Jun 212012

(Andy Synn gives us examples of reverse-Eye-Catchers.)

In between reviews (at the moment I have pieces on the new Vintersorg, Gojira, Ihsahn, and De Profundis in gestation) and work on future editions of The Synn Report (for which I have a vague outline of what bands I want to cover, and in what order), I’d like to drop in little columns on bits of metal culture tangentially connected with the music. It’s fun to do, and it gives me a bit of breathing space and a place to clear my head.

Now, while I have a long-running piece on metal lyrics and the art of writing them (and then setting them to music) in the works, I thought for now I’d do a short, irreverent piece on metal artwork.  More precisely, bad metal artwork.

Ok, so clearly I could have filled this entire list with bad black metal artwork… although similarly I could easily have filled it with bad death metal artwork (any number of covers featuring zombies, rape, or zombie rape would do) or bad thrash artwork (robots, tanks, robot-tanks, etc). But I’ve gone for a cross-genre approach to make things a little fairer, and to allow me to fit in some real stinkers.

All these examples have been chosen from my own collection, and I’ve selected a few pieces of artwork that have unfortunately been latched onto otherwise great albums. Not all of them are utterly terrible, but none of them do justice to the music contained within.

Obtained EnslavementThe Shepherd and The Hounds of Hell

This is actually a pretty killer album of mid-90s melodic black metal, but the artwork (at the top of this post) is dire. This is the sort of hideous CG abortion that should have been held up to Iron Maiden as an example of what NOT to do. More than anything it looks like the cover to the sort of bad chick-lit-lit, mommy-porn novel that you only find in airports these days.

The Black Dahlia MurderDeflorate

Oh the colours… the colours!!! Ha, ok, well this one takes a while to adjust to. There’s a lot going on, and I like it in a weird, masochistic way, but man, the colour palette is way out there. Be careful when you look at this one; accidental exposure without preparation has been known to cause retinal-scarring.


Sigh, and this was so close to being a good album cover. But those eyeballs just ruin it. I get it. Insanity. Insane image. Screaming head, blistered skin, vague horrific background. But then they tacked on some realistic eyeballs that look like they’ve been added on in MS Paint as a joke, and then weren’t removed before the proper artwork was sent off to the production plant.

OriginEchoes of Decimation

What a brutal, technical, wizard of a record. How can we best represent the controlled, calculated chaos within? How about… a big, giant face?

Honestly, I can’t tell whether this is a bad-guy from Doctor Who or perhaps one of the ancillary characters from Claymation-classic Trapdoor. He’s definitely not happy about something though.

Septic FleshRevolution DNA

Just… what is that? It immediately has me thinking of a bad new-age circus act (you know the type, the ones who think contortionists and suspensions are avant-garde) rather than the esoteric, at times goth-infused death metal contained within. It’s even more perplexing when you think of how good the artwork has been for many of their other releases! At least there’s an alternate cover out there that is infinitely superior.

AbgottGodfather In Black

Worryingly, I can almost see what they were going for with this. It’s the execution that doesn’t quite succeed. Perhaps something a bit more stylised would have given the imagery a bit more “depth”, as it were, because unfortunately all we have here is an uncomfortable dynamic of vampire cosplay and bored groupie with a level of melodrama that would make Andrew Lloyd Webber blush.

So there you have it. Each of the albums is good, maybe even great, but the artwork… eurgh. The product is great, but you wouldn’t know it from the packaging!


  1. The bright colors on the Black Dahlia Murder cover are a warning to stay away…just like in nature 🙂

  2. I actually have that Obtained Enslavement disc.. The look on that guy’s face is priceless, it’s like he’s thinking, “I’m gonna bite this bitch right quick, then pound some Dews and go dirt biking!”.

    • “Hail satan, bro!”

      Still, it’s a good album. And it’s the one that inspired me to do this piece.

  3. I’m sorry but Trapdoor is metal as fuck. The Splund absolutely terrified me as a child.

  4. That Origin cover looks like a close-up of Darkseid’s face. Islander can back me up on this right?
    (Don’t leave me hanging here dude)

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