When we saw on SF Signal that they were asking for your favorite SF/Fantasy book covers we knew we had to chime in with our picks. But then we realized that some of our favorite SF/F artists also did album covers and we realized we had to go there too. Today we present our picks for Most Memorable SF/F Album Covers. Yes, that would include CD Covers or that little square image that shows up on your iPod when you are listening to a song. While we’re showing ours, email us your favorites and we’ll run a post in the weeks ahead with your favorites too.
Album title: BLUE OYSTER CULT
Band: Blue Oyster Cult
Cover artist: Gawlik
An infinite number of doors into an infinite number of rooms, all under an expansive star-filled sky and a floating Kronos symbol. Far out. I’m sure this one inspired quite a few acid-drenched skull sessions when it first came out in the early ’70s. It sure did in the early ’80s, around the time I got my first copy. The cover was also a perfect match for the surreal sf imagery of the band’s lyrics (occasionally penned by Mike Moorcock and John Shirley, no less), and it set the stage for the career of evil that followed.
Album title: A MINUTE TO PRAY, A SECOND TO DIE
Band: The Flesh Eaters
Cover artist: Chris D.
Like the cover of a pulp horror novel, this one is cheap, lurid and effectively hints at the darkness contained within. Early ’80s L.A. punk band The Flesh Eaters took the name of their band from a bloody Italian horror movie and the name of their album from a bloody Italian Western. Singer Chris D.’s lyrics were beat poetry awash with imagery from noir detective fiction, voodoo ritual and cult horror films, and this cover spans all those influences, combining them with a cut-and-paste visual sense that also captured punk’s immediacy.
Album title: SPACE RITUAL
Cover artist: Barney Bubbles
It seems like a given that space-rock pioneers Hawkwind should be included here. The question is which album. Just for its sense of lysergic visual overload, I’m going with the double-live document Space Ritual. On the cover, a nude woman flanked by Hell Hounds shoots blue flames from her palms as a crescent moon literally gazes down on her. Inside the gatefold, we’re treated to photos of the time-traveling freakshow that was Hawkwind, awash in swirling psychedelic colors. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that a few are of the band’s oft-topless Amazonian dancer, Stacia.
Album title: THUNDER SEVEN
Cover artist: Dean Motter
My high school years were laced with heavy doses of Metallica, Van Halen, and guitar metal at max volume. I definitely had a fair amount of prog rock in the collection as well. This was one of my faves back then. I distinctly remember trying to draw this album cover art because I was so in awe of the painting back then. I would later discover that the illustrator was none other than Dean Motter, creator of the comic-book character Mr. X (“….so much to do, so little time….). Motter did his fair share of album covers back in the day, and this pretty much screams ’80s-high-concept art, doesn’t it? It turned out to be educational too, as I remember writing about Leonardo Da Vinci as part of a school assignment that year because the cover was obviously an homage to this. Hey, who said rock n’ roll and education can’t mix?
Album title: POWER WINDOWS
Cover artist: Hugh Syme
This was one of my favorite albums in high school. Musically, it’s not the greatest Rush album ever (probably would have to say PERMANENT WAVES and MOVING PICTURES are still my faves), but it’s pretty damn solid all the way through. That opening chord to “Big Money” is still one of my favorite sonic boom sounds in rock history. Hugh Syme illustrated many of Rush’s most notable album covers and this is my favorite. It’s still a terrific, iconic painting, and loaded with symbolism and Philip K. Dick references (intended or not). When I was in high school, I thought symbolism in art was the coolest thing. Nowadays — maybe not so much. At any rate, it’s hard to deny the strength of this image and the dry wit of a band and a cover designer, reveling in technology and anti-Reaganism, while pondering pre-MATRIX whether we control the box, or it controls us.
Album title: MANIFESTO FOR FUTURISM
Band: Dali’s Dilemma
Cover artist: Dave McKean
I’ve never owned this album, but I’ve always admired the hell out of this image. Powerful, provocative and unforgettable. Some of my favorite Dave McKean illustrations have been executed for CD covers, and this is one of them. From what I understand, the band is evocative of Dream Theater, which doesn’t really fall within my preferences. However, this cover knocks me out every time.
Album title: POWERSLAVE
Band: Iron Maiden
Cover artist: Derek Riggs
Iron Maiden was off the charts when I was in high school…especially in San Antonio where the Godfather, Joe Anthony, kept us fueled with regular dosages of the British heavy metallers. Artist Derek Riggs gave Maiden an iconic look and not only cranked out new artwork for each album, but also some very memorable pieces for each single the band released. They had so many good pieces, that the last time I saw them in concert at the Freeman Coliseum, Iron Maiden played on a sparse black stage and unfurled a different background banner for each song they played. I love the Egyptian theme of Powerslave and the myriad details Riggs threw in that you can probably on see on an LP. They brought the Powerslave tour to San Antonio’s Convention Center Arena back in 1983. This was at Maiden’s height of popularity after their MTV success with Run to the Hills and Number of the Beast. The live show’s visuals pulled heavily from the look of the album cover and included a giant mummified Iron Maiden mutant. Maiden had too many great covers to list, but notables include those on Number of the Beast, Live After Death (complete with Lovecraft reference) and Killers.
Album title: DANZIG III: HOW THE GODS KILL
Cover artist: H.R. Giger
After two albums with mediocre covers, the former leader of The Misfits hit gold with this strikingly grotesque cover by Swiss surrealist H.R. Giger. Perhaps best known for designing the look of the aliens in the movie Alien, Giger’s image nailed the moody feel of Danzig’s music. Pull out the CD insert and unfold it for the full image spanning six panels. This is not the first time Giger’s art was used in an album, I remember the ultra-controversial poster included in the Dead Kennedy’s album Frankenchrist. Giger’s art has never been easy to digest, but it is unmistakably original. You also have to give props to the art director for eschewing the use of typography on the cover, the art has a loud enough voice to carry the package.
Album title: MOLLY HATCHET
Band: Molly Hatchet
Cover artist: Frank Frazetta
Southern rockers Molly Hatchet hit on a winning formula. Crank out an album with a couple of good songs and wrap it in a cover by a top fantasy artist. Molly Hatchet’s first album sports Frazetta’s most iconic piece of art, 1973′s Death Dealer. Everyone knowns this image, it’s been turned into tattoos, automobile airbrush art, comic books and fantasy miniatures. This piece is memorable for a reason…it’s just so frickin’ awesome! Molly Hatchet continued to use Frazetta art and turned to Boris Vallejo also, but none of their album covers could hold a candle to this one, it is simply too perfect.