In 1980s record shops, mingled among costly conceptual covers from heavy rock pioneers like Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, would be the cover art that heralded the new wave of British heavy metal bands. This included Derek Riggs’s Eddie the Head art for Iron Maiden, the leather-and-chrome styling of Saxon, Judas Priest and Motörhead, the airbrushed sci-fi of Def Leppard, and the sketchy black magic iconography of Venom.
Later on, for those of whom the tempo was just not high enough, there was thrash and speed metal, with suitably electrifying covers, such as those for Metallica, with their blocky logo typography that seemed heavily influenced by the Star Wars font.
More extreme sub-genres, such as death metal and black metal, would often feature crudely hewn scenes of the fantastic or supernatural.
Dead Nouveau is a 18 x 24-inch screen print by Brian Ewing
“Back when metal started, only stoner guys with army jackets listened to the music,” says renowned gig-poster and cover artist Brian Ewing.
“These same guys read comic books and HP Lovecraft [horror and sci-fi author] and loved porn. So, it didn’t take much to get their attention. It [metal] was geared towards teenage guys. Nobody else cared for it.”
“If an album got banned for sex or violence, it sold more copies. Take Guns N’ Roses’ Appetite for Destruction – Robert Williams painted the original cover and it caused a big controversy. That didn’t hurt the artist or the band when it became national news and highly sought after,” says Brian.