I've been an obsessed hard rock/heavy metal fan and collector since the early 1980s. If it's got a good guitar riff and attitude, I'm in.
"Put your hands up and step away from the turntable!"
Just when you thought it was safe to root through that pile of vintage LPs at a yard sale or thrift store...they're back! Yes, it's time for a long overdue new installment of Awful Rock & Metal Album Covers, otherwise known as the Headbangers Gallery of the Garish and Grotesque!!
As usual, our research team has combed the Interwebz and pored over stacks of moldy old rock magazines and mail order catalogs in order to find even more examples of good album cover ideas gone horribly wrong. You'll find a mix of semi famous names and total obscurities being dragged back out into the sunlight for the first time in years... and once you've seen some of them, you'll probably wish they'd been left locked away in the dark attics and closets in which forgotten records like these usually reside. Please remember that the Management takes no responsibility for any retinal damage, nausea, or post-traumatic stress syndrome that might be caused by viewing these artistic atrocities. In other words, View At Your Own Risk. You've been warned. So let's rock!!
Ace Frehley - "Anomaly" (2009)
How can you not love Ace Frehley? The former KISS guitarist's moon boots and "space man" face paint have become an iconic part of hard rock history. He's also been known to dabble in his share of, shall we say, "substances," which may explain the hideous package design to Anomaly, his first solo album in 20 years. First off, the cover art is simply butt-ugly, resembling a portrait of a pyramid-shaped, alien drag queen... but it only gets worse when you crack open the shrink wrap. For reasons known only to Ace himself, copies of the CD came housed in a ridiculous cardboard "digi-pak" gimmick package that unfolded into a pyramid shape (?). Perhaps it's supposed to be a do-it-yourself communications device so you can contact the Space Ace himself on his home planet of "Jendell?" Alas, the purpose of this bizarre configuration has never been explained.
Flotsam and Jetsam - "When the Storm Comes Down" (1990)
Flotsam and Jetsam are best known as the band that bassist Jason Newsted left in 1986 to join Metallica... but they're also known for some of the blandest, most uninspired album covers in all of thrashdom. Ever seen the cover to their High or Cuatro discs? Zzzzzz...) Their third full length album When the Storm Comes Down is a prime example. Flo-Jet could actually be a pretty bad-ass thrash band when the mood struck them, but none of their bad-assery is evident in Storm's cover, which looks like it was banged out in five minutes. You can almost hear the conversation in the label's art department: "Crap, the art director's out sick today? Screw it. Just put the band's name in big block letters and slap'em on top of a green skull. Boom! Done. That's lunch, people!"
Frost Bite - "Icy Hell" (1994)
Frost Bite was an early vehicle for New Jersey based guitarist Jack Frost, who has gone on to a measure of underground metal fame thanks to his association with bands like Seven Witches, Savatage, Metalium, and Bronx Casket Company, to name just a few. "Generic" doesn't even come close to describing the cover of Icy Hell, which looks like the label on a no-name bottle of spring water that you'd find in a low rent dollar store. Thankfully, as Jack's profile has risen amongst metal heads, so has the quality of his album covers. Just check out the classy art on Seven Witches' Passage to the Other Side or Year of the Witch for proof.
Foreplay - "Hot N Heavy" (1986)
Umm...yikes!! What's the deal with this hand drawn monstrosity? Is it just me, or is that lady's head WAY too small for the rest of her body?This obscure L.A. Metal band's debut disc, 1985's First Licks, sported a typically eyecatching cover photo (by '80s standards, anyway) of an attractive lingerie-clad female, posed suggestively with a guitar in her lap. I can only assume that when it was time to design the cover for their follow up, the First Licks model was out of town and one of the band members tried to draw her picture from memory.
Helter Skelter - "Welcome to the World of Helter Skelter" (1988)
In a previous installment of this Hub series, I took the band Black-N-Blue to task for using a painting of the band members on the cover of their first album rather than simply using a photograph. Here's another example of a band/label wasting an artist's time capturing their ridiculous image for an album cover, when a photo would've been faster, cheaper and probably would've looked just as silly. The awkward looking band logo pasted up at the top cements this cover's awfulness. Trivia note: this was the one and only release by this German glam/hair metal act, and a review on the album's RateYourMusic page recommends "DESTROY ALL COPIES, PLEASE." I've never heard the album but I think I'll take their word for it.
Kingpin - "Welcome to Bop City" (1988)
Ummm...y'know what? Forget what I just said about using a band photograph instead of a painting. Sometimes that doesn't help at all. So who the heck is Kingpin, you ask? At one time they were (supposedly) the biggest glam/hair metal band in Sweden, which I guess was kinda like being named the best player on the Montreal Expos. When they relocated to the U.S. in the late 80s, they toughened up their look and changed their name to Shotgun Messiah, which was probably a smart move. Shotgun Messiah gave up the ghost in the early 90s, but bassist/vocalist Tim Skold (he's the the blonde guy in the pink and yellow spandex, seductively licking his index finger) went on to make a name for himself in the goth/industrial music scenes thanks to stints with KMFDM and Marilyn Manson. I wonder if Tim's current band mates ever hang any of his Kingpin-era photos around the tour bus just to mess with him.
