1. Cannibal Corpse, Eaten Back To Life
With a name like Cannibal Corpse and songs titled "Edible Autopsy," "Scattered Remains, Splattered Brains," and "A Skull Full Of Maggots" (among others), you'd better bring it on the album cover. On its 1990 debut, Cannibal Corpse does just that, establishing a precedent for its later albums with ultra-violent, gory imagery. The entrails draped over the headstone cross in the background is a particularly nice touch.
2. Mortad Hell, There's A Satanic Butcher In Everyone Of Us
Mortad Hell has a serious case of Bad Metal Font Problem, where it's almost impossible to discern the band's actual name from its album cover, no matter how much you squint. But the cover image of the bloody monster with the hacksaw, the hideously distorted face, and the hacked-up victim really says everything that need be said about the group. Let's just hope the album's title is inaccurate.
3. Sonic Youth, Bad Moon Rising
Forget about the eerie scarecrow silhouette and extra-flamey jack o'lantern head; what's really scary here is the urban landscape in the background. When people start setting pumpkins on fire in the city, some bad shit is bound to go down. In fact, to judge from the thin plume of smoke rising from one of the buildings in the background, some fairly subtle bad shit is probably already starting to go down.
4. Deicide, The Stench Of Redemption
Deicide frontman Glen Benton–he with the inverted cross branded into his forehead–has spent 20 years making damn sure everyone knows he's a Satanist. Although his song titles read like a 14-year-old boy desperately trying to shock his parents–"Death To Jesus," "Homage For Satan," etc.–the cover's evil-looking, vomiting Jesus reaching from inside an inverted cross (with skulls, natch) conveys the album's malevolent spirit well.
5. Iron Maiden, Killers
Iron Maiden mascot Eddie The Head has appeared on virtually everything Iron Maiden-related since the band's 1980 debut, but he never looked more sinister than on 1981's Killers. His face is the stuff of nightmares: the decomposing skin, the menacing grin, the soulless eyes, the, um, perfect teeth. (Even zombies should brush and floss!) As a recent victim clutches his surprisingly clean shirt, Eddie wields a bloody ax in one hand with his other arm outstretched. You're next.
6. Klaus Nomi, Klaus Nomi
Before AIDS took his life in 1983, Klaus Nomi made his career creating a bizarre mixture of disco, electronica, and opera. He was known for his highly stylized and theatrical live performances, which helps explain this spooky cover. He looks like a combination of Woody Allen's Sleeper robot and Michael Keaton at the end of Beetlejuice. So, you know, creepy.
7. Black Flag, Family Man
Drawn by the inimitable Raymond Pettibon, this creepy domestic murder scene is made all the more disturbing by three elements: the teddy bear, the still-living little girl, and the tiny, barely visible date, which should be instantly recognizable as the day after John F. Kennedy was assassinated. To some cultural critics, that was the day the '50s really ended, and the U.S. started to go crazy.
8. Aphex Twin, Come To Daddy EP
It isn't so much the army of man-faced children that makes this cover so unsettling, it's the fact that they all have the face of Aphex Twin mastermind Richard D. James. Just what we need: a whole generation of scruffy tech-heads with warped senses of humor. (Note: Almost as icky is the cover for Aphex Twin's Windowlicker EP, which pops James' head on a buxom swimsuit model. Although at least the kids from Come To Daddy now have a mommy to take care of them.)
9. The Beatles, Yesterday And Today
The original art for The Beatles' 1966 release Yesterday And Today sparked such a negative reaction that the first American pressing was quickly recalled and replaced with something much blander, making the "Butcher cover" a major collectors' item for those who like their British Invasion idols covered in doll parts and raw meat. It's still pretty creepy today: Photos of John Lennon naked in bed with Yoko Ono was no big deal, but a beaming Paul McCartney with a severed, bloody doll head propped up in his lap? Eerie.
10. Torture Killer, For Maggots To Devour
With a name like "Torture Killer" and a vocalist originally from Cannibal Corpse, this grotesque album cover should come as no surprise. Neither should the gory song titles, though it's a little odd that "Fuck Them When They Bleed" should come back to back with "No Time To Bleed." The Finnish band's 2006 album Swarm! features more artistically accomplished spooky art of a rotting corpse serving as an insect hive, but this image from its debut album is significantly more unsettling.
11. Black Sabbath, Born Again
As scary movies from The Exorcist to Pet Sematary to, well, every other J-horror movie ever made might tell you, nothing is creepier than the juxtaposition of innocence and evil embodied in a distorted, demonic child. But wait… what about a distorted, demonic infant? That sure ups the ante, right? Seriously, there's something very unnerving about Black Sabbath's demon-baby cover, though at least this demon baby isn't chewing on a naked corpse in a pool of blood. Yet.
12. Brutal Truth, Sounds Of The Animal Kingdom
Album art doesn't need blood, guts, or demon babies to be deeply creepy: This Brutal Truth cover gets more unpleasant with every viewing. Ape turning into man? Man turning into ape? Does it really matter, when either way, that distorted, outsized, fangy mouth looks ready and eager to rip someone's face off?
13. Barbra Streisand, Superman
She's dressed up for Halloween and she's spooky as hell. Which is most discomfiting: The big '70s hair? The come-hither smirk? The "I'm not wearing panties" teasing posture? The flat, shadowless image that makes it look like her body was painted onto the album cover around a photo of her head? You be the judge. Just don't stare at it too long: It may burn your eyes.