Ranking The Iron Maiden Album Covers – Part Two

It’s back to the Iron Maiden album rankings and time to cap off the top 8. If you missed the first part of my ranking you can find that here.

8 – Brave New World

This was the other one that caused me a lot of deliberation and was pitted against No Prayer For The Dying. In the end I gave BNW the nod. While NPFTD has a more classic Eddie and this is more abstract, this is still a very nice piece of art. Cityscape and landscape stuff is art I like a lot so that is probably why this got pushed up the list. I also like storms, ports and Eddie so this one really has it all. It’s only missing beer.

Brave New World was an Album of the Week pick last year.

7 – Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son

No, I didn’t rank this here because of the number coincidence, this is really where I rank this cover. It’s a very striking image of a disembodied Eddie holding his own heart while hanging out over a frozen body of water. I have no clue what greater meaning this art possesses, if any, but it’s a pretty cool if not whacked out album cover. And just to prove I’m not ranking these based on my musical preferences, this is my favorite Maiden album.

6 – Killers

The second album is still “simple” in a way but features a more clever, purpose-filled and clearly malevolent Eddie holding an implement he most likely used on an unsuspecting victim. Maybe it was Margaret Thatcher. This is a very well done version of Eddie and is leagues above the debut album’s cover art.

Killers has been a past Album of the Week feature.

5 – Piece Of Mind

The classic fourth album features a very striking image of Eddie in a straightjacket, locked up and looking like he wants to take a piece out of someone’s mind. Poor Eddie has been lobotomized, I wonder how he’ll go on without his gray matter. This image was one of several from the classic run of albums that got millions of crazy kids into the band.

4 – A Matter Of Life And Death

It’s the highest-ranking reunion-era album cover and it’s WAY up there on my list. I absolutely love this album art with the band of brothers, skeleton edition heading into war. Eddie is not the highlight of the art and that did rankle some fans but I just totally love the art and didn’t place any importance on Eddie being more in the background. I have this back patch on my jean jacket and I’ll be gutted on the day the patch and/or jacket bites the dust.

A Matter Of Life And Death has been an Album of the Week.

3 – The Number Of The Beast

A magnificent cover featuring Eddie and every metalhead’s favorite pal, the Devil. Here Eddie is the one playing puppet master with the Beast. This duel between Eddie and the Beast plays out in many other art pieces and videos through Maiden’s history.

The really funny part about this cover was that Derek Riggs originally did it as the art for the single release of Purgatory. The band and management wisely held off on the art, correctly judging that it was too good for a single. And also this came out during the rise of the Satanic Panic in the US and the band caught a bunch of flak for it. LOL.

Coincidentally, Purgatory is next week’s pick as I run through my collection of Iron Maiden singles.

2 – Powerslave

Of all the covers and versions of Eddie, few hold a candle to this iconic art of Pharaoh Eddie as an ancient Egyptian monument. While the specifics of Eddie’s reign are lost to history, we have this spectacular image to educate us. It’s no wonder that Iron Maiden was a driving force behind 80’s kids at least pretending to care about history.

Powerslave has been an Album of the Week.

1 – Somewhere In Time

The top spot on my list goes to the 1986 album with the rad sci-fi cover. Eddie is a cyberpunk here in world definitely inspired by Blade Runner. Both the front and back cover art are chock full of easter eggs and references, head to the wiki page to collect them all.

This was the art I saw that got me into Iron Maiden, I knew I had to have this album when I saw the cover. And that’s the same tale with many fans of the group, no matter which specific album cover they first saw. These are some of the most striking and fascinating album covers in music history, and a big part of being an Iron Maiden fan.

Ranking The Iron Maiden Album Covers – Part One

I’m doing another two-parter post and also writing a bunch about Iron Maiden yet again. But this is a pretty mandatory ranking to do, along with the actual album ranking that I haven’t got to yet. (sometime this spring, most likely)

It’s a simple thing starting today – I’m going to rank the album covers. Maiden have (almost) always had iconic cover art and I figured I’d throw my hat in the ranking ring on that. I’ll do the first part today, then tomorrow I will keep my normal schedule and press on with the singles series. On Friday I’ll offer up the final portion of this ranking. I don’t know about breaking a multi-part post up like this but I think it’ll be fine.

There are 17 Iron Maiden studio albums. I’ll handle the first 9 on my list today and the final 8 on Friday, the latter portion of the list will have more to talk about. I am only including the full-length studio albums – no live stuff, no EP’s or singles, no other “not album” stuff. Some of that has pretty awesome artwork, much of it I’ll cover over the run of my ongoing singles series. At some future point in time I’ll get to the live albums.