Snatch - "If the Party's In Your Mouth...We're Comin'" (1985)
I swear, I am not making this album up. It actually exists. Snatch's oh-so-subtle If The Party's In Your Mouth...We're Comin' is actually semi-legendary in certain circles...but thankfully, none that I travel in. Little is known about this one-and-done New York area band, who self released this four song EP in 1985 and then vanished. EVERYTHING about this album cover absolutely screams "Low Budget," from the David Lee Roth wanna-be yard-sale stage wear to the balloons-and-streamers backdrop that was probably set up in one of the band members' basements. One has to wonder if the current '80s metal spoof band Steel Panther was influenced by these guys. I bet they all bought a copy of this record when it was brand new and said, "Someday I'm gonna do that!"
Predator - "Easy Prey" (1986)
Talk about tasteful! I betcha Tipper Gore had this one framed on her office wall during the mid '80s PMRC hoopla, with the caption "THIS IS OUR ENEMY." Predator's Easy Prey was one of the more notorious covers in Metal Blade Records' early catalog, depicting a bathing beauty walking along the beach while a masked attacker (in a hilariously tattered shirt) lies in wait for her behind some pilings, obviously planning to do something horrible. The back cover told the rest of the sad story, with the attacker walking away from the scene with the presumably-dead girl slung over his shoulder like a side of beef. Legend has it that even Metal Blade head honcho Brian Slagel tried to talk this band out of using these images (i.e. "Are you SURE you want to do this?") but the band insisted. If Predator were hoping the cover might drum up some controversy and therefore increase their record sales, they blew it. The album tanked and the band soon disappeared without a trace.
Thrust - "Invitation to Insanity" (2002)
Don't feel bad if you don't remember this band. Thrust released one album (1984's Fist Held High, which still maintains a cult following in some subterranean corners of metaldom) on Metal Blade Records and then vanished for nearly two decades until this "reunion" album (which featured only one member of the original Thrust lineup, with a bunch of replacement members) suddenly appeared in the early '00s for no apparent reason. It certainly wasn't due to popular demand. Thanks in part to one of the most generic album covers in recent memory, few fans bothered to accept Thrust's Invitation to Insanity... and yes, the music on the album was just as uninspired as the cover. Blah.
According to my good friend Doctor Wik E. Pedia, Ironhorse was a Canadian rock band made up of former members of the Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive. We can assume that this cartoonish cover was meant to imply that a mighty new rock n' roll beast was being formed by this combination. That may have seemed like a good idea during the concept phase, but rather than the proud, defiant "Iron Horse" the band had probably envisioned, the hapless creature being forged on this cover has a surprised/terrified expression on his face as if he's saying "HEY! I'm standing in molten metal and my rear end is on fire! OUCH! HOT! OOH! HOT!"
Until Next Time...
OK, I think I've tortured you poor people enough. That'll do it for this installment of Awful Hard Rock & Metal Album Covers, but rest assured, I am always on the prowl for more candidates to add to the Hall of Shame, so I could return at anytime!!
As always, if you've got a particular favorite bad album cover that has yet to be shown some love in this series, feel free to let me know in the comments selection below. You never know, your pick may be featured in our next installment!! Till then, remember to keep your records out of the sunlight...you don't want 'em to get warped, do you?
© 2013 Keith Abt
annasmom on March 06, 2016:
I remember when Anomaly was released. I think Ace was on Eddie Trunk's show promoting it...and he said the cover art was his own. As to why it folded into a little card board pyramid ... I got nothing ...lol.
joske on January 11, 2016:
I disagree on the ironhorse record. It's a pretty cool cover.
However the second one: "everything is grey" would be more fitting in this category
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on May 17, 2015:
Thanx for stopping by, Fox Music. There's plenty more bad album covers where these came from!
Fox Music on May 17, 2015:
Thanks I enjoyed this follow-up article about "Hilariously Bad Rock & Metal Album Covers" titled "Even MORE Awful Rock & Metal Album Covers!"
Michelle Dee from Charlotte, NC on July 29, 2014:
Yep, these covers are torture to look at, but this is a hilarious write-up of each one. The only one I have heard of is Ace Frehley.
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on June 18, 2013:
Hi Brian...I've been waiting a long time to use that line! Glad you liked it!
Brian Marshall on June 18, 2013:
"At one time they were (supposedly) the biggest glam/hair metal band in Sweden, which I guess was kinda like being named the best player on the Montreal Expos."
I love that. :)
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on June 17, 2013:
Thanx Georgie and Freedom... every time I think I've run out of material for this series, I stumble across more goodies (or should I say "baddies?") so there will be more installments in the future!
GH Price from North Florida on June 17, 2013:
Aw man, these are BAD! You have to wonder what they were thinking, if they were thinking at all. I'm most depressed about the Ace Frehley one (though I checked off the Frost Bite one in your poll because I think it was indeed the worst of the bunch). Somebody probably convinced him that it was high art or something. I'm thinking they were just high.
Great Hub, as always. I live for these things, you know! :)
FreedomMetal from Somewhere In Time on June 17, 2013:
Never heard of Snatch - I'm surprised Steel Panther didn't "borrow" the album title for a song