Since the shift in pop music from classical, to jazz to rock and roll, science fiction and fantasy imagery has been a mainstay in album cover art. From some of the smallest and biggest names in illustration, art and music history. In no particular order over the course of this week, I’ll be collecting some of the most notable science fiction and fantasy images ever created. Check out Part 1, Part 3, and Part 4.
Menomena, Friend or Foe by Craig Thompson
Craig Thompson is perhaps best known for his graphic novel Blankets. The cover has four sides and the die-cuts reveal the disc or tray artwork behind. Rotating the disc creates variations of the artwork. A brilliantly executed concept that makes the artwork interactive and fun.
Tool, Undertow and 10,000 Days by Alex Grey
Tool raised the bar with digipacks by including a set of stereoscope glasses to view the accompanying artwork all painted by artist Alex Grey, who provided the artwork for Tool’s previous album Lateralus.
The Decemberists, The Crane Wife by Carson Ellis
The art for the Menomena cover above led me to this cover, done by Carson Ellis. The Crane Wife is based on a Japanese folk tale. A sad and poignant one at that.
Thom Yorke, The Eraser by Stanley Donwood
This medievalised vision of apocalypse in England’s capital city was carved on 14 pieces of linoleum with one small cutting tool. The original blocks make up a picture about twelve feet long, which has been painstakingly hand-burnished on to beautiful Japanese Kozo paper, as it has so far proved impossible to print this using a press. Thus the edition is extremely small; only 8 have been made. (Click the horizontal image above for a larger version.)
Meatloaf, Bat Out Of Hell by Richard Corben
Known for creating Den in Heavy Metal magazine, Richard was actually commissioned for the artwork for this album six years before it was finally released and three years before any record company would touch the album. The subsequent albums in this series would also bring in other well-known fantasy artists, such as...
Meatloaf, Bat Out Of Hell II: Back Into Hell by Michael Whelan
Meatloaf, Bat Out of Hell III: The Monster Is Loose by Julie Bell
Black Sabbath, Mob Rules by the Brothers Hildebrandt
The famed SFF painters contributed this album cover to Black Sabbath’s 1981 album, well after the brothers had come into the mainstream through their illustrations for Lord of the Rings and Star Wars.
Black Sabbath, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath by Drew Struzan
Before Mob Rules, Black Sabbath chose painter Drew Struzan for their 1973 classic. Struzan has worked in movies, book publishing, and more. One of his more recent works, Action Comics issue #800 features a self-portrait of him being saved by Superman.
Judas Priest, Screaming For Vengance and Defenders of the Earth by Doug Johnson
Judas Priest chose painter and airbrush artist Doug Johnson for three of its covers (the third of which, Turbo, is not pictured above). Notably, Johnson went a step further, altering the band’s established logo to a three-dimensional version to serve as a common elements amongst this span of records.
Below, two more science fiction and fantasy-themed covers, without attributions:
The Flaming Lips, Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots
Electric Light Orchestra, Out Of The Blue
Come back tomorrow afternoon for the next part in this week’s four-part feature on science fiction/fantasy album art!
Mark Korsak is an illustrator who’s work can be seen in The Wall Street Journal, New York Magazine, Billboard, and more.