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OpEd

The Face of Metal: Album Cover Artists

The tradition of morbid and complex album covers associated with metal is a hallowed and unique one in the music world. Your band has faces in colorful ironic Warhol fashion to appease your delicate audience? Ha! give me a painting of a robot seated a ludicrous time machine going back to assassinate Jesus any day. Creative artwork that captivate us in that unforgettable record store moment is the domain of metal, untethered by “good taste” or censorship. In this column, I'll be unearthing several of the big names who have been behind the scenes over the years influencing the twisted face of metal music.

Ed Repka

While Metallica may have had the skull-obsessed art of Pushead, Megadeth had the thrash metal mastermind Ed Repka. Ed has been a stalwart of the scene since it's inception and despite the years of intricate and colourful masterworks behind him he is still going strong. His pieces regularly focus on a leering character in the foreground and espouse themes of nuclear horrors, skeletal figures and oppressive political and business power. Out of all the metal artists he is possibly the most prolific, especially in the thrash metal arena; From Hirax to Nuclear Assault, Possessed to Toxik, and plenty of recent bands such Hexen and Austrian Death Machine - all draw the common thread of Ed Repka’s comical madness. Here are some well loved examples:

Ed Repka album covers.
(Pictured: Megadeth - "Rust In Peace", Death - "Scream Bloody Gore", Vio-Lence - "Eternal Nightmare", Municipal Waste - "Hazardous Mutation")

Dan Seagrave

Instantly recognizable in form, Dan Seagrave has been the face of death metal since it exploded from Florida in the early 90s. His first artistic incarnation was an extension of the 80s thrash art, intricate paintings of fantastic abominations and the wretched landscapes of twisted nether-worlds. His later output saw him come into his own style with swirling blade like sentinels and organic temples on frozen planets. Only a cursory look over a few death metal classics will reveal his signature, while his new style graces the likes of Demon Hunter, Devourment and oh so many more.

Dan Seagrave album covers.
(Pictured: Nocturnus - "The Key", Malevolent Creation - "Stillborn", Suffocation - "Effigy Of The Forgotten", Devourment - "Unleash the Carnivore")

Travis Smith

Travis Smith is a name that you will hear a lot of if you pay attention to the fine print of metal releases at all. No, not that Trivium guy - I'm talking about the Travis Smith whose graphic artistry has been secured by 100+ metal acts over the last two decades. Breaking away from the traditional hand painted nature of early metal artwork, Smith's smoky photographic style features forlorn figures drifting in funereal lands, strange disassociation and empty souls. Perfectly suiting the romantic mysticism of bands like Opeth and Katatonia, you will undoubtedly be surprised at the ubiquity of his work.

Travis Smith album covers.
(Pictured: Opeth - "Still Life", Katatonia - "Tonight's Decision", Nevermore - "The Enemies Of Reality", Heathen - "The Evolution Of Chaos")

Necrolord

Next up is the one and only Necrolord. Not only an album cover artist and the progenitor of a distinct style of black metal vision, he was also the guitarist for legendary underground bands Grotesque and Liers In Wait. Formally known as Kristian Wåhlin, his unashamedly epic depictions of frozen fortifications and icy blue, black and white wastelands have been chosen for the cover of many a Scandinavian masterpiece. Without question, his style has been cemented as the popular depiction of the grim northern mountains so often referenced.

Necrolord album covers.
(Pictured: Dissection - "Storm Of The Lights Bane", Emperor - "In The Nightside Eclipse", Bathory - "Nordland I", Sacramentum - "Far Away from the Sun")

H.R. Giger

While most artists on this list are primarily know for their album cover work, H.R. Giger is a name renowned for his extraterrestrial and highly recognizable fine art. Having lent his skills to a multitude of mediums including films such as "Alien" and "Species", Giger's contorted, mechanized and darkly sexual pieces and have shaped the modern perception of alien form. Not only this, but they have been a natural fit to forward looking metal acts with the right contacts. An interesting note is his link to legendary metal figure Tom G. Warrior who has among other things worked for him as a curative assistant. Here are some of his well known contributions to the metal sphere:

H.R. Giger album covers.
(Pictured: Celtic Frost - "To Mega Therion", Carcass - "Heartwork", Danzig - "Danzig III: How the Gods Kill", Triptykon - "Eparistera Daimones")

Eliran Kantor

We've covered many well known examples of metal album cover artists so I thought I'd also take the chance to mention new names who are blazing their way as wizards in the field. Eliran Kantor has been setting a steady pace with album art work and recently upped the ante with likes of Atheist, Testament, Sodom and Mekong Delta making him their artist of choice. With a highly detailed yet conversely abstract style of melting baroque images you are sure to be purchasing many more albums showing off his fine strokes in the future.

Eliran Kantor album covers.
(Pictured: Atheist - "Jupiter", Testament - "The Formation Of Damnation", Sigh - "Scenes From Hell", Sodom - "In War And Pieces")

Par Oloffson

Hot on the heels of Dan Seagrave's strange creations is another newcomer Par Oloffson who produces similar swirling organic and alien forms, among other perfectly metal depictions of zombie hordes and apocalyptic disasters. Prime examples of his work have been displayed by The Faceless and Braindrill, with new examples appearing regularly and almost exclusively in the metal realm.

Par Oloffson album covers.
(The Faceless - "Planetary Duality", Braindrill - "Apocalyptic Feasting", Revocation - "Empire Of The Obscene", Abysmal Dawn - "Programmed To Consume")

I haven’t exhausted my list of metal artists, but I have exhausted my time - if there are album covers you particularly like from these artists, or know of other prolific producers that I’ve left out please do discuss them in the comments below.

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24 Comments on "The Face of Metal: Album Cover Artists"

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Anonymous Reader
1. Scary Carrie writes:

Don't forget the current rage of awesome: Sam Shearon (Rob Zombie, A Pale Horse Named Death)

# Mar 23, 2011 @ 6:02 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
2. Bud writes:

A number of metal bands have used art by the brilliant Gustave Dore (1832-1883). These include Dimmu Borgir's "For All Tid", one of Emperor's EP's (the one with the grim reaper on the cover), and more recently Anaal Nathrakh's "In the Constellation of the Black Widow".

# Mar 23, 2011 @ 7:19 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
3. Jalil writes:

Baizley from Baroness.
Nuff said

# Mar 23, 2011 @ 9:16 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
n0thinghead's avatar

Podcaster/Writer

4. n0thinghead writes:

great article cynic. as usual. i rlly liked the work of Par Oloffson. i love obscura's spacey album covers. idk who does them, but they're amazing pieces of artwork.

# Mar 23, 2011 @ 9:30 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
5. DanielLD writes:

Dennis Dread, Sickness 666, Daniel Desecrator are some of the best guys around in the underground scene, and they are as good as these guys mentioned here, take a look at their work

# Mar 23, 2011 @ 10:47 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
6. R Tenney writes:

Good article Cynic. I agree with poster with Baizley love. Also Romanko for Mastodons stuff among others. I always love J Bannons graphic design on his own Converge stuff plus so much else. He's actually got copycats ripping his work off now.

# Mar 23, 2011 @ 12:19 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Cryonics's avatar

Member

7. Cryonics writes:

I was completely unaware of Necrolord. Magnificent artwork! Ed Repka is a legend and his work never seizes to put a grin on my face. Did you purposely exclude Vincent Locke due to the sole fact that he's Cannibal Corpse's exclusive album artwork artist?

# Mar 23, 2011 @ 4:26 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
8. thePhantom writes:

This was a really cool read! Thanks for posting this! I knew about Ed but all these other guys we're just incredible. As an Artist and a metalhead reading about metal's art cause it truely is. it's amazing artwork and diserves real respect from the art community, thanks for the post!

