The cover of the 1998 album by Blue Öyster Cult, ‘Heaven Forbid.’
I know that any and every kinda blog post about album covers has been done before, including, of course, ones that choose to focus on the world of heavy metal album art. But here’s the thing—the genre really brings it when it comes to awful execution to say nothing of the bizarre concepts that somehow got to adorn the various covers you’re about to see, such as scantily clad girls with big hair, muscle-bound men with swords and/or angry animals. And I’m merely scratching the surface of what can be seen on the cover of a heavy metal album because, as I’ve come to find out, pretty much anything from vampires to fucking ostriches shooting laser beams out of their eyes goes.
While there are a plethora of obscure metal bands featured in this post from Spain to Germany, there are also a number of high-profile bands that put out records with shitty covers like the Scorpions, Blue Öyster Cult, Iron Maiden, and Pantera. As a matter of fact, there are no less than three perfectly awful Pantera album covers in this post that I’m sure alledgedly aspiring bootboy Phil Anselmo will somehow blame on too much “white wine.” (I think he means “white whine”?) Racists are so hilarious when they’re drunk, aren’t they?
Some of the images in this post are perplexingly NSFW.
The cover of the 2013 album by Adema, ‘Topple the Giants.’
Fastway ‘Bad Bad Girls’ 1990.
More entirely questionable metal mayhem, after the jump…
An early shot of Soviet-era heavy metal band Aria, “the Russian Iron Maiden,” (looking here very much like the actual Iron Maiden)
Born during a tumultuous time in Russia where the Communist government was still routinely attempting to repress musical expression—metal band Aria became one of the first Russian bands in the genre to rise up and achieve commercial success in the 80s.
Aria (or if you prefer Ария) came to be around 1985 and if vocalist Valery Kipelov didn’t perform his vocals in his native tongue, the casual metalhead might be inclined to believe that Aria was some undiscovered gem that was a part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal bands (or “NWOBHM” as I like to abbreviate it) that included heavy hitters such as Motörhead, Def Leppard, Venom, Judas Priest, and Iron Maiden. After releasing their debut Megalomania in 1985 the Russian music press and metal fans quickly bestowed the band with a weighty comparison, calling the group “the Russian Iron Maiden.” Which begs the question—did Aria deserve to be compared with a band that is as synonymous with heavy metal as leather pants, ear-piercing vocals, and sweaty, bare-chested hedonism? The answer is Da my devil-horn throwing friends.
As I mentioned previously, it wasn’t easy to get a band going as scrutiny by the Soviet government not only made it difficult for bands to do their thing, it also made their ability to procure the things they needed to do their thing difficult. Like instruments and amps and tape recorders. So repressive was the environment in Russia that it was conceivable that it might take more than a decade for a band to go from forming to actually releasing music as even acquiring basic necessities like guitars and drum kits could be next to impossible. Despite these challenges, Aria would thrive much in part to the death of Russian rock and roll’s worst enemy, Konstantin Chernenko, and the appointment of his successor Mikhail Gorbachev in 1985. They would also seemingly pepper their music with anti-US propaganda, which is especially apparent in the title of a song from their debut “America is Behind.”
A vintage shot of Aria.
The band’s heavy, melodic sound and use of synth has also been compared to the work of Chariots of Fire and Blade Runner soundtrack composer, Greek electronic wizard Vangelis. I’ve included a number of selections from Aria’s massive catalog that spans over 30 years as well as some live footage, below. If the existence of Aria—who are still active and currently on tour with a 40 piece orchestra—is news to you, I’d highly recommend adding Megalomania to your vinyl collection as a start.
I normally don’t care about the whole ironic “ugly Christmas sweater” shit that rears its head pretty much right after Halloween every year. It’s not even Thanksgiving yet for Pete’s sake! But here I am blogging about one anyway as I kind of find this particular one sweater funny. I dig that it features Eddie in all his yuletide glory.
Over the weekend, my Facebook feed—and a fair few others’ as well—blew up with a years-old video of a Dutch brass band called Heavy Hoempa busking Motörhead’s “Ace of Spades” at the prog/metal festival ProgPower in 2013. Despite its age, the video went viral seemingly out of nowhere, racking up 50,000 shares in just a few days. If you weren’t one of its three million viewers, check it out now, it’s quite wonderful.
