Recently we examined the morbid side of the heavy metal genre. But not all metal bands want to remind you that people want to kill you. There are also plenty of bands that want you to forget about your worries and whisk you away to a faraway land and time (sometimes the Middle Ages, sometimes Outer Space, sometimes Something The Band Just Fucking Made Up Themselves) and let you know that while evil does indeed lurk out there, most of the time good will prevail over evil.
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.
5. Grave Digger – Heavy Metal Breakdown
Twenty-seven years and approximately 800 albums have passed since Grave Digger's 1984 debut Heavy Metal Breakdown. While the majority of cover art for their albums since have dabbled in medieval imagery, they have yet to quite match the level of awesomeness brought to the table here by this simple imagery of a satellite blowing up an unknown planet that half consists of a human skull. A lot of bands will tell you that they will blow your mind. Grave Digger shows you that they will blow your mind, and there is nothing you can do about it, because you are a mere Earthly mortal and powerless to stop them.
4. Sonata Arctica – Reckoning Night
The conversation between the pirates aboard the ship depicted on the cover art for 2004's Reckoning Night went something like this:
Pirate #1: “These waters are getting rough!”
Pirate #2: “These waves are about to engulf the ship … HOLY SHIT! THE WAVES JUST TURNED INTO GIANT WOLVES! THIS IS THE AWESOMEST THING I'VE EVER SEEN! THAT'S THE FUCKING SHIT!”
Pirate #1: “You seem really accepting of the fact that we are about to die horrible deaths at sea.”
Pirate #2: “Yeah, but this is the last thing I'll see before I die! THAT'S FUCKING AWESOME!”
3. Metalium – Chapter Five: Demons Of Insanity
Portraying a scantily-clad babe and a beast literally made of METAL using their combined strength to keep Planet Earth together while it burns from its core, the cover art for 2005's Chapter Five: Demons Of Insanity is very progressive for the metal genre, as it depicts a woman as having equal strength to a beast made of METAL. Bravo, Metalium! As long as these two forces are still alive and there to support us, we have no fears about anything that will occur on December 21, 2012.
2. Yngwie Malmsteen – Trilogy
1986 was a tumultuous year. The world was in a funk due to the Challenger incident. Luckily, there was one man that pulled us out of our funk that year, and that was neoclassical shred guitarist Yngwie J. Malmsteen, who gave billions worldwide their sense of hope and promise back after he used the power of his guitar to unleash the fucking fury on a three-headed fire-breathing dragon. And then to make sure we never forgot what he did for all of us, he immortalized that moment on the cover of his 1986 album Trilogy. In the years that have passed, Yngwie has yet to match this moment in terms of cover art, though he came damn close with the cover art for his 2008 release, Perpetual Flame.
1. Axxis – Utopia
Hey, it's our good friends in Axxis again! This time on the cover art for the 2009 release Utopia, the beautiful bombshell has found herself steering a giant sea-dragon the size of a skyscraper and accompanied by a little girl as they descend upon a domed-city (we're going to guess it's Utopia) to do … something. Also, she has a fire-whip, which somehow stays lit despite being surrounded by sky-high waves of water. Yet, what runs through our mind is the burning question of whether all of this is “ridiculously awesome,” or “awesomely ridiculous?”