The Best of Thrash Metal Cover Art

It's time to pay tribute to a genre that has more great album artwork than it has deliriously fast songs about the most evilest shit a stoned, teen-aged mind can conjure. The genre was epitomized in the early eighties when a handful of drunk virtuosos in skinny black jeans and high-tops decided to call themselves Metallica and play the lean essentials of heavy metal at really, really fast tempos. Other dark lords of the thrash universe include Exodus, Anthrax, Venom, Kreator, Overkill, and macabre masterminds Slayer. Here are the seven best thrash metal record covers of all time.

Motörhead, Iron Fist

Forget thrash, this is one of the best record covers in any genre. Turns out the pummeling, cold fist of death is sheer eye candy. Who made that thing? Did it fall out of someone's nightmare? If you want a couple more reaons to love them, Motörhead frontman Lemmy hoped his band would be "the dirtiest rock n' roll band in the world" and once said that if "Motörhead moved in next to you, your lawn would die."

Metal Church, Metal Church

Um, it's a cruciform Gibson Explorer, zombified in the graveyard of Metal Church. Gnarly. Did they shoot this photo on the set of the Thriller video? Same year. Just sayin'.

Venom, Possessed

I like this cover because it defies the genre. No overwrought Iron Maiden-esque oil paintings, no overt Satanism, zero cheese factor. If anything, you would expect this fucked-up photocopied negative from a punk rock band. The androgynous demon children immediately remind me of Richard D. James and the Aphex Twin video for 'Come To Daddy' (directed by Chris Cunningham). Genuinely creepy.

Vio-lence, Eternal Nightmare

Oh no, it's your worst nightmare: you're tucked into bed, wearing your nice clean starched white pajamas because you are a total dickweed poser, and you wake up to discover that you are TUMBLING DOWN A NEVERENDING VAMPIRE MOUTH 'TIL THE END OF TIME! The essential theme of thrash metal is that each generation of bands has to try and out-evil the last. Eternal Nightmare epitomizes the losers of the evil arms race (hey, not everybody can be Slayer). The boys of Vio-lence failed miserably in their attempt to be insidious and foul; looking at this cover is about as scary as tickling a leprechaun. And that's why it rules.

Metallica, Kill 'Em All

The record is a masterpiece and so is the cover. No wonder they've had carte blanche ever since. It's got the unfuckwithable red-black-white color combination, the photograph is beautifully lit, and the blood puddle has a great Rorschach thing going on. This record almost got called 'Metal Up Your Ass' as a goof; thankfully they decided otherwise. Now if only they'd hang up the guitars (and the midlife crises) once and for all. Photo by Gary Lee Heard.

Death, Leprosy

Death frontman Chuck Schuldiner was clearly no fan of subtlety. This cover creeps me out because somehow I feel like maybe you could get leprosy just from looking at it. The real star of this show is the Death logo. Logo design requires boiling a concept down to its distilled essence, but not for Schuldiner, who designed and re-designed this logo himself throughout the band's career. This incarnation features a spider dangling from its web, a bloody scythe (which is not incorporated into any of the letterforms for some reason), a flaming inverted crucifix, and a shrunken demon skull head thing. Only someone who doesn't know the rules can break them all and produce something this exuberant. Oh, also check out that sweet nuclear sunset. Artwork by Ed Repka.

Slayer, Reign In Blood

Much like the music it represents, the cover of Slayer's 1986 major label debut made everything that preceded it look like sugar-coated sunshine in comparison. Illustrator and artist Larry Carroll provided the band with a grim cover illustration of Satan-as-goat reigning over a medieval, Bosch-ian vision of Hell. What else would befit an album with a song called 'Raining Blood' that opens with the sound of blood rain? I heard this dude Gaahl (from notorious Norwegian black metal band Gorgoroth) explain the meaning of the 'Satan as a goat' symbol during an episode of the VBS tv (Vice's online video channel) series 'True Norwegian Black Metal'; he claimed that the goat represents beings motivated by free will, as opposed the rest of us, who are sheep. Being a sheep is lame: you're a slave to the masses, shackled by ideology and oppressed by tradition. I guess the one cool thing about it is that, um, you don't have to rot in Hell for eternity.

That shit is so fascinating to me. When it comes to mythological grandiosity, few other genres can fuck with metal.



There's been a deluge of great television comedy recently (It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia comes to mind) and I've got my hopes up for Adult Swim's new Superjail. I've only seen the clip at their site so far, but if the irreverent humor and ornate, psychedelic animation are any indication of what's to come, this show will be a hit with fans of Wonder Showzen and Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! This clip includes a bizarre whirlwind of a narrative in under two minutes, all without the use of dialogue. The show is directed by Christy from Cheeseburger and the eye-boggling animation comes courtesy of the folks at Augenblick Studios, who are also responsible for animating some of the best Wonder Showzen sketches.


The Wrestler & Burn After Reading

There are two movies dominating film discussions this week and they are The Wrestler and Burn After Reading.

The Wrestler stars Mickey Rourke and is directed by Darren Aronofsky (who made that epic bad trip Requiem for a Dream). This one has festival buzz whipped up into a clamorous frenzy. There are a lot of die-hard Rourke fans among the film buffs I know; guys who latched on to the actor's presence in eighties classics like Angel Heart and Diner speak of him like he's a long-lost brother who they miss dearly. His battered face has been on the silver screen a few times recently (Sin City, Domino), but his true comeback is long overdue. View clips from The Wrestler and read this frank Time review.

Burn After Reading is a star-studded spy comedy by the Coen brothers. I'm conflicted about this one. The Coens made a comeback of their own last year with No Country For Old Men, one of my favorite films of all time. I find its absorbing style to be utterly riveting no matter how many times I watch it (best dialogue exchange: Loretta: "Be careful." Ed: "Always am." Loretta: "Don't get hurt." Ed: "Never Do." Loretta: "Don't hurt no one." Ed: "Well, if you say so."). So I should be excited about Burn After Reading, but the trailer doesn't do much for me. Brad Pitt's intentionally flamboyant character and costume simply look abrasive and gaudy. So Pitt and costar Clooney are the coolest, most charming guys ever invented - okay, I saw Ocean's Eleven, I fucking get it already! I'm kind of over it. The only cast member I was truly excited to see is Coens alum Frances McDormand. I want to like this film, but the trailer didn't make me laugh once. But I have to trust them because they are masters. Right?


Good 'N Funny

Two blogs with self-explanatory titles that are worth at least a hundred ha ha's: Photoshop Disasters and Stuff White People Like. I'm glad 'Photoshop Disasters' exists as a source of justice for all the lazy advertisers out there (also the site just hipped me to Dane Cook's blog entry on the Photoshop disaster that is his latest movie poster). My favorite entries on 'Stuff White People Like' are expensive sandwiches, shorts, and trying too hard. View a CNN interview with the site's creator here.


Vintage Movie Magazines

The following are images from a batch of old movie magazines that a friend brought in to Photoplay today. I have to admit that I'll take the pulp over the esoteric avant-garde stuff any day. Click any image to enlarge.

'Serial Pictorial' Number 8 features the work of Roy Barcroft, "Republic's Greatest Villain." His character on the cover and in the image below is The Purple Monster (I'd particularly like to watch The Purple Monster Strikes).

I like the above page so much, I'm probably going to frame it. He looks so silly and that gun is utterly impotent, but he's gonna shoot you anyway. I also like it because it reminds me of Charles Burns; this kind of imagery is what fuels his imagination (this image looks like something straight out of Burns' El Borbah).