On the album cover for Rhapsody Of Fire's latest, From Chaos To Eternity, an avenging angel rides a unicorn and descends on hordes of the damned as they cross the plane to their eternal fate. Many of the bands in the power metal genre not only use their lyrics and music to let your mind wander to a faraway place, but they also lure you into that mindset with their album art.
On multiple occasions, batshit insanity enters the fray and helps shift a power metal album cover way beyond the generic fantasy barrier, as evidenced by the Top Ten Ridiculously Awesome/Awesomely Ridiculous Power Metal Album Covers:
Italy's Rhapsody Of Fire has been carrying the flag proudly for epic power metal. For almost two decades, they have merged elements of traditional heavy metal with classical symphonic influences to lead their fans through fantasy adventure-themed albums with titles such as Symphony of Enchanted Lands and Power of the Dragonflame.
From Chaos To Eternity (which hit stores in the U.S. this week) continues to build on their previous tales of lands and times long ago, and again showcases guitarist Luca Turilli's virtuosity and strong delivery of sweeping anthemic choruses from lead vocalist Fabio Leone. Album closer "Heroes Of The Waterfall Kingdom" has Christopher Lee (yes, THAT Christopher Lee) returning for his fifth (and reportedly final) endeavor providing voiceover narration for the band, guiding the listener through a twenty-minute epic that provides closure to many of the story arcs that Rhapsody Of Fire have presented on their previous albums.
But no, an album cover featuring an avenging angel riding a unicorn is not spectacular enough to make this list. Why? Keep reading.
10. Hammerfall - Chapter V: Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken
All of Hammerfall's albums have depicted the travails of a knight named Hector. On the cover art for 2005's Chapter V: Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken, Hector got stranded in the middle of an arctic blizzard and has been frozen for an unknown amount of time, with the wolves behind appearing concerned for his fate. Luckily, Hector would recover for future Hammerfall album covers, and eventually learned his lesson from the events of the great blizzard and evolved to grow wings for the cover of 2009's No Sacrifice, No Victory.
9. Gamma Ray - Insanity And Genius
Since leaving Helloween in 1988, vocalist/guitarist Kai Hansen has steered Gamma Ray along the very fine line between insanity and genius musically, but never did their cover art come as close to being the power metal version of Man On Wire as it did on 1993's Insanity And Genius. The deep Asian philosophy behind the yin yang symbol is turned into a hyper-colored battle between ice-cold tundra and scorching-hot fire. We have no idea which side is supposed to represent insanity and which side is supposed to represent genius, but all of it is pretty magnificent.
8. Manowar - Kings Of Metal
While good does slay evil sometimes, Manowar has banked a thirty-year career on proving that METAL will prevail over evil all of the time. 1988's Kings Of Metal reinforces this theme, however the cover art also serves as a reminder that in the end, America is the greatest country in the world, and that all other countries just aren't as metal as us. U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!
7. Luca Turilli - King Of The Nordic Twilight
Rhapsody Of Fire guitarist Luca Turilli has put out several solo albums during his tenure, allowing him to tell stories and anecdotes that do not fit into the established Rhapsody Of Fire continuity. The cover art for 1999's King Of The Nordic Twilight, the first in a trilogy of solo albums, depicts a Norseman that will avoid the unfortunate situation that Hector found himself in, thanks to his sword that channels the power of blazing fire and a wolf companion that appears to be angrier, louder, and more aggressive than the wolves that accompanied Hector.
6. Axxis - Doom Of Destiny
The cover art for the last few albums from German metallers Axxis have featured a dark-haired bombshell getting into all sorts of wacky adventures. In an astonishing lack of subtlety even for power metal cover art, the cover art for 2004's Time Machine depicted her straddling an out-of-control train that had a giant clock on the front of it. The cover art above for 2007's Doom Of Destiny features our heroine growing bat wings as she appears to be leading a horde of similar buxom bat-babes away from harm's way as the heavens explode upon icons of different historical eras that have absolutely nothing to do with each other.