Thing is, that’s just a small taste of their offerings. The Uden-based Heavy Hoempa, which I’m pretty sure means “heavy busker,” specialize in metal covers; per Google translate, their self-description on Twitter is “Solid rock with a big wink from blazers with balls.” The band still exists, purveying quite wonderful versions of metal classics including “Paranoid,” “The Trooper,” and “Highway to Hell.”
This amusing footage of Iron Maiden vocalist Bruce Dickinson recalling the time he demanded a German prostitute refund his money for a handjob that apparently did not provide a “happy ending” was part of an interview conducted with him for the 2009 documentary Monty Python: Almost The Truth (Lawyer’s Cut).
In the video (posted below), Dickinson carefully dances around the occasion when the band was on tour stop in the early 80s in Hamburg, Germany during which one of the members of Maiden’s road crew suggested that they pay a visit to the Eros Center (that at one time was rumored to be the largest collection of brothels in Europe). The two ended up walking along the Reeperbahn in Hamburg’s Red Light District and quickly found themselves upstairs “negotiating” the price of a handjob with a couple of German hookers. As (according to Dickinson who was 24 at the time) this was his “first time” attempting to exchange currency for the procurement of sex, it turns out he wasn’t very good at it. During the deliberations regarding the twenty-minutes of good-times the headbangers were hoping to enjoy, Dickinson asked if the time slot could accommodate more than one “shag” (a British term for “intercourse” for those of you who have never seen an Austin Powers film) in the event that they were able to get their “willies working again.” I’ll leave the rest of the story to Bruce to relay as I don’t want to spoil the fantastic punchline.
As long as there’s been music on television, there’ve been mimed TV performances, and as long as there’ve been mimed TV performances, there’ve been bands who hated miming. Asking bands to mime can be understandable; even though it’s tacky, setting up for live band performances, getting a mix that works for the live audience AND the TV audience, all of this can be logistical hell, and not every show is going to be equipped for that. Even Saturday Night Live has broadcast some mighty iffy mixes, and they’ve been doing it weekly for decades. But still, there are as many—if not more—good reasons to despise miming as there are to resort to it.
Sometimes bands will just rebel against the process, and that can be memorable art in its own right. I’m sure many DM readers are aware of Public Image Ltd’s appearance on American Bandstand in the late ‘70s, wherein John Lydon abandoned his requisite fake singalong and dragged the show’s studio audience onto the stage to dance with the band. In his memoir The Real Frank Zappa Book, Frank Zappa described what must have been a very early example of mime rebellion, from the Mothers of Invention’s 1966 tour:
In Detroit, we did a television show where we were asked to do something perverted:“lip-sync our hit.” We didn’t have a ‘hit,’ but the producer said, “Lip-sync your hit—or else.” So I asked, “Do you have a prop department here?” fortunately, there was one.
From it, I gathered an assortment of random objects and built a set. We had been asked to pretend to play either “How Could I Be Such A Fool?” or “Who Are the Brain Police?” so I suggested that each member of the group choose a repeatable physical action, not necessarily in sync with (or even related to) the lyrics, and do it over and over until our spot on the show was concluded—Detroit’s first whiff of homemade prime-time Dada.
If that footage exists anywhere, I’d sure like to know about it.
Thanks to Ultimate Classic Rock, I’ve been alerted that Iron Maiden—a band I love every bit as abidingly as Public Image Ltd. but for totally different reasons—flipped the bird at a lip-sync performance of “Wasted Years,” the first single from Somewhere In Time (the one with the cover art of a bio-mech Eddie brandishing a laser gun in a Blade Runner-ish setting), in Germany in 1986.
It was filmed in August 1986 for a German TV show called P.I.T. While it starts off looking like business as usual — except that Steve Harris and Dave Murray have switched instruments — at the 40-second mark Bruce Dickinson is grabbing the guitar from Harris and strapping it on. Harris takes over the microphone while Dickinson bounces around the stage and pretending to play a guitar solo in the middle of the verse. Nicko McBrain pops out from behind the drums to take center stage for the chorus, and he’s handed a bass, and Harris winds up behind the drums.
It kind of devolves from there. At one point, three members are playing drums simultaneously, McBrain puts his hands on Adrian Smith’s guitar neck in the middle of the solo. Smith, for the record, is the only one who isn’t clowning around.
Here they are the same year, doing the song live for real.
