What scares you? Everybody has a different definition of scary, and Halloween is the one time of the year where we all reflect on and revel in what creeps us out the most. Whether it's supernatural imagery, the grotesque realism of a mutilated body, or the subtle snapshots that seem superficially harmless, but suggest something so inexplicably dark and haunting they stay with you forever, album art has covered them all. Here is a celebration of some of the creepiest covers in music history. There's something here for everyone.
Here is Ultimate-Guitar's Top 10 Creepiest Album Covers of all time. Let us know what you think, we know you will.
Richard D. James Album' (1996)
Richard James aka Aphex Twin has always had arresting album covers but this one from the mid-90s is his scariest. At the time of this album's release, Aphex Twin was the leading force behind the electronica boom so the music world was definitely watching. The cover art shows a close-up of James in lighting that makes him look nothing less that demonic. As hard as black metal musicians try to make themselves appear as evil as their lyrics, they can't hold a candle to the creepiness of Richard D. James Album.'
Dawn of the Black Hearts' (1995)
Although it was released as a bootleg, we had to include Mayhem's Dawn of the Black Hearts' on this list. Where bands like Cannibal Corpse and Mortician use gory paintings and imagery to get their point across, the folks that originally issued this record used an actual photo of a suicide to drive their message home. If that weren't macabre enough, the person in the photo is Dead, Mayhem's late singer who took his own life in 1991.
Lead by vegetarian throat abuser Travis Ryan, California's Cattle Decapitation write songs where humans are put through some torturous predicaments. The cover to their Humanure' album is a stomach-turning vision that depicts a cow sh*tting out the bloody remnants of a human.
We're sure Ryan was trying to turn the tables and show a world where animals ate us instead of the other way around, but that probably went over a lot of people's heads. In the end, we're still left with one of the most memorable and vile album sleeves we've ever seen.
Dancing to the Music in My Head' (2009)
Andy Warhol said everyone will get 15 minutes of fame in their lifetime. This American Idol' reject had about 6 minutes of it and that was 6 minutes more than he actually deserved. The guy had zero talent and the personality of a garden gnome, yet for a fleeting moment, America fell for his crap and voted for him week after week. Whereas other American Idol' finalists went on to get major label record deals, Sanjaya didn't exactly have the A&R executives running in his direction. Released on a tiny indie label that no one has ever heard of, Dancing to the Music in My Head' is horrid even for teen pop standards. The only thing ghastlier than the songs is the cover of the record. It looks like something a 9-year-old girl would create in art class if that girl were on 3 hits of acid.
Canopy Glow' (2008)
These forward-thinking indie rockers don't pay attention to genre limitations and the cover to their Canopy Glow' album displays that same F You attitude. Most of their hipster peers go with the precious and pretty route when it comes to the visual side of their work, but Anathallo bravely went with a haunting vision of a boy lying dead in the dirt.
It's an image that will conjure up emotions and stay with you long after you see it. Despite its shock value, the nightmarish moment somehow works beautifully with the group's dizzying songwriting.
Get What You Deserve' (1994)
Leaders of the original Tuetonic Thrash scene of the 80s, Sodom's band name alone displays the trio's disregard for mainstream conformity. They've had their share of offensive album covers in their long career but 1994's Get What You Deserve' is on another level of horror. The photo shows a dead fat dude lying on a bed surrounded by blow up dolls, handcuffs, and what looks like an underage girl, whom, from the album's title, one would infer he was victimizing. It's a testament to the band's rebel spirit that they would use this disturbing image for one of their releases. There's no way in Hell that Wal- Mart would ever stock their shelves with this.
Back to the S**t!' (1989)
It's not often you see R&B covered in the pages of Ultimate-Guitar, but just look at that photo! Are you kidding us Millie?! The scariest thing about the entire thing is the thought of walking into the bathroom right after the singer abuses that poor toilet bowl.
Antony and the Johnsons
I Am a Bird Now' (2005)
Antony and the Johnsons is the solo vehicle from singer/songwriter Antony Hegarty and it's the kind of high-brow stuff that the critics in New Yorker' magazine go gaga about. But the cover for his I Am a Bird Now' could have easily been used by a hardcore or metal band. Gorgeously shot by Peter Hujar, the cover of the record is taken from one of the photographer's most celebrated works, Candy Darling on her Deathbed, 1974.' It shows Darling, one of the aforementioned Andy Warhol's so-called Superstars, in Columbus Hospital, sprawled across the bed where she would soon die from leukemia at the age of 29. Her thousand-yard stare will pierce you.
The Afghan Whigs
It's just a simple image of a boy and a girl. No blood, no lifeless victims. But I defy you to take in the cover of this classic Afghan Whigs' album without feeling a little uncomfortable. There's no denying the suggestive nature of the photo something is about to happen between these kids, or maybe it already has. The look in the boy's eyes could convey apathy or regret, but no matter how you interpret it, there's a complete lack of innocence. Like in the album's title track, the boy is a wolf in sheep's clothing, disguised as a harmless child. There's no mistaking his intentions though. Boys will be boys, and girls, no matter how young or old, are their willing lambs.
Push Push' (1971)
It's midnight and you've just returned home from a long day at work. You open the door to your bedroom and all you see is this naked guy, standing there waiting for you in the dark, holding a flute. Happy Halloween.
Article by Carlos Ramirez Ultimate-Guitar.Com 2009