Thrash Hits

September 7th, 2011

Is album artwork in 2011 worse than it’s ever been before?

We let Hugh Platt near Photoshop, and yet we still gave him the go ahead to mouth off about album art? Bloody hell, we’re suckers for punishment sometimes…

Bad Album Art 2011 Thrash Hits

It’s long been feared that one of the side-effects of the proliferation of digital music over physical formats would be that album art gradually becomes a thing of the past. After all, who cares about album art when it exists only as a tiny 200 pixel by 200 pixel image on an iPod Touch? Well, those of us old enough to be nostalgic about such things as pouring over a record’s liner notes are starting to see our worst nightmares come to pass – because 2011 has truly seen some of the worst excuses for album art ever to get the green light from a record label’s promotions department.

In fact there have already been so many bad album covers in 2011, we had trouble narrowing it down to the worst six. And that’s after we ruled out all of the deliberately stupid covers – the kind sported by The Dwarves or Devin Townsend – from clogging up our countdown. Likewise, we ruled out any band that has a deliberately cheap-looking album cover because of genre-aesthetics, such as the wannabe gutter-punk stylings of the Cerebral Ballzy cover, or the purposefully slapdash retro-thrash approach of Havok. No, we decided to concentrate on the lazy, amateur, or just downright tasteless artwork offered up by bands who should know better, on labels with marketing budgets that can afford better. Let’s get this countdown started….

1. Five Finger Death Punch – American Capitalist

Five Finger Death Punch American Capitalist album cover 450px Thrash Hits

Is it any wonder that a band producing music as derivative, formulaic, and downright forgettable as Five Finger Death Punch do chose this abomination for their third studio album? Now maybe, maybe Five Finger Death Punch have crafted an album of razor-sharp satire and picked a deliberately crass album cover to compliment it, but given the band’s historic lack of subtly when it comes to the whole lyrics/imagery thing, we highly doubt it.

2. Opeth – Heritage

Opeth Heritage album cover 450px Thrash Hits

Yes, we gave it a glowing review yesterday, but that doesn’t excuse the quite frankly ridiculous cover art. Heritage is a perfect example of how one tiny aspect of an album cover can render the whole thing silly. If it wasn’t for the weird, disembodied heads of Mikael Åkerfeldt and co., then we’d almost go so far as to describe the cover of Heritage as classy. But no, the creepy faces push it well over the edge into stupid territory.

3. Dream Theater – A Dramatic Turn Of Events

Dream Theater A Dramatic Turn Of Events album cover 450px Thrash Hits

What, another prog band on our bad art countdown? Who’d have thought it? Dream Theater have earned their spot on the list because their cover art is just bloody lazy. As pointed out by Metal Sucks and a fair few other people, A Dramatic Turn Of Events has been cobbled together from a cheap stock photo. And to make matters worse, it’s a cheap stock photo that another band has made a shit album cover out of previously. Urgh.

4. Sebastian Bach – Kicking and Screaming

Sebastian Bach Kicking and Screaming album cover 450px Thrash Hits

If we’ve learnt anything from following Sebastian Bach’s wildly self-absorbed Twitter presence this year, it’s that he’s very keen for all his fans to listen to his new solo record, Kicking and Screaming. Actually, that’s not strictly true. We’ve also learned that he kicks up an almighty hissy fit when people only want to talk to him about his one-sided “friendship” with Axl Rose, or ask him about his former band, Skid Row. To be honest, if we were peddling an album with a cover as dog-ugly as Kicking and Screaming, we’d probably be encouraging people to talk about anything other than the wretched thing.

5. Sepultura – Kairos

Sepultura Kairos album artwork 450px Thrash Hits

Okay, okay – criticising Sepultura in 2011 is like kicking a man when he’s down. They’ve not exactly had it easy these last few years, seeing both their record sales and the gig sizes slowly dwindle, while Max Cavalera stands on the sidelines, coughing behind his hand and winking suggestively at Andreas Kisser. But we can’t ignore the cover to Kairos – it’s  just so…so…just so identikit. Hourglass? Check. Ancient masonry? Check? Angel imagery? Check. Rotting Angel imagery? Check? Vague suggestion of breasts? Check, check, check. Sepultura have always had a spotty record when it comes to album artwork (Chaos AD, Roots, Against, and Nation are all good, everything before and since has been balls), but Kairos is just such a mish-mash of cliches and half-arsed concepts that it manages to be both forgettable and cluttered at the same time.

6. Saxon – Call To Arms

Saxon Call To Arms album cover 450px Thrash Hits

Finally we have possibly the laziest album cover art we’ve seen in years. Metal veterans of over 35 years they may be, but that doesn’t excuse the piss-poor effort that is the cover of Call To Arms. Even those of you out there with only the barest glimmer of historical knowledge will surely recognise the face of – if not the name – of Lord Kitchener, depicted in the same manner as he was on the infamous World War 1 recruitment posters for the British Army that he is best known. All Saxon have done is stick the famous graphic onto a background of weathered parchment, slapped their logo and album title in opposite corners, and decided that was enough: job done.

It’s so lazy in fact, that we did a quick experiment to see if we could make something better in just 10 minutes using Photoshop and Google Image Search. We came up with this:

Saxon Call To Arms (with Ming) album cover 450px Thrash Hits

If we saw that in a record shop, we’d definitely consider buying it.


Are there any other albums from 2011 that we missed that you think we should’ve included in our Top 6? Should we have included the wretched cover of If Not Now, When? by Incubus? Or was one album cover featuring a high-wire in our selection enough? Is the cover art for Machine Head’s Unto The Locust just a bit, y’know, meh? Should we have broken our house-rule of avoiding mocking Limp Bizkit (because taking the piss out of Limp Bizkit is a joke that expired a decade ago) to ridicule the ghastly painted cover to Gold Cobra? Are we out of our box to suggest that the cover art for The Hunter by Mastodon has really grown on us over the last few weeks? Should we have put Vanilla Ice’s latest rap-rock atrocity in there just for the hell of it? Let us know in the comments section down below.

*Bonus prize to whoever can name the album appearing in our montage banner image up above that we haven’t mentioned by name anywhere in this blog post.