# Mar 23, 2011 @ 5:30 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Cynic's avatar

Senior Reviewer

9. Cynic writes:

Hey thanks everyone.

@Bud - great call, actually if you look at the Emperor cover I did include you can see Necrolord included Dore's reaper just beside the band logo.

@DanielLD - Glad you're chipping in, especially so bands can read about good underground artists for their work. I know Desecrator along with Putrid has done some cool stuff for Hooded Menace.

@Cry - No just there was only so many I could include! Although your really right - Locke and CC covers are half the reason anyone ever shone a light on death metal.

I guess I should mention that in the age of downloading, how much band artwork still means to fans.

# Mar 23, 2011 @ 7:58 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Rex_84's avatar

Writer

10. Rex_84 writes:

Also, check out Jon Zig. He created album art for many underground death metal acts. He is Suffocation's current go-to man for tats, cover art and t-shirt designs.

# Mar 23, 2011 @ 8:34 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
11. thePhantom writes:

Art means everything to me, sometimes it even helps me find bands I truly like now because I saw there art and wanted to check them out. Part of the reason how I got into Cannibal Corpse back in the day.

# Mar 23, 2011 @ 10:10 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
12. duncan hills writes:

hey cynic, thanks very much for this! i always subconsciously judge an album on its artwork (one of the reasons i still haven't got round to listening to metal church's hanging in the balance) but i never really thought about it properly. really interesting stuff, great to know!

# Mar 23, 2011 @ 10:30 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
BoltThrower's avatar

Supporter

13. BoltThrower writes:

Beautiful stuff.

# Mar 23, 2011 @ 11:10 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
14. Mr.gigglepants writes:

Ryan Eyestone has done some amazing covers for endwell and withdrawl.

# Mar 24, 2011 @ 12:15 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
sonictherapy's avatar

Senior News Correspondent

15. sonictherapy writes:

There is also the fabulous Ioannis Vasilopoulos who did many of the Fates Warning album covers. But I know there is only so many you could do! Good choices, though.

# Mar 24, 2011 @ 1:42 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
16. Droolie writes:

Great article, very good examples of each artist.
This Eliran Kantor guy is AMAZING - his detailed work and thought behind every item is overwhelming.

# Mar 24, 2011 @ 1:44 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
17. Zelec writes:

Where's Kris Verwimp...??!!

# Mar 24, 2011 @ 6:42 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
hellrat's avatar

Member

18. hellrat writes:

fvckin awesome Cynic! i fvcking LOVE metal art

hey, what about Derek Riggs and Larry Carroll for the next episode?

Cheers brother, good stuff mate \m/

# Mar 24, 2011 @ 1:41 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Rayze's avatar

Member

19. Rayze writes:

This was a great read. Yeah, I've seen Necrolord all around in the melodeath area. I think he did Wintersun's album.

# Mar 24, 2011 @ 11:03 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
silvermountains's avatar

Member

20. silvermountains writes:

great read!! thanks Cynic! This really showed me different artists in metal!

# Mar 25, 2011 @ 12:11 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
metalfan653's avatar

Member

21. metalfan653 writes:

Good article, Necrolord has some awesome art!
Always liked the cover art for Scream Bloody Gore as well.

# Mar 26, 2011 @ 1:05 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
SrBagofCrap's avatar

Member

22. SrBagofCrap writes:

Excellent article. I honestly never knew there was so much behind metal album art, but this just makes me appreciate it even more.

# Mar 26, 2011 @ 1:56 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
23. Bud writes:

Wow, I never noticed the reaper on the Nightside Eclipse! Btw, I forgot to mention what a great article this is Cynic. It's interesting, well researched, and different from the average Metal article. Keep up the good work!

# Mar 28, 2011 @ 7:57 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Blindgreed1's avatar

Member

24. Blindgreed1 writes:

I had no idea Repka did Eternal Nightmare... Off the hook column again my friend. Cynic never dissappoints.

# Apr 7, 2011 @ 2:15 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address

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