The perfect cover is the ultimate gateway to any great album – and in many cases a joyous opportunity for artists to create a little controversy. Even after a sexual revolution and over half a century of rock & roll, plenty of covers have been deemed too offensive for the public eye. From nudity to blood-stained bibles, we’ve picked out ten album covers that caused a stir with the general public.
1. Pantera – Far Beyond Driven (1994)
Pantera’s 1994 release Far Beyond Driven pictures a large drill bit going straight into some suckers frontal lobe - but the original cover featured the same drill bit entering through the other end. Drummer Vinnie Paul said: “The original thought was “metal up your ass,” you know? … In 1994, heavy metal was uncool and we wanted to be as metal as we could. The label agreed with us and then came back three days later and said, “Uhhh … we can’t get this into Walmart, Target and retail and it’s gonna kill us.”
2. Ozzy Osbourne – The Ultimate Sin (1986)
As a musician often accused of Satanism you’d think it was the demonic dragon head of Ozzy Osbourne that created the controversy around this cover. Instead it was the apparent lack of pants worn by the big-haired lady beside him. If only they could see what some girls were wearing 30 years later.
3. Marilyn Manson – Holy Wood (2000)
The King provocateur Marilyn Manson posed as Jesus on the cross missing his jaw for his fourth studio album Holy Wood. Commenting on the censorship of the cover he said: "The irony is that my point of the photo on the album was to show people that the crucifixion of Christ is, indeed, a violent image. My jaw is missing as a symbol of this very kind of censorship. This doesn't piss me off as much as it pleases me, because those offended by my album cover have successfully proven my point."
4. Cannibal Corpse – Tomb of the Mutilated (1992)
It wouldn’t be a Cannibal Corpse album without a little exposed flesh on the cover. The sleeve for their 1992 release Tomb of the Mutilated was banned in several countries, with the members of the band facing heavy fines or potential jail time for playing any songs off their first three albums live in Germany.
5. Nirvana – Nevermind (1991)
As seemingly harmless as it looks, major US outlets like Walmart weren’t prepared to accept the naked baby in all its glory featured on the cover of Nirvana’s Nevermind. Eventually the band agreed to cover the exposed baby wang with a sticker that read “Featuring ‘Smells like Teen Spirit’, ‘Come as You Are’ and ‘Lithium’”.
6. Tenacious D – Rize of the Fenix (2012)
Following a six year hiatus, Tenacious D released their third album Rise of the Fenix. At first glance, the cover seems relatively PG with a picture of a large majestic phoenix. Take a second look and you’ll find the body of the phoenix is shaped suspiciously like a penis. It was pixelated for iTunes, and in-store versions generally had a sticker covering the explicit content – classic Tenacious D.
7. NOFX – Eating Lamb (1996)
NOFX released two covers for their 1996 album Heavy Petting Zoo, one for the CD version and another for the LP. The LP version titled Eating Lamb was perhaps a little too visually suggestive of the title and the cover was banned in Germany.
8. Metallica – Kill ‘Em All (1983)
Metallica were going to call the album Metal Up Your Ass and have the cover feature a toilet bowl with a hand clutching a dagger emerging from it. The record company deemed the title ‘too inappropriate’ and the album cover was changed to a hand releasing a bloodied up hammer.
9. The Offspring – The Offspring (1989)
The cover for The Offspring’s self-titled debut album depicted a man’s body exploding as a Xenomorph from Alien emerged from his chest playing a Stratocaster - sound awesome right? The artwork was deemed too grotesque for the average viewer and was replaced on the re-release with a blurred out black-and-white picture of a man.
10. Slayer – God Hates us All (2001)
There’s probably not a Slayer cover they haven’t tried to ban - and what honest Christian doesn’t love an image of the bible with nails hammered into it and a bloody ‘Slayer’ slashed across the front? Clergymen and members of the church fainted in unison across the world upon this release and it was subsequently banned.
Want to see more controvesial album art? Check out Part 2 here!