Aesthetic Mess: Crappy Legacy Metal Act Cover Art in the 21st Century

Guys in metal bands grow old. We know that. It’s natural and can’t be helped. Sometimes they continue to put out good music, sometimes they lose the fire that drove them back in the day. That’s fine. We aren’t here to talk about the music. We are here to take a look at some of the terrible, terrible album covers these legends of metal have chosen to grace their recent releases with. Your eyesight goes as you get up there in age, obviously a bunch of them have had their brains fried by drugs, and obviously a few had pretty lousy album art back in the day, but you’d think that, with all their experience in the industry and multiple levels of band members and management to go through, they wouldn’t wind up with these eyesores. Apparently not! I thought about including some older examples like Iron Maiden’s Dance of Death or Judas Priest’s Nostradamus, but there’s been enough lousy the last few years to make my point.

Let’s start with the image up top, the design for Black Sabbath’s 13, their first full album with Ozzy Osbourne up front since the 70s. Boring title to begin with, but man, why herald your long-awaited comeback with what appears to be a crappy computer image? The teaser footage for the album made it look like somebody actually lit a wicker “13” on fire. The final result looks like a crappy Photoshop job. If it isn’t, they didn’t do a good job of making it look otherwise.


Next up, we have the upcoming Megadeth release, Supercollider. Yup, that is about as literal as you can get: a picture of a supercollider. There’s good literal, like the cover for Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying?, with Vic Rattlehead selling off the UN building in the aftermath of a nuclear war. Then there’s this. Even putting it through the Hollywood teal-and-orangerizer and adding lens flare ain’t gonna make a piece of scientific equipment pop.


Speaking of literal, here’s the latest Biohazard. See, it’s called Reborn in Defiance, so it uses an ultrasound. Do you see what they did there? Also note the generic block font and easy Photoshop effect on the letters. Not a group known for their fantastic design aesthetic, but come on – I could’ve put this together, and I haven’t used Photoshop since college. A decade ago.

Anvil hope in hell

Anvil got a career boost thanks to that documentary that came out a few years back, but apparently they haven’t shared any of that windfall with a decent graphic artist. Their covers may have been cheesy in the past, but at least they were painted, giving them a striking quality. While Hope in Hell may also be striking, it’s not in the right way. That’s some Command and Conquer-level computer rendering right there. Again, not a great idea for an album cover, but imagine it executed using traditional media. Way better!


Tankard have had some really lousy artwork over the years, but A Girl Called Cerveza takes the keg. Even considering their reputation as a joke band, it’s hard not to view this atrocity as anything other than kind of racist and most likely misogynistic as well. Combine that with their use of Comic Sans MS for the title and you have a real loser. At least it’s not CG!


Ministry’s Relapse goes one further and has a real human being on the cover, but that’s as far as the good qualities go. The dead-on angle feels awkward, the props look pasted in (and probably were), and that green screen backdrop looks both ugly and out of place. It’s no “dude with a liver on his head.” Pretty shameful for a group that once had a really unique design aesthetic.


Finally, we have… Whatever the hell is going on here. I mean, I get that the sky is vomiting fire on a city that looks like it came from that one scene in Inception and there’s a naked angel lady fighting jet planes, and it’s all orange, but holy crap. Stratovarius’s Nemesis is, apparently, a pretty decent record. You’d be hard-pressed to figure that out from the mess they slapped on front.

So, anyway, this has been a public service announcement: just because you’ve been around for a while (and physical media is on the decline) doesn’t mean you can get away with half-assed cover art. Do better next time.