A few years back, metal journalists James Sherry (Metal Hammer, Kerrang!) and Neil Aldis (Rock World, Terrorizer) decided to sift through their record collections and put the best of the bunch into coffee-table-book form. That spawned "Heavy Metal Thunder," an extensive archive of the most kick-ass metal-album art of the last four decades, set to land in bookstores June 1.
According to Sherry, the book's intended to guide lifelong metalheads down memory lane -- a time when you'd buy an LP based solely on the image that graced the sleeve, a time when ridiculous album covers were a genuine art form.
"We wanted the book to be entertaining for people who aren't necessarily into metal," he said. "I wanted it to appeal to people who are really heavily into the music and can look through the book and go, 'Oh, I remember that record -- I had it when I was a kid.' ... But we also wanted it to appeal to people who have no interest in the music and can look through it and go, 'These covers are hilarious.' We're not afraid to poke fun at it."
The book's documents everything from the earliest days of groundbreaking bands like Black Sabbath and Judas Priest through today's current class of metallers, like Mastodon and High on Fire. The book covers all the bases, with chapters devoted to black metal, death metal, nü metal, thrash, stoner rock and glam rock. There's even a forward penned by Anthrax's Scott Ian and an interview with Derek Riggs, the man who created Iron Maiden's symbolic Eddie icon.
"We were originally going to do each chapter in a different theme," Sherry explained. "We were going to have a chapter of all covers that just featured men with swords, which there are many. It's an ongoing theme in old metal records. We wanted a whole chapter on glam-rock covers, fantasy covers, ridiculous covers -- even covers with babes on them. That became way too complicated, so we decided to do it genre by genre."
Several chapters are devoted to specific bands that've become known for their album imagery. "One of the first things we decided was that we had to give Manowar their own chapter," he said. "With this book, you get a taste for the imagery of each genre. I just think that metal, more than any other music, is very visually led. As a child, I would often buy records on the strength of the album cover, on how metal the cover looked. That doesn't happen anymore. Kids can hear stuff before they buy it."
One of the more amusing chapters is the one that examines the punk-inflected thrash era. "I love the thrash covers because it's all pre-computers, and these bands would have a friend who would say, 'Hey, I could draw you a picture for your cover,' " Sherry said. "That's why there was so much drawn artwork on those sleeves, and some of it's just terrible, but brilliantly funny as well."
Several album covers were cut from the book, including Marduk's 1995 masterpiece, F--- Me Jesus, and Autopsy's 2003 album, Sh--fun.
But Sherry's favorite album cover, and one of the first that readers encounter in "Heavy Metal Thunder"? "I love the first Black Sabbath album cover, because I think that one's genuinely creepy. You kind of look at it, and it's genuinely a quite scary album cover," he said. "I like a lot of the black-metal covers, too, because there's just something a bit creepier about them that's genuinely quite scary, whereas it's hard to get too scared by men with swords."
The rest of the week's metal news:
Megadeth have signed to Roadrunner Records for the release of their upcoming album, according to a source close to the deal. The studio sessions -- held at Sarm Studios, outside of London -- were filmed by director Michael Sarna (Anthrax, Obituary) and are available at Megadeth.com to fan-club members. ... The first batch of dates for Rob Zombie's American Witch Across America Tour with Anthrax has been revealed. The trek will kick off in El Paso, Texas, June 30 and last -- at least until more dates are announced -- through July 28 in Billings, Montana. ... Trivium have finished recording their upcoming CD The Crusade. On Thursday, frontman Matt Heafy started tracking vocals at Audiohammer Studio in Orlando, Florida, where the band also recorded guitars and bass. Heafy is co-producing the disc with Audiohammer owner and previous collaborator Jason Suecof, and the album will be finished by the end of May for a fall release. Songs include "Ignition," "Contempt Breeds Contamination," "And Sadness Will Sear," "Vengeance," "To the Rats" and "Contemporary Plague." "There's one acoustic song, a Skid Row/ Mötley Crüe-sounding song, a Def Leppard, Southern-rock metal song and then 11 ridiculously technical thrash songs," Heafy said. "It's a solo insanity CD, but in a good way." ...
Bloodsimple -- which features ex-members of Long Island, New York, hardcore icons Vision of Disorder -- are working on material for their sophomore LP. The band plans to record the effort this summer, and guitarist Mike Kennedy claims "the new tunes are sounding killer so far." ... Hold on to your horns: Cattle Decapitation have infiltrated the mainstream. Icing by Claire's, a teen girls' accessory shop, has built a storefront display of a trendy-looking punk-rock girl wearing a Cattle Decapitation T-shirt. Even more flabbergasting, the shirt she's wearing was only sold on tour. Icing shoppers will be pleased to know that the new Cattle Decapitation record, Karma Bloody Karma, comes out July 11 and the band will be on tour through July 22. ... Nepotism is one thing, but this is ridiculous: Incubus guitarist Mike Einziger has produced the debut album by Agent Sparks, which features younger brother Ben on guitar and stepbrother Paul Fried on bass. The disc, Red Rover, comes out June 20. Ben Einziger and Fried were previously in Audiovent, which featured Incubus frontman Brandon Boyd's brother Jason on vocals. The group released Dirty Sexy Knights in Paris in 2002, but broke up soon after. ...
Horse the Band will hit the road with Gatsbys American Dream, Portugal. The Man and Forgive Durden starting May 24 in Salt Lake City. Dates are scheduled through June 14 in Nashville. ... Candice Night, the singer for Blackmore's Night -- ex-Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore's new outfit -- will be crowned 2006 Queen of the Fairies at the Western Pennsylvania Fairie Festival, which takes place June 10-11. Attendees can enjoy the parade of the Fairie Queen and her court, special guest fairie artists, the astrologer to the queen, and holistic and metaphysical-medicine practitioners. ... When most metal singers shout "Kill!," they're living a fantasy, but Manowar frontman Eric Adams causes as much carnage with handheld weaponry as with his vocals. On June 27, Adams will showcase the brutality on the DVD "Wild Life and Wild Times," which he created with outdoorsman and wildlife journalist Chester Moore. The disc features the two bagging emus, American bison, snakes, elk and wild boar with shotguns, bows and arrows, and hunting knives. ...
Soilent Green, the Acacia Strain and Demiricous will tour together starting June 10 in Cleveland, with dates running through June 30 in West Palm Beach, Florida. ... This year's nominees for the second annual Peta2 World's Sexiest Vegetarian poll include Rob Zombie, System of a Down frontman Serj Tankian, Cannibal Corpse bassist Paul Mazurkiewicz, Dillinger Escape Plan's Liam Wilson and Atreyu guitarist Travis Miguel. Cast your vote at Peta2.com/OUTTHERE/o-sexyveg06.asp. ... Every Time I Die will re-release 2005's Gutter Phenomenon on June 13 with a bonus 30-minute DVD. The footage was edited from their upcoming DVD "Sh-- Happens," which is scheduled for release this fall. Every Time I Die will head out on the Warped Tour starting June 15 in Columbia, Maryland, and remain on it through August 13 in Montreal. ... Misery Signals have started working on their second album, Mirrors, with producer Ben Schigel (Zao, Chimaira). The album will feature new singer Karl Schubach, who replaced Jesse Zaraska in January. Mirrors will be the follow-up to 2004's Of Malice and the Magnum Heart and is scheduled for September. ... Progressive metallers Behold ... the Arctopus have signed with Black Market Activities. Look for their forthcoming LP to drop sometime in late summer or early fall. ...