The 50 most hilariously ugly rock and metal album covers ever

A collage of bad album covers
(Image credit: Various)

Before the days of streaming, rock and metal fans would flip through the racks at their local vinyl dealers and often buy an album based on its cover art. How many musicians have enthusiastically revealed that they got into Iron Maiden primarily based on Derek Riggs' paintings of Eddie

But sometimes, bands get it wrong. This examination of the worst rock and metal album covers is not a comment on the music contained within, but more of a dry heave, a wince or a toe-curling cringe at some creative misfires which were designed, printed and placed in shops before anyone stopped for a moment to realise how awful the art was. 

Brace yourselves for what could be considered a crime in the art world.

Metal Hammer line break

Wehrmacht – Shark Attack

Wehrmacht's Shark Attack album artwork

(Image credit: New Renaissance Records)

Despite their highly problematic name, this Oregon crossover thrash band are all about the beer. Maybe a crate was imbibed when they came up with the brief for this absolute car crash of an album cover. There are many questions to be raised here: are they in a sewer? Are the sharks willing participants? Who signed it off?

Black Sabbath – Born Again

Black Sabbath's Born Again album artwork

(Image credit: Vertigo)

When drummer Bill Ward saw the artwork for Black Sabbath's 11th studio album, he "hated it". Ian Gillan, the vocalist at the time, was physically sick. It's not great, is it?

Predator – Easy Prey

Predator's Easy Prey album artwork

(Image credit: Metal Blade)

Looking past the many red flags on display, we're not sure if the boot cut jeans are the most offensive things on this sleeve. Maybe the masked man is simply looking for someone to mend his shredded shirt. 

Destruction – Release From Agony

Destruction's Release From Agony album artwork

(Image credit: Steamhammer/SPV)

Is this a nightmare or a misinterpreted artistic brief? It's a hellish vision, sure, but one that says what exactly is fucking going on with this poor bastard's medical care? We didn't clap on our doorsteps every Thursday for this.

Snatch - If There's A Party In Your Mouth....We're Comin'

Snatch - If There's A Party In Your Mouth....We're Comin' album artwork

(Image credit: Snatch Records)

There is no party in our mouth, lads. Take your bag of cans and go home, straight to bed. We've all had a long day. 

Abril - Testamento

Abril's Testamento album artwork

(Image credit: Rock'n'Roll Circus)

One minute, you're pretending to be 1987-era Red Hot Chili Peppers and playing your Strat in the nude and a winged demon swoops in and starts taking the piss. Give the lad a break. We've all done it. Right?

Druid – Vampire Cult

Druid's Vampire Cult album artwork

(Image credit: Crossbone)

Word on the street is that those two petrifying goths in your science class have been hanging around the local graveyard again. That heady smell of incense and hairspray really wrestles the nostrils of those in this world and the next, but come the morning, all that will remain are empty cider cans and a velvet blazer. 

Kratos – Iron Beast

Kratos' Iron Beast artwork

(Image credit: Kratos)

This defunct Ohio power metal trio truly captured a vision of the future where law and order were a distant memory; a swole beast in a silver helmet and matching singlet roams the highways with one purpose – to fuck shit up. Job done.

Artillery – Terror Squad

Artillery's Terror Squad album artwork

(Image credit: Neat Records)

There's a lot going on here on the artwork adorning the second album by Danish thrashers Artillery. The piece looks like a hardcore album imagined by a child, with a wobbly use of perspective. There's cops, a man brandishing a gun and a surgeon enthusiastically injecting a rat in the arse. Are they goading the rodent to attack or apprehending it? Is it a metaphor for a police state? Is it a comment on vivisection? That's the thing about art; it makes you question like, life. 

Manowar – Hail to England

Manowar's Hail To England album artwork

(Image credit: Magic Circle)

This must be how every Britain First supporter sees themselves when they leave the house to shout at visitors to this island or buy a carbonara for one from the corner shop.

Whiplash - Insult to Injury

Whiplash's Insult to Injury album artwork

(Image credit: Roadracer)

This guy is not having the best of times, all told. The coroner's inquest notes will surely point towards the amateurish bandaging on the patient's leg being a primary cause of death on the railway line. While health workers are angels who walk among us, long hours and pressure often mean mistakes will be made.

