The phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover” has been used so frequently that it’s pretty much been done to death: while we shouldn’t judge work solely by what’s on the paper in front of it, it’s hard not to pay attention to it, maybe even admire it. Multiple albums have come along with artistic creations that have reached an iconic status while others find themselves memed beyond comprehension.
We’re not talking about that today – it’s Halloween and therefore we need to get that spooky dial turned all the way up to eleven! Bashing our collective heads together, along with the help of the good folks over at Patrician Music Chartposting, we’ve comprised a feature full of album covers that are eerie, unsettling, creepy or a mish-mash of all the above. Amongst them is a wildcard to test your courage: continue…if you dare!
TW: Suicide, guts and other NSFW material
John Dwyer’s absurdist musical rollercoaster has encountered plenty of twists and turns throughout the course of his enigmatic career. Representing one of its highest peaks, Thee Oh Sees‘ Floating Coffin – like its bizarre, unnerving album cover – bares its teeth, demonstrating the unique ability of Dwyer et al. to up the ante and produce an album packed with heavy-duty psychedelic-infused DIY tunes.
The artwork for Guts Of A Virgin by Painkiller is immediately horrifying. Initially banned by UK censors (leading to customs seizing and destroying the first shipment of the physical release), this cover art is a perfect representation of the horrors that await on a first listen to this manic EP.
The psychedelic pattern bordering the graphic photograph help illustrate the EP’s blend of the macabre with hypnotic soundscapes. A band lead by the crazy mind of John Zorn is well deserving of cover art such as this.
How fitting for an album so unashamedly weird, messy and, well, creepy to have an artwork that gives off that vibe? That’s Harakiri is the result of a musician, Sd Laika, meshing rigid haunting rhythms and sounds together in a way that really shouldn’t work but somehow does: the same haunting presence the music evokes can be felt from the creepy smile and desolate black eyes that take up most of this cover.
A naked man, void of expression, holding a contorted baby doll upside down? Yup, totally normal…
Not necessarily the sp00kiest album cover you’ll ever see, but at the time was definitely more harrowing than your average album artwork. Just look at that dark figure in the foreground and the ominous house in the background. This caused the band to be dubbed satanist and attracts fans of the occult to boot, with the cover certainly contributing to their new reputation.
When A Blaze In The Northern Sky was released in 1991 – it became a pivotal album, breaking away from the brutal sounding Death Metal that was popular in metal at the time to a completely cold and eerie take on extreme music. The album would be considered as the first Norwegian Black Metal album.
Not just breaking ground musically the band abandoned the painted, colourful covers that you’d see on metal albums and went for a grainy, black and white photograph of guitarist Zephyrous; in corpsepaint, in the dark looking nothing short of a ghost. One can only imagine how this would have stood out sitting on a record shelf amongst the other bright album covers.
Described by Justin Moran as “one-part insect, one-part alien and one-part satan”, the mutant that stares blankly into the beholder’s eyes on Arca‘s sophomore LP is simultaneously stunning and startling. Resembling something out of an SCP Foundation short story, everything about this monstrous creation gives off a weird essence, from the black, devilish horns to the rubbery red texture of its body.
An album cover that by itself is pretty odd but becomes all the more apt and eerie when brought into context. On the 13th of November 2004, John Balance fell from a two-story balcony, killing him at the age of 42. The twisted up, unusual shape of the figure in this artwork’s body, along with the bloody red that covers the face and torso, resemble injuries that such a death would cause, leading this to be subtle but spooky nonetheless.
Look at it. Just fucking look at it. If the thought of our mechanical spawn rising up and instigating their physical and intellectual superiority via the controlling of our political leaders like pulling the strings of decrepit, dancing puppets doesn’t terrify you, then listen to the content inside… IF YOU DARE.
Six degrees of separation time: Jamie Stewart of Xiu Xiu considers Peter Sotos, this album’s creator, as a major influence of theirs! While the artwork itself is nothing horrifying, much like the Coil cover it is given new life when some info is brought to the table. Now Peter Sotos is a bit of a weird one: in his books, Sotos examines sadistic sexual criminals and sexually violent pornography, particularly involving…children.
It’s all in order to examine media hypocrisy on such issues but it doesn’t make it any less chilling and the way this album is constructed is quite sick: Buyers Market consists of sound collages of spoken word samples from parents, law-enforcement officers, and victims of sex crimes. Of course, this is for far more than shock value but looking at the face on this cover, it’s hard not to see it in a new light when you find this out.
Kinda self-explanatory this one: a naked man hanging himself in what may be the most bare-bones room imaginable reeks of misery.
You know that way when you see something that looks so simple that it’s just kinda offputting? This Jandek record has a cover that fits that description perfectly: people other than myself have pointed out just how there’s some sort of aura about this artwork that makes them feel…uneasy. The album itself is out of tune and feels like it could have been crafted by a deluded individual, a kind of unnerving charm I guess, but even without listening to it, there’s an undeniable offness about this artwork.