Gothtopia would like to firmly bitch-slap an old adage, that being the warning about judging a book by its cover. The lesson we are supposed to draw from that is that we should look deeper inside than just the surface in order to better appreciate the true character of whatever the subject is. That is indeed something you should try to do whenever time and the ability to put up with bullshit allows, but the idiom itself is redonkulous.
Of course you should judge a book by its cover, as well as DVDs, video games, and albums. Why on Earth would someone purposely package something in wrappings that have nothing to do with what's inside unless they're jerks who have mistaken jerkiness for irony? Case in point, the best cover ever is the poster for the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Hell, we'll be generous and give kudos for the poster for the remake as well. You can perfectly judge those movies by their covers.
Still, we'll admit that album covers can still sometimes be terribly obtuse when compared to the contents they adorn. After all, you are trying to convey an audio sensation visually, which can be a mistake. Leonard Cohen looks like your dad in most of his album pics, but he sings songs like a horny angel.
We decided to get some perspective on best goth album covers by summoning the Gothic Council! Joining us this week is stylist Carol Simmons, DJs Regen Robinson and Martin Oldgoth, Paul Fredric of Asmodeus X, author of the Encyclopedia Gothica Liisa Ladouceur, living historian Morrighanne Burns, and fashion designer Batty.
Carol Simmons: The only album I've ever purchased based on the cover is Qui 2 Nous 2 by The French pop star M. How can any one not want to buy that? The bonus, the music is amazing! Especially if you speak French well and can pick up the double entendres and tongue and cheek.
Regen Robinson: More on the industrial front but I have always loved KMFDM's album artwork by Aidan "BRUTE!" Hughes. It has always made me think plus I like anything with a propaganda theme. And I did in fact purchase many of the singles just due to the artwork. Darn propaganda...you got me.
Paul Fredric: Bela Lugosi's Dead. Do I really need to say why?
Liisa Ladouceur: I agree with Paul about Bela being the most iconic goth album cover and the Brute style important as well. I was also a pretty big fan of the iconography of Cult's Love and its various singles (I know, I know, "goth or not?") as a young 'un.
The album covers that most influenced me to buy were Vaughan "v23" Oliver's for 4AD. I would walk into the Record Peddler here in Toronto and when I recognized a dreamy abstract cover as being a new release from that label, I would buy without listening. I appreciate labels that develop their own visual imprint.
Morrighanne Burns: Phantasmagoria by the Damned. I had a huge poster of the album cover on my wall surrounded by pictures of Dave Vanian. The reason I bought Phantasmagoria was because I loved the model, she looked like I wanted to look at the grand old age of 13.
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Batty: I was going to say Phantasmagoria by the Damned as well actually. The brooding girl with the cloak, the name of the album all scream, "Buy me! I'm spoooooky." Which is really funny because the Damned are so cheeky and light hearted on that album.
Martin Oldgoth: Personally I think whilst not strictly goth the cover for Joy Divisions' Unknown Pleasures is one of the greats. So simple and instantly recognizable.
I'm not sure what would constitute a "goth" album cover, that's dangerously close to "what is goth" territory, and we all know that we don't want to start pondering that one!
Batty: The cover of the Cure's Greatest Hits is one of the worst. Looks like a quick photoshop job with stars flying off Fat Bob's fingers. Always thought that was a half-assed effort on someone's part.