*Trigger warning* gory violence, sexual violence.

In the world of heavy metal, the album artwork is just as important as the music behind it.


It’s almost a sacred rite of passage for extreme musicians. Can they take the disturbing thematics of their music and translate it into equally grotesque imagery? Many bands have curated some truly horrific offerings as a result, but there remain a few that stand above the rest. Here are the most grotesque album covers in metal history.

“The Codex Necro” by Anaal Nathrakh

The Codex Necro cover

The Codex Necro cover

The British extreme metal band is no stranger to grotesque imagery, but the cover for The Codex Necro is truly terrifying. A masked man is being suffocated by ropes and wires, meant to convey the fight for survival when death is inevitable. The cover is especially troublesome because the band actually made this scenario happen in order to capture the ethos of human suffering (the person being strangled is guitarist Mick Kenney’s younger brother.)

“Inhuman Grotesqueries” by Malignancy

"Inhuman Grotesqueries" by Malignancy

“Inhuman Grotesqueries” by Malignancy

Toying with the universal fear surrounding surgery and devious surgeons, Malignancy’s Inhuman Grotesqueries cover art features a row of colorfully deformed surgery patients, one of which has awoken to find he has several more ears. A hand is also sown to his forehead that appears to be tickling his brain, and a skeletal jaw attached to his neck.

“Release from Agony” by Destruction

"Release from Agony" by Destruction

“Release from Agony” by Destruction

The third album from the German thrash metal outfit, Release from Agony’s album cover features a disturbed character who appears to be anything but released from agony. It’s hard enough to look at, let alone describe what is even going on in this cover. What is flooding through those tubes? How are those eyes even open?

“Mondo Medicale” by Impaled

Impaled /u201cMondo Medicale/u201d

Impaled “Mondo Medicale”

The death metal group’s name serves as an acronym for “Immoral Medical Practitioners and Licentious Evil-Doers,” and the album cover for their sophomore effort, Mondo Medicale, drives this point home. A man, awake and feeling every slice, is being slowly decapitated by deranged surgeons.

“Korn” by Korn

Korn by Korn

“Korn” by Korn

The cover for Korn’s debut is harrowing in its implications. As a girl sits on a swing, the shadow of a man holding blades towers over her, while the girl’s own shadow seems to indicate her unfortunate fate. The album itself traverses equally dark subjects surrounding child abuse and bullying and is now recognized as the album that kicked off the nu-metal wave of the late ’90’s early 2000s.


“Pervertor” by Lord Mantis

"Pervertor" by Lord Mantis

“Pervertor” by Lord Mantis

The Chicago sludge group went super hard on making sure the coinciding cover art for an album called Pervertor was, well, perverted. The bleak black and white photo finds giant demonic worms defiling a decapitated corpse nailed to a cross. Musically, the album is equal parts disturbing and overwhelming.

“Most Precious Blood” by Merciless

"Most Precious Blood" by Merciless

“Most Precious Blood” by Merciless

Featuring a very realistic looking bludgeoned corpse, Most Precious Blood’s Merciless cover art stars a deceased assault victim who wasn’t spared any agony. He’s been beaten and suffocated, his teeth have been pulled out, his eye gouged out, and his body is wrinkly and blue, implying that he was also disposed of deep within a body of water.

“Revolution DNA” by Septic Flesh

"Revolution DNA" by Septic Flesh

“Revolution DNA” by Septic Flesh

Revolution DNA found the greek metal band at the top of their game. Known for their incorporation of death metal with goth rock, Revolution DNA leaned further into this amalgamation, toying more with melodies and clean vocals.

The album birthed incredible results like “Radioactive” and “Chaostar,” but the most striking part of this album remains its terrifying character plastered on the cover: a ghostly white demon with deep incisions protruding on every part of his body. It’s disturbing to think about what this terrifying figure has seen or experienced.

“Humanure” by Cattle Decapitation

"Humanure" by Cattle Decapitation

“Humanure” by Cattle Decapitation

The deathgrind quintet meant for the cover of Revolution DNA to satirically mirror the Pink Floyd album Atom Heart Mother. In turn, what they created was deemed so grotesque that many retailers refused to carry it unless it was changed. Germany even banned the album entirely. The band eventually caved to the criticism and released a version of the album that just featured the apocalyptic backdrop and removed the cow and gory human excrement.

“The Wretched Spawn” by Cannibal Corpse

"The Wretched Spawn" by Cannibal Corpse

“The Wretched Spawn” by Cannibal Corpse

The kings of disturbing cover art, each of Cannibal Corpse’s efforts features truly horrifying and gory cover art. Their thematic material is just as revolting (one of their biggest songs is called “I C*m Blood), but The Wretched Spawn‘s mutilated birthing and demonic midwives are truly just f**king gut-wrenching.

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