Album covers are often the first impression a fan will have on a new record, seeing the visual component before hearing anything that is contained within the album. This initial impression can dictate a number of things including overall interest in the record, the potential for someone to purchase the album without ever having heard the band and can ultimately be responsible for a group's success.

A band shirt is a walking billboard, advertising your tastes to all those around you and an iconic album cover can find fans scooping up any merchandise bearing the artwork, furthering popularity and helping to establish a legacy. Often times, it's inexplicable why one piece of artwork tends to catch the eye over another, but alas this is the inherent magic of art.

Album covers have come to define an entire generation of music, lasting longer than the bands themselves at times and are etched into rock and metal history. Here, the artwork hits on a wide spectrum of emotions like a disturbing, gory Cannibal Corpse cover, to politically-charged as seen on Bad Brains' eponymous release, to quirky and lighthearted like the DescendentsMilo Goes to College.

Scroll through the gallery at the top of the page to see 30 Iconic Hard Rock + Metal Album Covers!

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