There are certain genres of music where the album covers just mean a little more. In metal, an album cover is one of the most important aspects of the album itself. Many metal albums are epics that tell an entire story and have themes, and the covers tend to match those themes. Because of this, there have been some truly iconic metal album covers over the years, but these five really stand out as the best.
5. Leviathan by Mastodon
The newest album to be included on the list is 2004’s “Leviathan” by Mastodon, which was a concept album that was based on the famous novel “Moby Dick”. With songs such as “Iron Tusk” and “I Am Ahab”, “Leviathan” has a cover that matches the theme of the entire album.
Philadelphia native Paul Romano is the man responsible for the cover art for “Leviathan”, and much of his work has been featured on album covers throughout the years. The album itself only shows a small portion of the full picture, which can only be described as truly epic. The mix of colors and clashing themes seems like it’s straight out of a fantasy story and makes “Leviathan” really stand out.
4. Sad Wings of Destiny by Judas Priest
Judas Priest was still in the early years as a band when they released “Sad Wings of Destiny” in 1976, which was just their second album. “Sad Wings of Destiny” had a little something for all metal fans no matter the mood, and the album was propelled by memorable songs including “Deceiver” and “The Ripper”.
Patrick Woodroffe was tabbed to create the cover art for “Sad Wings of Destiny”. The official title of the painting is “Fallen Angel”, which shows the band’s symbol within the imagery. Woodroffe would also create cover art for bands including Budgie, Mike Batt, and even Tiesto. Still, it’s his “Fallen Angel” piece that fans remember the most.
3. Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying? by Megadeth
Following the success of “Killing Is My Business…and Business Is Good!”, Megadeth released “Peace Sells…but Who’s Buying?” the following year in 1985. The album was commercially successful thanks to the title track and other songs including “Wake Up Dead” and “The Conjuring”.
Megadeth loved using artist Ed Repka and their mascot Vic Rattlehead, and that’s how the cover of “Peace Sells” came to be. Repka drew Vic in front of a destroyed United Nations Building and set up a sign to sell the real estate. Repka said it was a cornerstone moment for his career, and he’d go on to create art for several Megadeth albums including “Hangar 18”, “No More Mr. Nice Guy” and “From Beyond”.
2. Master of Puppets by Metallica
There’s always a debate amongst Metallica fans as to what the best album in the band’s catalog is, with many making a case for “Master of Puppets”. Released in 1986, the album received near-perfect reviews across the board thanks to songs including “Battery”, “Welcome Home”, and “Disposable Heroes”.
The cover of “Master of Puppets” fits the theme and name of the album, showing subconscious manipulation. The white crosses mark all of those that were being controlled by higher powers, including those having their lives ended by war. “Master of Puppets” was actually designed mostly by Metallica, though they enlisted the help of Peter Mensch and painter Don Brautigam to bring their idea to life.
1. Holy Diver by Dio
“Holy Diver” was the result of Ronnie James Dio wrapping up his first stint with Black Sabbath, using many of the bandmates that he had worked with up to that point. The album produced a lot of memorable tracks, including the title track, “Stand Up and Shout”, and “Rainbow in the Dark”.
Dio used a mascot named Murray that was prominently featured in much of the band’s work, and that includes the “Holy Diver” album cover. Randy Berrett was the artist that brought Murray to life in this one, which shows him wrapping up a priest with his whip-like chain from a mountain high above the water. Naturally, this cover drew some controversy, but it was very much on-brand for Dio.