Jim’ll Fix It was a long-running British TV show that specialized in granting people’s wishes. It ran from 1975 to 1994, in which time it became a well-known tradition for British viewers. The host was Jimmy Savile, who was later revealed to be a prolific sex offender and Gilles De Rais-level sicko, which is another subject for another time. In any case, on an episode that ran in 1987, the show responded to a request from a 14-year-old viewer named Dom Lawson who wrote in requesting to meet his favorite heavy metal band, Iron Maiden.
With a complete film crew recording his every movement, Lawson assisted the legendary group prepare for a show at Hammersmith Odeon on November 3, 1986. Lawson wrote about that day in The Guardian:
I was greeted by a couple of members of Maiden’s road crew, one of whom immediately pointed out that my T-shirt (bought from Woolworths in Hemel Hempstead) was in a fact “a bloody bootleg”. I was then led to the backstage catering area and introduced to a vast number of people, most of whom I recognised from the photos in the booklet of Maiden’s magnificent Live After Death live album. Being shy and self-conscious, I grinned and blushed a lot. I was terrified, yet I could hardly have been happier. Everyone in Maiden’s organisation was friendly and welcoming, including the band themselves: resolutely down-to-earth, they each came and said hello at various points during the day. I remember Steve Harris clocking my West Ham scarf (which I’d worn specifically to attract his attention, natch) and asking if I was a “proper ‘ammer”. I was (and am), and he beamed his approval. I practically wet myself.
... During those few hours backstage I got to tune Steve’s bass guitar, play on Nicko McBrain’s insanely huge drum kit, eat in the canteen with the road crew and, best of all, clamber aboard the road crew’s tour bus to film a slightly ludicrous skit which involved me pretending to wake up on the bus, peer through the curtains on my bunk and be given the news that it was time to get to work setting up the band’s gear. I loved every second of it.
As you can see, Lawson writes quite well, which makes sense insofar that he carried his love of heavy metal through to adulthood, working for two popular magazines, Kerrang! and Metal Hammer. You can even read his glowing review of Iron Maiden’s 2003 album Dance of Death (to his credit, Lawson is discriminating in his admiration of Iron Maiden—he disliked Maiden’s two previous efforts, No Prayer For The Dying and Virtual XI).
I don’t know much about the individual guys in Iron Maiden, but this clip will win you over if you have any doubts—they all seem like terrific fellows. I remember Bruce Dickinson popping up in a documentary about Monty Python, so I already knew he was a good bloke and always keen for a laugh, and this clip certainly confirms that impression.
Bruce Dickinson, the lead singer of Iron Maiden, is hoping to change air travel by investing in the world’s largest airship.
Called Airlander, the airship looks “as if a series of cigars have been sewn together.” It has a length of 302ft, which is roughly 60ft longer than the biggest airliners, the Airbus A380 and Boeing 747-8, and is also almost 30ft longer than the Antonov An-225, which was, until now, the longest aircraft ever built.
Airlander can stay in the air for up to 21 days at a time, has low running costs, can carry up to 50 tons in freight and is 70% greener than any cargo plane. The airship does not require a runway, and can land on virtually any surface, be that land, sea or even desert.
The airship was originally developed by US military for surveillance purposes, but was abandoned after defense cuts. It was then sold to British developers who saw a potential to make the airship a cheap and sustainable form of public aviation.
Dickinson, who is a qualified airline pilot, believes Airlander is the future of air travel and told BBC News:
“It’s a game changer, in terms of things we can have in the air and things we can do,” he says.
“The airship has always been with us, it’s just been waiting for the technology to catch up.”
“It seizes my imagination. I want to get in this thing and fly it pole to pole,” he says.
“We’ll fly over the Amazon at 20ft, over some of the world’s greatest cities and stream the whole thing on the Internet.”
By flying Airlander around the world twice, Dickinson hopes to raise awareness of the vessel’s potential as the future of sustainable aviation.
There’s a novelty beer for everything! I’m still waiting for The Edgar Winter Group’s Frankenstein’s Pale Ale. You know it’s coming any day now.
TROOPER is a Premium British Beer inspired by Iron Maiden and handcrafted at Robinsons brewery. Malt flavours and citric notes from a unique blend of Bobec, Goldings and Cascade hops dominate this deep golden ale with a subtle hint of lemon.
The subtly lemony Iron Maiden ale will be available in the USA sometime late this Summer.
Below, a video which explains everything you need to know about TROOPER: