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Covered in metal

Extreme visuals for extreme music

Sepultura - Arise
Covenant - Nexus Polaris (1998) by Andreas Marschall

There is truth to the saying, "Don't judge a book by its cover". However, in some cases, I think it is safe to make that assertion. For good or bad. Over the years there have been a few album covers that really stood out to me and actually got me listening to a particular band.

Some I remember seeing before I even started listening to metal and others introduced me to different subgenres of that style. The bottom line is these are some of the instances where the music matched the killer artwork.


Album: At the Gates of Utopia (2001)

Band: Stormlord
Artist: Joe Petagno

Stormlord - At the Gates of Utopia

The sophomore album released by Stormlord features the work of Italian artist, Joe Petagno. A friend of mine introduced me to Stormlord. He showed me the video of the track, I am Legend and although I enjoyed the music I wasn't really sold on the video.

I believe it was only later when I saw the cover of At the Gates of Utopia that I gave the band another chance. By this time I was already familiar with one of the songs from the album and after hearing a bit more I was hooked.


Album: The Power Cosmic (1999)

Band: Bal-Sagoth
Artist: Martin Hanford

Bal-Sagoth - The Power Cosmic

If I remember correctly it was either The Power Cosmic or Atlantis Ascendant I saw an advert of in one of the music magazines I was reading at the time. Regardless, I just recall that the cover really grabbed my attention as well as the name of the band. So much so that I had to go on the Internet and find any music I could just to satisfy my curiosity.

It was the track Callisto Rising off of The Power Cosmic that served as my introduction to the band's interesting take on story-rich symphonic metal. Thanks to that song and the epic art of Martin Hanford this became one of my favourite albums. Hanford also worked on Atlantis Ascendant and several other of Bal-Sagoth's album covers.

Martin Hanford also did work for Orange Goblin and Twilight Force. Some of his featured work included covers for Games Workshop and DMR Books.


Album: Still Life (1999)

Band: Opeth
Artist: Travis Smith

Opeth - Still Life

There used to be these metal/alternative music reviews in our local newspaper. On one occasion they had a review of Blackwater Park by Opeth. The article had this small black and white print of the album cover. It looked very interesting, but the review is what got me searching for the music. It was on one of my trips to the record store that I found the particular album, as well as Still Life.

At that point I wasn't sure which cover spoke more to me, but seeing as my friend grabbed the Blackwater Park copy to listen to I decided to give Still Life a spin. It blew me away and to this day both of these albums remain all-time favourites of mine. It also introduced me to the cover artist, Travis Smith. His work still remains a big inspiration for my own cover designs.

Travis Smith has created art for a large number of bands including Amorphis, Riverside, Katatonia, Death, Eternal Tears of Sorrow, Barren Earth and, many more.

Recommended covers: Barren Earth - Curse of the Red River; Eternal Tears of Sorrow - Children of the Dark Waters; All of his work for Katatonia and Opeth.


Album: Chaos A.D. (1993)

Band: Sepultura
Artist: Michael Whelan

Sepultura - Chaos A.D.

I believe the first time I became aware of Sepultura was when hearing their song, Ratamahatta. It had this strange claymation video and the visuals stuck with me. My cousin also had this flag in his room with the cover art of Beneath the Remains, but I didn't know it at the time. I just remember seeing it and thought it looked great. I later discovered that Michael Whelan did the art for that album, Arise and also Chaos A.D. The latter I saw at one of our local record stores.

Chaos A.D. was definitely one of those albums where the cover was so interesting that I had to listen to the music. I already knew of the band, but this album was a surprise because it still had a lot of their older 'sound' compared to Roots. As with many albums, Chaos A.D. opened the door to the band's back catalogue. Although this particular album isn't my favourite by Sepultura I think it is still my favourite artwork of the three Michael Whelan did for them.

Michael Whelan is a legendary fantasy and sci-fi artist who has worked on many book and album covers. He has also created illustrations for video games. Some of his outstanding work includes Lovecraft's Nightmare, his covers for the Coldfire trilogy by C.S. Friedman and, Sailor on the Seas of Fate* (and his other work for Michael Moorcock's Elric of Melnibone).

*According to Michael Whelan's website this is his favourite painting.


Album: Glory to the Brave (1993)

Band: HammerFall
Artist: Andreas Marschall

HammerFall - Glory to the Brave

My introduction to HammerFall happened like it did with many other bands as well; through a magazine advert. I saw this particular album alongside Children of Bodom's "Something Wild" album. Both covers looked amazing and made a big impression. HammerFall's music I only discovered a little bit after that. The first track I heard was "Let the Hammer Fall" from the album after "Glory for the Brave", called "Legacy of Kings".

The latter became the favourite of the two for me, but the art of their debut still remains one of the best album covers. Both records were painted by Andreas Marschall who also created the epic artwork for Blind Guardian's "Nightfall in Middle-Earth" and "Somewhere Far Beyond" (among others). He also did the covers for In Flames' "The Jester Race", "Whoracle" and "Colony" to highlight only a few.

Andreas Marschall is a director, writer and illustrator. He is also one of the most popular cover artists in Germany with having worked on more than 100 covers. Other recommendations to check out include Covenant - Nexus Polaris, Orden Ogan - Ravenhead and all his work with Blind Guardian.


Though I can't do a write-up on all of the amazing covers out in the world, I'll highlight a few more that caught my eyes over the years and of which the music is also great.


Beneath the Remains (1989)
Arise (1991)

by Michael Whelan




Blackwater Park (2001)
Ghost Reveries (2005)

by Travis Smith




Something Wild (1997)

by Graham French


Tales from the Thousand Lakes (1994)

by Sv Bell

Children of Bodom cover



Weave the Apocalypse (1993)

by Dan Seagrave


Plaintive Scenes (1999)

by Jean-Pascal Fournier

Invocator cover



Imaginations from the Other Side (1995)

by Andreas Marschall


The Gallery (1995)

by Kristian Wåhlin

Blind Guardian


© Heino Brand
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