With the generous help of Bill Billoney, who runs the essential blog Bang Your Head or I'll Rip It Off at http://bangyourheadorillripitoff.blogspot.com and the Atrocious Heavy Metal Album Covers group at Facebook, I cherrypicked the worst of the worst.
I make no value judgments on any of the music contained on these records. Some, it seems, are much beloved by hardcore metal fans. But I certainly call the artwork into question. Granted, many of the groups were likely hamstrung by non-existent art budgets, but it doesn't make this any less of a laugh.
In a sense, I prefer bands who wildly fail compared to something as safe, bland and uninteresting a group called The Dave Matthews Band.
You'll also notice that "Heavy Metal" covers a wide variety of styles. From pop-metal to thrash.
25) Krokus - Pay It In Metal: No, I'm not going to say anything. I can't. Yahoo! wouldn't publish it.
24) Wehrmacht - Shark Attack: It's always great when your kid cousin wants to draw your album cover, but that doesn't mean you let him.
23) Manowar - Into Glory Ride: Looking at the cover I figure the guy in the furry diaper drew the short straw.
22) Madam X - We Reserve The Right: There was a time when rockers used make-up and teased their hair to make themselves look better. Not here, obviously.
20) O.L.D. - Old Lady Drivers: I'm not exactly sure why "Old Lady Drivers" qualifies as something a metal band would aspire to. But I guess someone had the artwork and had to do something with it.
19) Picture Me Broken - Wide Awake: It's always great when a band's name and their album title are interchangeable. I have a hard time looking at these, um, kids and thinking they know anything about metal. They even named a song "Live Is Evil Spelled Backwards." Um, thanks?
18) Heir Apparent - One Small Voice: Said to have come out on Capitol Records in 1989, this Seattle metal band were surely not among Kurt Cobain's favorites, but it looks like Kurt might've thrown this kid's younger brother into the swimming pool just a few years later.
17) Mortification - The Silver Cord is Severed: Australian Christian metal band need help with their logo and finding a way to make themselves look vaguely interesting.
16) Whiplash - Insult to Injury: You'd think after making a few albums that the art department would take pity on the band and help them out. This is a great album cover if you don't ever wish to be taken seriously. Maybe they didn't.
15) Deliverance - What A Joke: Christian metal band that featured more than a dozen musicians among their ranks including a guy who also did time in another List favorite, Mortification, Deliverance succeed as the best band to "Let's all wear our long coats and new sneakers to the photo shoot." Silent Bob approves.
14) Buzzard - Gambler: Another great mid-80s title where you're not really sure how you're supposed to feel about things. Am I scared? Is this a warning? Did the group not want to trot out the usual Satan worship stuff?
12) Dead Orchestra - Sounds Like Time Tastes: I can't you how shocked I am when I do a websearch and I see multiple listings for a band I figure has to be forgotten. Just goes to show you can't always judge a book by its cover.
11) Messiah - Extreme Cold Weather: It does seem like a missed opportunity to not shoot this photo on a day when the weather was at least a little menacing. What does extremely cold weather have to do with metal?
9) Salvage - Salvage: I mean, I think the name of the band is Salvage.
8) Stryken - First Strike: It's nice to see that Christian Metal has nothing against androgyny. Not to be confused with Stryper, of course.
7) Tyton - Mind Over Metal: Great album title. Great dopey respelling of the band name. This is more like a classic than something truly horrible, but I don't think the idea was to make you fall over laughing.
5) Karisma - Sweet Revenge: There is nothing like a heavy metal walrus to make you feel a little...sad.
4) Kingpin - Welcome to Bop City: The guess here is that they heard Poison's "Unskinny Bop" and went out and bought new clothes.
1) Iron Cross - Too Hot To Rock: Something obviously got lost in the translation as metal made its way to Finland. By the title's implication, heavy metal should not be performed during the summer months. It looks here like somebody's mom worked at the mall and came back with these snazzy outfits.