Personally, one of the most heartwarming aspects of the revival of vinyl is seeing great album art once again in record stores. Hell, just being able to walk in a record store again is a thrill in and of itself. While at least one of my old school retail haunts still exists, many more disappeared by the early 2000’s when digital took over. You all know the story, so there’s no sense revisiting it, but (puts on ‘old guy hat’) for those of us of a certain age that had no internet, very often our record buying decisions came down to what the album cover looked like. If it looked cool, it could very well SOUND cool. This was not an exact science, as you can well imagine, but I can speak from experience that I ‘found’ a lot of artists just by the quality of the record cover art. It was marketing, it had to have an impact when you saw it. A great album cover does not look out of place framed and on a wall.
Therefore, I’m pleased to announce a new blog series here at The Devil’s Lair focused on ‘great’ album cover art. Art is subjective of course, so rather than doing typical reviews, or a “Behind The Covers” factoid type-thingy, the Album Cover Series(tm) will instead be personal stories from myself, and any willing contributors, speaking of record covers that had that impact. What did you feel when you saw the album? Did the music live up to the visual? Did your parents FREAK OUT when they saw it? (I love those stories.) Share with us your experiences!
Looking at the album cover I chose to lead off this article, I’m sure there will be rolling of eyes “Oh look, a Satanic blog posting a Slayer album cover.” Well, put those eyes back in place and just take a moment and really look at that cover for a moment. Let me tell you why it’s there…
I was 12 years old when Reign In Blood was released in 1986. I was already very much into heavy metal by that age, having become a fan of Iron Maiden and Judas Priest well before turning 10. I had been turned on to Metallica (no surprise!) and began my search for heavier and heavier music. I was familiar with Slayer, and had purchased the “Haunting The Chapel” EP on cassette with the meager proceeds from my paper route. Reign In Blood, however, escaped me until 1987. I could not buy it…it was banned from sale when it was first released. Imagine the mindset of a 12-13 year old kid, when told they can’t have an album because it was too offensive? IT MUST BE BOUGHT! Eventually, I did manage to get a few songs from the record dubbed on tape through friends, and the middle part of “Angel of Death” was used for the intro of “Power Hour”, the Canadian version of Headbangers Ball in the 1980’s. All this just fueled my obsession in getting the album.
When the day came, it was glorious. I pored over every inch of that cover. Remember, this was during the “Satanic Panic”. We may take blasphemous extreme metal album covers for granted now, but at the time, Reign In Blood was truly terrifying to behold. Musically of course it gave me what I wanted, fast and brutal, and a length that could fit the whole album on one side of a 60 minute blank tape. Visually, it held your attention. Blasphemous. Gory. Dark. Using a unique, for metal records at the time, colour palette that still disturbs me today. This was, in my opinion, Slayer’s finest moment. The blending of brutality, speed, lyrics and art. To this day, the first moments of Angel Of Death bring this painting to mind instantly. The aesthetics remain powerful. If this came out today, and I spied it while walking into a record store, I would likely buy it without Googling it.
Yes, it is a great thing to have vinyl records back. What stories do you have?