Heavy metal music is not only defined by its look and sound, but also by the album cover art which often did as good, if not a better job, of selling the album as any other aspect. Heavy Metal Thunder from Chronicle Books takes a look at the proud and often controversial history of heavy metal album artwork. In today's world of CD's, iPods, MP3 players, and file sharing, cover art has become a relative lost art. Such was not the case twenty or twenty-five years ago as record companies and bands new the importance of producing a cover which could catch the eye of potential buyers. Having lived through the heavy metal years myself, I can truthfully admit to buying many albums based solely on the cover art, without ever having heard the band's music. Sometimes this worked out as in the cases of bands like Grim Reaper and Exciter...other times it didn't, but even if it didn't, you still had that great album cover art.
Writers James Sherry and Neil Aldis trace the history of heavy metal album art from that first, foreboding cover to Black Sabbath's first album in 1969, right up to the present say's nu-metal and black metal releases. But this isn't just 250 pages of pictures; the pair also look at the music that inspired the art and how the art was a reflection of the band's music and personality. There were the hard-edged bands like Iron Maiden , Armored Saint, Manowar, and Black Sabbath that often subscribed to the swords & sorcery/gothic approach.
Then there were the glam/hair metal bands who, more often than not, put themselves front and center on the cover, clearly trying to appeal to the female metal fans yet still reeling in the guys with sexually suggestive covers and scantily clad women. But these bands were labeled as poseurs by the more hardcore metal heads who turned their attention to speed and thrash bands like Metallica, Anthrax, and Megadeth, and to black metal bands like Venom and Slayer.
Some of the most notorious album covers in history wait inside the pages of Heavy Metal Thunder including Twisted Sisters "Stay Hungry" showing Dee Snider munching on a bloody leg bone, Black Sabbath's gothic "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath", Carcass' disturbing "Reek of Purification" and Marilyn Manson's "Mechanical Animal". Special sections are devoted to Iron Maiden's covers depicting zombie mascot Eddie, painted by Derek Riggs.
This was like taking a stroll back in time and revisiting old friends you haven't seen in a long time. If you're a metalhead, you'll enjoy paging through the book and seeing just how many of these albums that you owned, or perhaps still own. There are literally hundreds of album covers pictured here covering every sub-genre of heavy metal including grindcore and grunge. Sometimes funny, sometimes shocking, and sometimes repulsive, Heavy Metal Thunder is a book that any metal fan must have.
Reviewed by Tim Janson