I probably shouldn’t have to say this but I will anyway – this is only about the album art, not the quality of the album itself. If I’ve talked about the album before I’ll provide a link to anyone curious what I think about the actual music, but the tunes have zero bearing on my thoughts regarding the artwork.

The list format works best when working from bottom to top, worst to best, least to first. And with that, I probably don’t even need to tell you how my Maiden album art ranking kicks off.

17 – Dance Of Death

Ugh. What a crime of a cover. So bad the artist didn’t want credit for it. I’ve complained about this cover in a “bad cover art” post I did a long time ago and also when I covered this record in my Album of the Week series recently. I won’t go over it again – just behold this hideous abomination. I mean, it bears repeating – the artist didn’t want credit for working on an Iron Maiden album cover. That tells you how hosed this is.

16 – Book Of Souls

A very nice album that I like quite a bit, but they totally punted on any kind of art here. I wonder if criticism over past covers made them take a more minimalist approach here. They did all sorts of other art with Eddie as a Mayan kind of thing, I don’t know why they didn’t lean into that and make it a more rounded out cover. Too colorful, maybe? I think this art isn’t bad but it’s almost nothing and doesn’t communicate a damn thing about the album.

15 – The X Factor

Here we have claymation Eddie being “executed” or shoved together like a toddler playing with Play-doh or something. I give them props for trying something different but it still kind of comes up short. I will say that the bleak cover does fit the mood of the album pretty well, that they do get points on.

14 – Virtual XI

So the idea here was to combine an upcoming video game featuring Eddie with the 1998 World Cup. The lesson here is not to mix two disparate ideas unless you are really damn good. This cover isn’t horrible but it makes zero sense. I’ve read how this came about but I still don’t understand why.

13 – The Final Frontier

There is a lot going on with this cover. That I’ll give points for, there is stuff there and it’s not totally obscure like with Virtual XI. Some alien kind of thing is killing Eddie, I guess, that seems to be the premise. Or Eddie is the alien thing killing an Eddie-like being in a spacesuit, I don’t know. (I think it’s actually that one) The cover artist didn’t want to do Eddie, but the band insisted that Eddie be on the cover since he’s on, like, every single one in some form. The art is fine but the attempt to stray from the band’s iconic cover character is a bit stupid.

12 – Iron Maiden

I might be courting a bit of stiff resistance here but this is where I rank the debut album’s cover. It has its place in history, both as the wide-market debut of Eddie and as artist Derek Riggs’ first album contribution to the art. Riggs would draw several memorable Maiden covers over the years, and it should tell you something if I’m just now getting to one he did.

I do think the art is a total piece of history and is good. But let’s admit it – Eddie looks kinda out of it here. He had more precision to his other looks, and that includes some single art that Riggs did before the debut album came out. Dude looks a bit stone here and it would take a bit more art to flesh out Eddie’s persona. Good stuff but still down a few rungs from the others.

11 – Senjutsu

Massive points here for samurai Eddie, something that’s been dreamed of since the Maiden Japan EP many moons ago. (also coming up on this very site tomorrow) The art of Eddie is great and nicely detailed. The cover overall has more going on than Book Of Souls but still feels a bit lacking. I can accept this one much more since Eddie looks pretty damn good on it and it checks off a wantlist item in a nice way.

I covered the music of Senjutsu very early on in the “history” of my blog.

10 – Fear Of The Dark

A very nicely done cover that reshapes Eddie as a nasty creature out stalking in the trees. This was the first cover Derek Riggs did not do for the band. The change is apparent but it suits the album title and also the title track very well and this was a nice way to let someone else have a go at handling Eddie.

9 – No Prayer For The Dying

This was the closet call of the bunch for me, choosing between this and what became my number 8 pick. This was the final cover art Derek Riggs would do on Maiden studio albums, though he continued some other art work with the band in years since.

There are two versions of this cover – the original with Eddie holding a presumed graverobber in the likeness of band manager Ron Smallwood, and a remastered cover with Eddie not holding anyone and simply busting out of the grave. I’ve posted the remaster above and will post the original below for reference. I do tend to prefer the remastered art with just Eddie.

This is a very nice album cover, it’s one I like a lot and I’d say, in general, the art gets more love than the album. It does mark the end of an iconic run of Riggs covers and is a special part of history.

That does it for part one. Tomorrow I’ll return to the Maiden singles series with Maiden Japan and then on Friday I’ll wrap this up with the top 8.

