feels like to listen to Pantera.




The Starman, The Cat, The Space Cadet, and the Chaimster

Growing up there was a neighbor of mine that lived a few doors down from me. He had long hair, played frisbee, smoked cigarettes…he was the cool, older kid. My friend and I convinced ourselves he was Gene Simmons. We truly believed that The Demon Chaim Weitz was living amongst us. One random summer day, my friend and I went up to The Demon and sheepishly asked him, “ummm…are you Gene Simmons?” He looked at us, smiled slyly, and lit a cigarette. He then put it to his lips, opened his mouth, and then made the cigarette disappear inside. He exhaled the smoke through his nose, reopened his mouth and let the cigarette out, smiled at us, winked, and walked away. We were ecstatic!!!!

It was because of this album cover.

Honorable mentions (in no particular order): Judas Priest’s British Steel and Sad Wings of Destiny, Metallica’s Ride the Lightning, Kiss’s Rock and Roll All Over, Van Halen’s Van Halen and 1984, Black Sabbath, well, all Sabbath albums, but mostly Live Evil, Mob Rules, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, Heaven and Hell, and Never Say Die, Slayer’s South of Heaven and Reign In Blood, Queens of the Stone Age’s Rated R and debut, AC/DC’s Highway to Hell and Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, Aerosmith’s Toys in the Attic, Anthrax’s Among The Living, Mastadon’s Leviathan, Guns n Rose’s Appetite for Destruction, Iron Maiden’s Killers/Number of The Beast/Piece of Mind/Somewhere In Time/Live After Death, Mudhoney’s Superfuzz Bigmuff, Type-O Negative’s Bloody Kisses, Megadeth’s Peace Sells But Who’s Buying.



  1. my own ten-best metal album covers would bear quite a resemblance to yours- ‘powerslave,’ ‘master of puppets,’ and the first black sabbath album came to mind before I even opened this link! might I humbly submit the following honorable mentions?:

    sacred reich ‘surf nicaragua’
    the only thing more absurd than the lyrics of the chorus is the literal interpretation of said lyrics that is the cover art

    warrior soul ‘drugs god and the new republic’
    it’s iconic! they manage to incorporate a cross design without looking obviously ‘metal.’ the first warrior soul album is a better record, the the second one has the best cover

    anthrax ‘persistence of time’
    you knew, as soon as you saw the album cover, that this was going to be a different, more ‘mature’ anthrax.

    testament ‘souls of black’
    those things are *scary* looking.

    overkill ‘under the influence’
    jersey represent! I believe this was the first appearance of that weird winged skull thing that goes around shooting lasers, when it’s not appearing on t-shirts with a thought bubble that says ‘fuck off’ or ‘we don’t care what you say’ coming out of itself.

    dio ‘holy diver’
    why isn’t this on your list?

    ozzy osbourne ‘no rest for the wicked’
    like the testament album, I was scared of this album cover when I was a kid, and especially those creepy little girls who came to life in the ‘crazy babies’ video

    queensrhÿche ‘the warning’
    umm… what is happening here? is that a 1,000-mile-wide tarot card emanating two you-can’t-do-that-on-television-slime-colored bat signals into outer space? why is this happening? the ‘operation mindcrime’ cover makes more sense, but isn’t as great

    judas priest ‘painkiller’
    extraordinary! the artist somehow summarizes the lyrics visually. the painkiller rides the metal monster, he does.

    celtic frost ‘to mega therion’
    HR Giger: the impossible link between jello biafra and tom warrior.


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