It's not often that you get the opportunity to combine masterpieces of painting and metal. It's not completely unfounded, considering Guns N' Roses copped from Raphael's School of Athens for the cover of their Use Your Illusion set. But it's rare, like mixing pro wrestling and classical literature.
But if there's one thing I've learned from studying all these classic works of art, it's that some of these ancient artists possessed both the warped sensibilities of our modern-day metal stars and the artistic ability to translate that into some badass, demented paintings.
I'm not sure what it would take for a metal band today to license these works to use for their album cover, but if I was in a metal band, these would be high on my priority list.
5. Donatello, The Feast of Herod Metal album covers typically depict pretty gruesome scenes, and this bronze relief sculpture by Donatello is no exception. Here he is depicting the beheading of St. John the Baptist, whose head is delivered to King Herod on a plate right in the middle of a feast. That's a pretty awesome scene in and of itself.
What ties it all together though is Herod's daughter, Salome, who had demanded John's execution, seen here continuing to dance in a sultry manner even as everyone around her expresses shock over the severed head in front of them. The disparate nature of it would fit right into a David Lynch film, and fits the tone of most metal bands perfectly.4. Otto Dix, Der Krieg (The War)
One recurrent subject in metal songs is war. It seems like musicians just can't get enough of discussing the great battles throughout history; ask Metallica, Iced Earth, or Iron Maiden about that. So this panorama by Otto Dix depicting the devastation of World War I would be perfect for any of the aforementioned bands' album covers.
The horrifying images depicted here show mangled bodies, ravaged landscapes, and the true cost of war in a way that most fail to capture. It's like Saving Private Ryan in a painting. Throw Eddie the Head somewhere in there and you're pretty much good to go.
3. Andrea Mantegna, Lamentation Over the Dead Christ Usually when you get an anti-Christian band who wants to represent Christ in some mangled form on an album cover, it comes off seriously, seriously tacky. Look at Slayer's Christ Illusion for proof, where he looks like a zombie voodoo doll.
So if that's what you're into, why not go with hyper-realism? Here, Mantegna portrays the dead Christ in a disturbing and realistic manner, stripping him of divinity and leaving him just another corpse on a bed. The implication is scary enough for any metal band, yet it has a certain air of class to it that Slayer's portrayal was, erm, missing, to say the least.
2. Peter Paul Rubens, Saturn Devouring His SonWhile we're on the subject of disturbing realism, check this one out. Metal and art have both reflected a distinct fascination with Greek and Roman myth and here we see the god Saturn literally eating his own baby son alive.
Francisco Goya painted a more abstract, yet gorier version, but I feel the realistic proportions really sell Rubens' version of the subject matter. Either one would make a fantastic album cover for a death metal band though.
1. Hieronymus Bosch, Garden of Earthly Delights This here is the alpha and omega of classical works for your metal band's album cover. It has it all in one massive clusterfuck. It's got everything a metal album cover could possibly want: references to God, Heaven, Hell, hedonism, Satanic punishment, demons playing musical instruments, sex, torture, scatological imagery, bizarre, non-existent animals, and even alchemy.
That's right, the designs for the architecture in the image are based directly on alchemical test tubes. If there has ever been a more metal image painted, I don't know what it is but it's probably already a Cannibal Corpse album cover so this is your next best bet.