Part Two is now up for your viewing pleasure, head here to see the rest.

Bad Album Covers

I’m switching up my programming a bit – this was going to be posted next week. Instead I thought I’d end the year on a lighter note.

Instead of actually thinking about anything today I want to take a few minutes and chuckle at some really bad album art. Cover art can be very important to a record, it can also be utterly meaningless. A good cover for an up-and-coming act can catch a potential fan’s eye, while off-putting art might be ignored for good tunes on the album itself.

Art is subjective and very much hit or miss. For today I’ve compiled a series of album covers that I think are total misses.

Creed – Human Clay

I’ve been over it a bit in the past – I don’t like Creed. But my dislike of the music is separate from my dislike of this terrible album cover. It looks like some random monster encounter from an old Final Fantasy game. I don’t know what this is supposed to represent and honestly I don’t want to. There’s a crossroads and some ghost-like humanoid guy popping out of it, holding a clock of some sort. The clock looks like an oven timer. It’s as if this ethereal dude is returning to the corporeal realm because his cookies are done in the oven.

I guess the horrific artwork didn’t impact Creed’s album sales – this was a massive hit and has moved over 20 million copies worldwide. Again, I won’t lie and act like I think any more of the music on the disc as opposed to the cover, but damn this is a really, really awful album cover. The worst part is that it might not be their worst one. But I’ll save that for another time.

Black Sabbath – Born Again

I guess this falls in the “I tried” department. The album itself has divided opinions, I myself sit on the fence about it more than anything. But this cover is not winning any awards unless third grade art class is holding a contest next month.

I guess this is supposed to be some kind of demonic child. It almost passes for imp-like artwork, like that you’d see in a Dungeons and Dragons book. Except D&D artwork is good.

I see that at least two members of the band are with me here – both Bill Ward and Ian Gillian thought the cover was trash. Sadly, Tony Iommi didn’t think so and here we are. Also sadly, I’m going to tell a similar story with a different legendary British band in a few minutes.

Kiss – Hot In The Shade

Kiss had a pretty rough go of it in the late 1980’s. Their albums weren’t great and they’d fallen far off their glory days pedestal. Fortunes would soon turn for them, but it wouldn’t be with this half-baked album of mostly crap.

There are a few songs worth listening to on the record. It’s far better than this cover. It seems to me like someone in the band got a hold of Powerslave and told some low-budget art director to do something like that. Kiss is a band who long plied their trade with the visual as well as the music, you’d think they’d have more sense than to release a bad picture of the Sphinx wearing sunglasses. But the band did miss on some album covers, this one being the biggest in my book.

FYI – The Sphinx isn’t in the shade so it makes no sense anyway.

Wolf – self-titled

Wolf have been active in the metal scene for a long time now and had a period where they made some waves in the mid-00’s. This particular debut escaped my attention at the time. I probably would have noticed the cover had I seen it around.

Now, underground music is a whole other ballgame from the mainstream. These guys probably didn’t have a huge art budget. This album was released on a variety of labels like Prosthetic and No Fashion, this wasn’t an affair where some renowned artist could be paid thousands to make an awesome cover.

I’m willing to grade on a curve because the independent artist struggle is real, but damn this is an awful cover. I noticed that a reissued version of the disc a few years later featured a totally different cover. Good call.

Iron Maiden – Dance Of Death

I can’t be honest about this exercise if I don’t include my favorite band. The revulsion at this album cover is easily found, it spread like wildfire the second the cover hit the Internet before the album’s release.

Maiden were known for striking cover art in their heyday. They’d left that behind a bit in their reunion era, with Brave New World having a fine yet unremarkable cover compared to 1980’s masterpieces. The reunion would soldier on to be the band’s longest era but this abortion of an album cover is one blemish on the period.

And the cover literally was an unfinished work. The artist reportedly submitted a much more pleasant version of this cover with Grim Reaper Eddie as the centerpiece, while band and/or management decided to shove a bunch of dancers in around Eddie. The artist was so displeased that he asked not be credited for the botchjob of an art piece.

Imagine something being so bad that you, as an artist, ask not to be known for designing an Iron Maiden album cover. What a world we live in.

The album itself is a solid Maiden outing, with several good songs and few bonafide epics. But the cover art is absolute drivel. Even if a few later albums could be said to have unimaginative designs, they aren’t vomit-inducing bad like this one is.

That’ll do it for this edition of bad album covers. I’ll probably do this once in awhile when I’m feeling a bit snarky. There are some truly grotesque album covers out there, and sure, they deserve a bit more attention. Happy New Year, see you in 2022.