An album cover is something special, and something that far too many people overlook – especially in the MP3 era we live in. In this era, many people have never been exposed to a full-size album, suffering ignorantly as they squint at a 50 x 50 thumb.
If we’re going on size, vinyl is obviously the best format for appreciating album covers, so it’s satisfying to know that manyalbums get released in the format (probably more so than any other genre). And more than any other genre, the heavy metal album cover is important to the album as a whole. Even when there’s no theme or concept to the album, the cover art often creates one to unify the collection of songs as one.
On Motörhead’s Snaggletöoth., we often mention the cover artist, never stopping to appreciate the work these artists do to help create a whole from the vision of the musicians, and in doing so, some of the best heavy metal album covers. And one of the best metal album covers artists is Joe Petagno, responsible for
Through his years, Petagno has done more than just create some of the best heavy metal album covers; he’s also illustrated fantasy book covers, collectable card games, comics, and much more. He has also designed for Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Alice Cooper, and others. Today, however, we’re going to focus on his Satan-inspired heavy metal album covers. I’m joking, of course, about Satan, but there is a distinctive evilness to the selection here.
On Petagno’s official site, www.petagno.dk, it says that his “paintings never fail to smash the retina like a broadsword to the skull,” and I think what’s here testifies to that statement. (For the sake of avoiding repetition, I’ve tried to include album covers that differ from one another as much as possible.)
No.13 Würzel Chill Out or Die (The Ambient Album)
Given that Würzel (born Michael Burston) was a guitarist in Motörhead, it makes sense that he would select Joe Petagno to illustrate the cover art for one of his albums. The artwork here (and I’m no art critic) is distinctive from the usual Petagno work; it’s softer and more fluid, if that makes sense.
No.12 The Black Dahlia Murder – Majesty
OK, cheating here a bit since this is a DVD and not an album cover, but it’s still kick ass. What I like about his cover is the use of color and the striking contrast between warm and cold. It definitely reminds me of the ‘80s.
No.11 Sepsism – Purulent Decomposition
No.10 War-Head – No Signs of Armageddon
The metal album cover definitely capitalizes on latent Cold War fears, i.e., nuclear war. I love the dual purposes of certain elements on this cover. For example, how the clouds are actually wings, but depict good and evil or the war in heaven.
No.9 Centinex – Reborn Through Flames
Petagno used hot and cold colors again here, but the design of the cover is unique in his catalog. I don’t know what you see here, but I see a 6-barrel, an alter, a demon, a fetus in a womb – or maybe Petagno’s work is getting to me.
No.8 Deiphago – Filipino Antichrist
The Philippines are rich in folklore with many mythical creatures. As such, it makes sense that Petagno would create one for this Filipino band. Whatever it is on the cover, likely some form of the Siyokoy (mermen), it looks fearsome.
The top 7 heavy metal album covers are next… it’s like a whole new list…