Rather than just shotgun blast some of the downright hilarious covers out there, I wanted to address those particular pieces of album artwork that really added an extra “x-factor” of “WTF?!” via sexual innuendo, homo-erotic latency, and just plain bad “quality control” with regard to a band’s message.
For starters: Impaled Nazarene, despite having been around since the early 90s, have always been mediocre at best (let’s just be honest). While I can’t blame their artwork for their towing of the line for many years, I’m sure it hasn’t helped - I mean, take a look at 2003’s ‘All That You Fear’. From the first time I ever saw this album art I wondered, “Why would an extreme metal band disgrace the pentagram on the cover with a bunch of severed penises strewn about on it?” I honestly thought it was their attempt at going all “next level” with regard to blasphemy by having rotting penises on their album cover. I thought this for years. Until one day, I actually saw this record up close and took a real good look at it; turns out those are maggots/larvae on the front. Okay, so they’re not penises like I thought, but if the maggots on your album art look JUST like penises that I go literally years without a second thought, is it my bad eyesight at fault or your shitty album art at fault here? I know I can’t be the only one that at least did a double take.
Following right along in a similar example is Kaamos, good ‘ol Swedish death metal with some of that Sunlight Studios sound that I enjoy. However, with their album ‘Lucifer Rising’ I was perplexed to see an otherwise pretty bad-ass looking devil shoving some severed dicks in his mouth. I mean, I knew the devil didn’t give a fuck, but this was surprising. Truthfully, this one isn’t as bad as Impaled Nazarene’s, and I discovered shortly after that it was actually naked bodies he was shoving in his mouth, but for the first few times I saw this cover it made me think of the devil getting down with Saddam Hussein from the South Park movie.
This next one requires some imagination, but it’s great for two reasons: 1) It bags on a Christian band (which is like the consolation prize in my book), and 2) It’s based on a true story. So, take a look at this album art from the band Zao. This is a good example how quality control can save your ass and a load (pun to follow shortly) of embarrassment. The ORIGINAL cover for this album (here's where you use your imagination) had a lot more of the white drips from the top of the head and off the Zao logo (you can see a couple white drips around the ‘Z’ and the ‘A’). So increase the amount of white drips, but also make the tie this character is wearing about one-and-a-half to twice as big as you see here and you have… that’s right, a dick that just blew its load all over this person’s face (as a bonus: is this person on the cover male or female?). Naturally, with a lot of album art, this went through revisions till the official version you see here, but still, imagine what could have been…
Gorgoroth – ‘Ad Majorem Sathanas Gloriam’ I can’t be the first person to look at this cover retro-actively with a profound sense of homo-eroticism, can I? It’s like everyone’s reaction when Rob Halford came out, and there was that sense of “ah-ha!” due to all of the writing on the wall (leather/bondage outfits, lyrics, etc.). I love this record, and at the time (as with I think the majority of fans out there) didn’t know Gaahl was gay – I don’t care if he’s gay or straight and I’ll probably follow his other projects he’s in, but in my third grade style of humor when I see this album cover now, with the two men on the front, I think two things: 1) Foreshadowing (like with Halford), and 2) That looks like a monster hickey is being given.
Alright, let’s do a quick lightning round, since I don’t want to take up too much of your time:
Blood Bath – ‘The Fathomless Mastery’ I’m sure the album title plays into the explanation of the scenario on this album cover, but I don’t know what it’s referencing, and let’s just play with open cards here: your album art features 98% naked, old, emaciated men, wearing just loincloths and writhing around each other.
Darkane – ‘Layers of Lies’ You might see a sci-fi themed album cover juxtaposing the abstract relationship of man, the universe and multi-dimensionality. I see a man, wearing leopard print tights, bound with rope, having the universe take a piss in his mouth.
Belphegor – ‘Bondage Goat Zombie’ Here’s a good example of how “less is more” for metal album covers. There gets to be so many layers it’s distracting, you lose your focus/message and in addition to confusing your fans, it just doesn’t look good. Case in point: I shouldn’t have to try and reason with myself if this album art is gross because it’s a male or female goat wearing thigh-high stockings and a garter belt, it’s just gross either way.
In case I get a good helping of flack, let me just say, as I mentioned above, I enjoy these bands, and yes, I'm sure there's a "you see what you want to see" type of joke/comment to follow... But, in any event, can you think of any others to add to the above list?