3) Kill ‘Em All
In 1983 this album cover was jarring in a way that wouldn’t be over 30 years later, but the imagery hasn’t lost any of its power either. Was that shadowy hand releasing the hammer after the deed was done…or was it going back for more? The black and red color scheme is one of the best color combinations in the whole spectrum and the simple red, straight-facing logo is hands-down their best use of it on any album to date. While we all know by now that this was not the first choice for the album artwork, or album title, it’s safe to say that even though the band didn’t get their way they made out in the end. So why is this album not ranked higher? Two nitpicking reasons. The first being that we all know that blood isn’t cherry red. Even just a slightly darker shade of red over the whole cover would have rendered this album’s imagery all the more darker and realistic. The second being my own personal hang-up that was discovered by accident. Take your copy of the album and turn it on it’s left side. You see the cartoon-like, goofy dinosaur face in the pooling blood? Yeah, sorry if I just ruined this album cover for you. It can’t be unseen.
2) Ride The Lightning
It’s not the most intricate Metallica album cover, but it may just be the most beautiful. The image of the electric chair being lit up by the band logo is powerful even in its simplicity. The illuminated logo is stellar and one that looked particularly good on various merchandise after the album’s release. Even the album title, which is used in a font that can make it look like it was just supposed to be a placeholder, still works because of how plain it is. But what makes this album artwork so delicious is the color scheme. The hues of blue, purple, and black all intermingled throughout the entire cover instantly made this album stand out from anything else in your collection. One of the most recognizable album covers of all time in every sense of the term.
1) Master Of Puppets
This entire exercise was a lot more difficult that I thought it would be and, quite honestly, you could make the argument for any of the top four albums on this list to claim the top spot. But at the end of the day when you are talking about album covers you want imagery that sticks with you like that song you can’t get out of your head and wake up singing every morning. That’s what the Master Of Puppets cover does. The endless rows of cross-marked graves, the God-like hands pulling the puppet strings, the lone army helmet, the red skies that fade to yellow and giving the hint of something waiting for all of these lost souls – all of it together has made for a wholly memorable piece of art. Add in a clean, yet powerful, band logo and the entire thing comes together almost perfectly. The artwork was painted by artist Don Brautigam, who was famous for, among other things, creating the original book over for Stephen King’s The Stand.