10 Scariest Metal Album Covers
Album artwork is a sacred thing in heavy metal. Bands make sure that the album cover is a solid reflection on the atmosphere and ethos of their album in order to give their work further depth and immerse the listener by incorporating as many senses as possible. The resurgence of the vinyl format has further solidified the importance of album art, as fans can pour over every little detail of the cover. Sometimes, every little detail might prove to be too much.
Album covers reflect the mood of the music, which often tries to create an aura of fear and terror. This imagery can play on a multitude of themes like fantasy horror, real-life situations, and emotions. We’ve done all the dirty work and sifted through countless album covers that have brought many sleepless nights to fans over the years in order to present the 10 Scariest Metal Album Covers:
‘The Devil You Know’
When Ronnie James Dio, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, and Vinny Appice announced they would be recording a new album, it quickly became one of the most anticipated metal albums of all time. From the music to the artwork, Heaven and Hell did not disappoint. The album cover for ‘The Devil You Know’ depicts an eyeless, gargantuan demon with three serpentine tongues, clutching a headless Christ voodoo doll with a mulitude of nails driven through the body. Withered crucified figures are obscured in the background by the hazy shades of red and black that dominate this horrifying piece of art.
Korn’s imagery, whether it is album artwork or music videos, has always preyed on human emotion and uneasy situations. They made their point right from the start with the artwork to their eponymous debut album in 1994. A small girl is sitting on a swing with her hand placed on her forehead to help shield her eyes from the sun as she tries to figure out what the obscured figure standing in front of her is. We are given the vantage point of the figure as its lengthy shadow is cast onto the sand of the playground. It’s unclear what the object in the figure’s hand is, but it probably isn’t anything comforting.
This image might be grainy and lacking detail, but the subtlety is highly effective. The atmosphere of Mayhem’s ‘Chimera’ and the artwork are equally chilling, giving off the feeling of uncertainty. They both play into each other well, which helps bring the album to full circle as an attack on multiple senses. Heavily shadowed, it appears that a demonic figure has taken someone hostage, perhaps with plans to bring them to Hell. Who knows? The glare in the figure’s eyes and the slightly noticeable grin are enough to make your arm hair stand on end.
‘Accident of Birth’
It’s pretty much unanimously agreed upon that clowns can be downright terrifying. How about a Jack-in-the-box style clown bursting from a stomach with the title ‘Accident of Birth’ attached to Bruce Dickinson‘s album? The clown is depicted in a caricature manner with the exaggerated features of a pronounced chin and wide, bulging eyes. The jester’s had that sits atop of the clown is fixed with two broken lightbulbs at the tips and one still lit. As if this wasn’t enough, the clown is wielding a bloody bat with nails protruding from the top section and may have been used to break free from the confines of the womb. Just an accident, huh?
‘Fear of the Dark’
Being afraid of the dark is one of the most common human fears and for good reason. The dark poses a threat to us because of our decreased visibility and nighttime predators. Iron Maiden play on this fear with one of their most disturbing renditions of Eddie. ‘Fear of the Dark’ was the first album to not feature art by Derek Riggs, and Melvyn Grant made for a seemless transition. A scrawny Eddie is attached to a tree, with his Nosferatu-like hands outstretched, and red eyes gleaming in conjunction with a gaping, starved mouth full of razor sharp teeth.
‘Butchered at Birth’
Cannibal Corpse have quite the reputation when it comes to gruesome album art. In 1991, they pushed the boundaries further with ‘Butchered at Birth.’ The album cover depicts two undead creatures butchering a woman and tearing the unborn child from the womb; an act it appears they have committed many times before as indicated by the strung up infants behind them. This album was released when death metal was still finding its way and confirmed the worst nightmares of parents. The album, along with others, was banned in Germany and Australia upon release.
‘Purging Tongues’ EP
The title of the Teitanblood EP ‘Purging Tongues’ is a curious one, though the artwork here halts the imagination and gets to the point. The blackened death metal band’s lyrics deal with darkness and the occult, giving vivid imagery as to what the title is about with this hooded figure. It appears that the cloaked demon has multiple tongues, presumably taken away from others who were using theirs in a disdainful manner. This artwork is the epitome of unsettling, especially when combined with Teitanblood’s dark and punishing brand of extreme metal.
‘Prowler in the Yard’
What this album artwork first brings to mind now is undoubtedly the movie ‘Saw.’ Well, ‘Prowler in the Yard’ predates the movie by three years, so this isn’t just copying the movie’s idea. This Pig Destroyer album cover is disturbing in so many ways. A maniacal man is wielding a hacksaw and has already put it to use to others as well as himself. He has sawn off his left hand, right foot, and somehow through the femur on his left leg. The expression on his face looks like he is rather pleased with his work thus far, but may not be done employing the hacksaw just yet.
Sometimes something so simple can have a prolonged and powerful effect. Such is the case here with the artwork on Black Sabbath’s debut album. The image is out of focus with its colors augmented to showcase rustic autumn leaves as the woman in the middle gives off a sinister vibe. The name of the woman has been lost with time, surrounding the album cover in even further aura of mystique. This complements Sabbath’s music perfectly, especially when the needle is dropped and the thunder rolls in on the self-titled song.
‘Severed Survival’ (censored)
The artwork here is the censored version for Autopsy’s debut album ‘Severed Survival,’ but is clearly better than the original. Imagine undergoing a routine operation only to have the anesthesia wear off mid-surgery and hovering over you are four diabolical zombies in scrubs, brandishing the tools of the trade. Blood is splattered everywhere and the menacing faces are wide-eyed and staring back at you, seemingly eager to see that you have woken up earlier than expected. What would you do? Leap off the table still cut open? Doubtful. This album cover depicts one of the most horrifying situations anyone could find themselves in.