Enlarge Photo by Flickr user Pål Berge from Bryne, Norway

10 CD Booklets That Should Be Remembered as Fine Art

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While music streaming services like Spotify rule the day when it comes to how we listen to music, those of us who remember the earlier days of listening to metal still yearn for a physical product that gave us art, lyrics and photographs to examine while we listened.

Certainly streaming services are great when it comes to convenience and CD players in cars generally sucked, but there’s so much missing from the overall experience and artistic creation. Strolling down days of metal’s past, here are some of our favorite CD booklets that feature artwork worthy of close examination.

Cathedral – The Ethereal Mirror

I still remember being drawn into this CD from the artwork, only to learn that it actually folded out into something even much larger and weirder when I brought the disc home from the record store. So many questions ran through my mind as I tried to actually make out what I was looking at, but that was part of the beauty of the piece. At the same time, it just seemed to mesh so well with the music itself. One of the greatest CD booklets of all time with one of the greatest doom records of all time.

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Diamond Head – Borrowed Time

Besides “Am I Evil?” which was made famous by some other band I can’t recall, there isn’t much musically on Borrowed Time to get excited about. The cover art, however, is so on point and timely as much of the band’s target market was into Conan and the fantasy art that had really come on strong in the late 1970’s and early 80’s. Noted fantasy artist Rodney Matthews did the gatefold painting on this one and the cover seemed to go over much better than anything about this particular project.

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Celtic Frost – To Mega Therion

Technically the cover art in this booklet is actually in a museum. Created by famed biomechanical Swiss surrealist, H.R. Giger, you can actually view the artwork for Celtic Frost’s masterpiece at the Giger Museum in Gruyeres, Switzerland. Fun fact – Celtic Frost frontman Tom G. Warrior once trained as Giger’s apprentice. And yes, he always wore his beanie for that gig as well.

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Desultory – Bitterness

A Metal Blade classic that features artwork with so much to examine. When you first saw it you had to ask yourself, “Is this political?,” “Is this religious?” You weren’t sure. So much to unpack and that’s part of its brilliance.

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Slayer – Reign In Blood

This cover art was created to make the “posers” feel a bit repulsed. Looking for art that was reflective of the band itself, artist Larry W. Carroll actually created two paintings and then combined them into one as the finished product. The back of the booklet features the famous band photo with Hanneman holding the remnants of a cheap six pack. Happier times.

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Morbid Angel – Altars of Madness

Dan Seagrave was the master of the death metal album cover in the 90’s and this might be his finest work. So much detail on the cover. You can stare at it for just hours on end, and that’s what many of us did as we listened to the music in our living rooms. Now we stare at Twitter while we listen to things and we’re much worse off because of it.

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Necrophobic – Darkside

Sweden’s Kristian Wahlin created this gorgeously gothic cover that makes great use of perspective. Emil Ahlman and Urban Skytt also contributed to the CD booklet art. The back cover features iconic black and white photos of the band who appear to have been awakened far too early in the morning on the day of the photo shoot.

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Danzig – Danzig II Lucifuge

There was a version of this CD booklet that folded out into an inverted cross. Teenage me couldn’t believe this when it came out. It completely blew my mind. Of course, the photography is downright incredible here. Dead solid perfect. An iconic booklet for an iconic record.

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Mindfunk – Dropped

The title Dropped is actually a reference to them being dropped, literally, by Epic Records. While the jury is mixed on the record itself (though I will personally contend that it’s really quite brilliant), the cover art by Judith Schaechter is most definitely museum worthy. In fact, it once did actually hang in Philadelphia’s Snyderman Gallery which was an Old City icon for nearly 30 years.

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Autopsy – Acts of the Unspeakable

Autopsy are really the masters of the beautiful-yet-horrific CD booklet. We could have chosen a number of booklets here for this article but Acts of the Unspeakable always spoke to me the most. Artist Kent Mathieu’s inspiration actually came from a visit to Amsterdam’s torture museum. The cover grabbed your attention at the CD store but the real treat was the interior gatefold which was just this massive painting of a myriad of individuals (in various states of decay) being tortured in a myriad of ways. Think of it as having to attend every performance on an Amy Schumer comedy tour. It’s just that disturbing.

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Photo by Reddit user UncleCankle

Malevolent Creation – Retribution

This CD was my introduction to the band just as I started working in college radio. Another Dan Seagrave cover, this particular creature really does look like a… uh… malevolent creation. Exquisitely intricate in design, this vile creation that adorns the cover is complicated and complex. Almost as complicated as trying to figure out this band’s lineup at any given time.

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