 Area Disaster – Walhalla

Area Disaster's Walhalla album artwork

(Image credit: Area Disaster)

Did you look at the UFO first? Thought not. Now there's a Nordic warrior who's put some serious time in at the gym. Imagine having the body confidence to stride out of your front door with your Viking junk fluttering in the breeze like Odin's wind sock. It's an enduring image, we'll give them that.

Marauder – Sense of Metal

Maurauder's Sense of Metal

(Image credit: Live Records)

Greek metallers Marauder saw fit to have Godzilla-Steve Vai hybrid stomping around a metropolis on the cover of this 1997 release. Despite this guitar hero's overwhelming size, there's a sense of melancholy captured in his face as he is burdened by his own power. Fun fact: there's a song called Faster Than Thunder, which would be just over 1088 feet per second. Pretty fast.

Fireaxe – Victory or Death

Fireaxe's Victory or Death album artwork

(Image credit: Fireaxe)

Death, please. Didn't give it more than a moment's thought.

Overdrive – Swords and Axes

Overdrive'S album artwork for Swords and Axes

(Image credit: Regain Records)

"Yeah, hi. Can you airbrush a Viking who looks like they're part balloon animal and have them chopping the world in half? Yeah, in space. You know what the human body looks like? A week turnaround alright? Great."

Yngwie J. Malmsteen – Trilogy

Yngwie J. Malmsteen fights a dragon on the cover of the Trilogy album

(Image credit: Polydor)

Let's be honest, this dragon is absolutely wrecking the action on the Stockholm-born maestro's guitar. Time to dust off the spare, probably.

Aeternus – Shadows of Old

Aeternus' artwork for Shadows of Old

(Image credit: Hammerheart Records)

The artwork which adorns this 1999 black metal release is exactly like the leaflets which would fall out of any rock or metal magazine at the time. So, if you want a black vest or some fancy metal finery, give Aeternus a shout. Some stock may be fire-damaged.

Slayer – Show No Mercy

Slayer's Show No Mercy album artwork

(Image credit: Metal Blade Records)

This is what happens when rural metal fans think it'll be a laugh to dress their goat in a cape, black swimming trunks and give them a sword. One minute, it's adorable, the next, your livestock is going fucking mental. 

Pantera – Projects in the Jungle

Pantera's Projects in the Jungle album artwork

(Image credit: Metal Magic)

We've all seen the Metal Magic album sleeve but this is scientifically worse. Had this been created on an AI app, the prompt would be: Mötley Crüe play a concert on a pair of oversized demon hands. The venue? Any Center Parcs resort.

Manilla Road – Spiral Castle

Manilla Road - Spiral Castle

(Image credit: Iron Glory Records)

It's like metal bands are obsessed with getting a muscular male torso completely wrong or something. Lads, if you're going to insist on painting this sort of thing, pop your t-shirt off, have a flex and simply paint what you see. It can't be that hard.

Ace Lane – See You in Heaven

2 versions of Ace Lane's album See You In Heaven

(Image credit: Expulsion)

If you want a NWOBHM album sleeve with an impossibly shredded torso, pink budgie smugglers and a glowing skull, today is your lucky day. If you don't, then we can't help you. The album was released with a different, but equally bad sleeve. Two bites of a rotten apple.

Darkthrone – Diabolus Interium

Diabolis Interium by Darkthrone

(Image credit: No Fashion, Necropolis)

If there was a look that said, 'Don't look at my nipples, I've just had a shower', then this is it. We'd be more concerned with the rodent-like tail buried in that gaping stomach hole, really. Best get it looked at.

Metalucifer – Heavy Metal Chainsaw

Metalucifer – Heavy Metal Chainsaw

(Image credit: Iron Pegasus Records)

In this fast-paced world, there's no room for ambiguity. You can't fault Metalucifer for describing exactly what's happening on the sleeve of this otherwise forgettable release. Note to would-be DIY enthusiasts: don't operate a chainsaw while being engulfed in flames.

Venom – Cast In Stone

Venom's artwork for Cast in Stone

(Image credit: SPV/Steamhammer)

"How, pet. Wor Conrad's got a new album oot. Looks like his mates have been to South Shields beach and got buried in the sand by some bairns. Nee wonder he looks like he's aboot to gan radgie."

Havohej – Dethrone the Son of God

Havohej – Dethrone the Son of God

(Image credit: Candlelight Records)

The sheer torment of being sustaining a head injury then losing your keys in a field is perfectly captured on this album sleeve by US black metallers Havohej. 

Raven – The Pack is Back

Raven artwork for The Pack is Back

(Image credit: Atlantic Records)

The pack is also going to earn a lifetime ban from the local leisure centre at this rate. 

Megadeth – Killing Is My Business...And Business Is Good

Killing Is My Business...And Business Is Good

(Image credit: Combat)

When setting out his stall as the leader of 'The World's State Of The Art Speed Metal Band', Dave Mustaine might have chosen something more sinister than a skull decorated in shades and a handful of curtain hooks. No wonder the sleeve was updated for the 2002 reissue.

Kick Axe – Vices

Kick Axe – Vices

(Image credit: Pasha Records)

This looks like something from a Camden stall that sells ornaments using old parts from a car engine. Either that, or a CBBC cartoon about a woodwork class.

Nuclear Assault – Something Wicked

Nuclear Assault – Something Wicked

(Image credit: I.R.S. Records)

Nuclear Assault's run of classic thrash albums in the 80s had some iconic covers, all depicting some form of apocalyptic scene involving hazmat suits, toxic spills and general nuclear shithousery. This looks like something a Juggalo might leave behind at a campsite.

W.A.S.P. – Inside the Electric Circus

W.A.S.P – Inside the Electric Circus

(Image credit: Capitol Records)

Roll up, roll up! Come see the middle-aged man in a tiger onesie! It's hard to tell if those are his legs if you stare at the sleeve long enough.

Dangerous Toys – The R*tist 4*merly Known as Dangerous Toys

Dangerous Toys album artwork

(Image credit: DMZ Records)

It's clearly a parody of Prince's Lovesexy album cover, but this is a crime against design. White figure against a white background? You're going to art jail, mate.

Scorpions – Fly to the Rainbow

Scorpions - Fly to the Rainbow

(Image credit: RCA)

Despite their success, Scorpions have played fast and loose with what constitutes a decent album cover. That milk carton helmet would provide no protection when you're flying around with bin lids for feet. But that's Scorpions for you. Visionaries when it comes to unorthodox footwear. 

Pantera – I Am The Night

Pantera I am the Night

(Image credit: Metal Magic)

We've been up late and that is definitely not 'the night', no matter how many Black Tooth Grins were imbibed during the ideas meeting for this... whatever this is.

Riot – Restless Breed

Riot – Restless Breed

(Image credit: Elektra)

Over the course of their first few albums, Riot had a dandelion-headed mascot named Tior appear on their album artwork. This appears to be some sort of origin story where we see Tior's transformation from student to seal against the backdrop of New York City's iconic skyline. Tior! It's an anagram of Riot. Just got it.

Rok Bergade – The Attack Is On

Rok Bergade

(Image credit: Rok Records)

Great, a child's drawing of a Mighty Morphin Power Ranger has come to life and it's running amok through... Sheffield? You know, just off London Road. 

Misantropical Painforest – Winds Saturate with Inhumane Longing

Misantropical Painforest

(Image credit: Alpha Draconis)

Oh, mate. Do you want to talk? I know, she's not coming back. She's moved on. I think she might have found you a bit too much. Plenty more fish in the sea. What, the fish are dead and floating in the eternal void? Maybe you should get some sleep.

Mortal Sin – Mayhemic Destruction

Mortal Sin - Mayhemic Destruction

(Image credit: Mega Metal Productions)

Idea for Hollywood blockbuster: a shredded demon does lunges over Sydney, which erupts into chaos. Russell Crowe to star as a world-weary demon negotiator. 

Rod Sacred – Rod Sacred

Rod Sacred

(Image credit: Metalnews)

Do any of our readers remember the computer game Horace Goes Skiing for the Spectrum? This is him now. Feel old yet?

Type O Negative - The Origin of the Feces

Type O Negative - The Origin of the Feces

(Image credit: Roadrunner)

If we have to see a close up of Pete Steel's anus, then you must too. Imagine carrying this record home on the bus. Absolute scenes.

Kane Roberts – Kane Roberts

Kane Roberts self-titled album

(Image credit: Universal)

The only muscular male to feature in this list with a well-proportioned torso, Alice Cooper's former guitarist is seen here navigating a city in chaos, armed with a flame-throwing, machine gun-shaped guitar. This lad is getting home in time for his dinner, no question about that.

Anvil – Strength of Steel

Anvil's Strength of Steel album artwork

(Image credit: Metal Blade)

Over Anvil's long and arduous career, their name has given the Canadian metallers license to play around with visual puns based on their name. Of all the releases featuring an iron block – a sort of Eddie, for blacksmiths – this one just might just be the cheesiest. Which is saying something. But if you like polystyrene sprayed black and waved around by a total lad, you'd be compelled to purchase this record. 

Ted Nugent and the Amboy Dukes – Call of the Wild

Ted Nugent and the Amboy Dukes' Call of the Wild

(Image credit: DiscReet)

Is this a kite floating gently over a gentle suburban street in Michigan? This tiger is barely snarling and instead doing one of those awkward smiles you'd see in any school portrait portfolio. 

Torch – Torch

Torch's self-titled album

(Image credit: Torch)

You should have worn a coat but were reluctant to pay the cloakroom fee in each club on your night out. But this is Middlesbrough in the dead of winter and you're not having a great time waiting in the queue for the taxi.

ZnoWhite – Act of God

Znowhite Act of God album art

(Image credit: Roadracer)

Aping the iconic Motörhead logo doesn't stop this from looking like a poorly photographed grandma threatening the viewer with a pool ball on a deserted beach. It doesn't so much say a moment of divine intervention, rather a pub game which has gone awry.

Acid Reign – The Fear

Acid Reign's The Fear album artwork

(Image credit: Under One Flag)

First things first. This is a great thrash album. But this charcoal rendering is the sort of artwork which you might see in a school art class, closely followed by a quiet word at the school gate. Who'd have thought angry bin bags were such a threat to our elderly angels? 

Rogue Male – First Visit 

Rogue Male First Visit album art

(Image credit: Music for Nations)

We're not sure what's the most unsettling. The auburn Dog the Bounty Hunter hairstyle or the fact that this space-age lothario's face has peeled off to reveal a android skull. It's the hair, isn't it?

Dementia – Recuperate From Reality

Recuperate From Reality

(Image credit: Tombstone Records)

When it came to obsessing over nuclear disasters, no genre came close to thrash. And here we see some poor wretch being absolutely pulverised by gigantic ladles of toxic waste. If you squint, those cooling towers look like the ones when you get the train to Donington. 

Freedom Call – Master of Light

Freedom Call – Master of Light

(Image credit: SPV)

Two words: shredded Jesus. 

Hydra Vein – Rather Death Than False of Faith

Hydra Vein artwork

(Image credit: Metalother Records)

For their 1988 debut, UK thrashers Hydra Vein conjured up every metal fan's worst nightmare for their cover art to Rather Death Than False of Faith: a Gamorrean guard from Star Wars crossed with a Medusa-like head causing merry hell while a city burns in the background. The velvet cloak: model's own.

Whiplash – Power and Pain


(Image credit: Roadrunner Records)

The second appearance on this list by Whiplash, but it's worth a mention. The brief? A robot from the future visits the UK to punish Ross Kemp. No specific reason. 

Simon Young

Born in 1976 in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Simon Young has been a music journalist for over twenty years. His fanzine, Hit A Guy With Glasses, enjoyed a one-issue run before he secured a job at Kerrang! in 1999. His writing has also appeared in Classic RockMetal HammerProg, and Planet Rock. His first book, So Much For The 30 Year Plan: Therapy? — The Authorised Biography is available via Jawbone Press.