...

Invisible Oranges is no stranger to fun posts about album cover art, so we thought we'd revive the feature for 2013. We've done one previously for the Worst Art of 2011, but this year, we wanted to broaden the concept rather than focusing on the unpolished turds the genre laid in 2013 A.D.

— Richard Street-Jammer

...

First, the strange, the bland, and John Baizley. The two weirdest album covers that I saw all year are:

Lancer - Lancer

I don't have the foggiest clue what's going on with this Lancer artwork. The album's a solid piece of power metal, but doesn't match this artwork. (Note: Lancer's memorable music video may explain this art...kind of. —Ed.)

...

Stahlfront - Wiederkehr Der Ahnen

Stahlfront is a National Socialist black metal band that apparently is into occultism, and, I guess, aliens and secret Nazi flying saucer superweapons. Dive headfirst into this swivel-eyed lunacy here; German-speaking capability recommended. The picture, in case you were wondering, is actually an artist's concept painting that has had its color palette black-metalized.

...

The laziest and most boring cover art of the year, and possibly of all time:

Pyorrhoea - I Am the War

Brutal death metal as a genre has the absolute worstest cover art in metal history, so in some respects, this cover is addition by subtraction, since it's not a pile of naked women being devoured by alien shitpenises or whatever. It is eye-catching, though. Pyorrhoea's a solid band, so don't let this whitebread lump of a cover deter you from checking them out.

...

Before we go on to the good stuff: John Baizley, and John Baizley's art this year. He's a talented artist with an interesting aesthetic, and he's produced some classic album art. The Skeletonwitch cover is really good, but the Kvelertak one? The defining impression is birds pooping and naked breasts, which puts it conceptually close to the brutal death metal neighborhood. I wonder if he was trolling us. ("Let's see how far I can go. Poop and boobs! Will they still like this?")

Baizley didn't crank out as many album covers as usual, but Paolo Girardi stepped up to the plate by painting 14 album covers. His previous total output was 18 pieces over the last decade. When I compiled this list, it was tempting to just dump ten Girardi pieces in and call it a day; the quality hardly would've changed. Like Baizley, and some Dan Seagrave guy you might've heard of, he's got an interesting and defined style. Given how much work he did this year, I think it's time to wonder if he'll eventually be viewed the same way Seagrave is today.

...

And now, on to the ten best metal album covers of the year. One last quick note, when I compiled these, I tried to remove anything not created specifically for the album. Heaven Shall Burn, Eibon, and a few other bands missed the list because of that.

...

10. Emyn Muil - Túrin Turambar Dagnir Glauranga

There's a strong Samurai Jack element to this artwork. It works really well with the band's Summoning-influenced take on black metal.

...

9. Altar of Plagues - Teethed Glory and Injury

This still was taken from the very end of the "God Alone" music video. Other than being artsy and physically impressive, it's a good representation of the contorted spin Altar of Plagues last album took.

...

8. Progenie Terrestre Pura - U.M.A.

Io9 occassionally posts picture as Concept Art Writing Prompts. This could be one. As with the Altar of Plagues cover, this gives you an idea of what you're getting, which is a spacey, futuristic version of black metal.

...

...

7. Nocte Obducta - Umbriel (Das Schweigen Zwischen Den Sternen)

I like the color palette on this minimalist piece. Stylistically, it reminds me of 1960s novel art. Nocte Obducta plays an avante-garde version of, you guessed it, black metal. Unlike the last three, this cover doesn't totally match the art; you know you'll get something modern and odd, but Nocte Obducta's not minimalist by heavy metal standards.

...

6. Darkthrone - The Underground Resistance

Darkthrone channeled their '80s metal inclinations on The Underground Resistance, and came up with this very Manilla Road-esque album cover. The amount of detail that was put into the warriors' equipment is jaw-dropping, especially when viewed at close range. Go ahead and haul out your AD&D Equipment Guide, because you can calculate each guy's armor class using this album cover.

...

5. An Autumn for Crippled Children - Try Not To Destroy Everything You Love

A lovely photograph, at odds with the album's musical contents. Not much else to say here.

...

4. Protest the Hero - Volition

This will be a controversial choice, but I think it belongs. The piece itself, and what it depicts, are ugly. But ultimately, it's sociopolitical commentary and a full analysis is well beyond the scope of this listicle.

...

3. Lycus - Tempest

There's so much going on in this Paolo Girardi piece that it's not worth trying to describe it.

...

2. The Ruins of Beverast - Blood Vaults - The Blazing Gospel of Heinrich Kramer

Blood Vaults' bright blues and pale greens are misleading, but the twisted, tortured expression on Heinrich Kramer's face is not: Blood Vaults is a churning, hopeless sprawl of an album. The only color in its notes is obsidian, dark as the night sky.

...

1. Essence of Datum - Event Horizon

Essence of Datum are an instrumental technical/melodic death metal quartet from Belarus. More than any other piece in this list, Event Horizon's artwork has nothing to do with the music, but just look at it. How could you possibly turn that piece of art down?

...