Features Music The Set List Top 5 Progressive Album Covers

The Set List

Music: Top 5 Progressive Album Covers

Here at SPB we're big fans of pointing out poor cover art, but we're less good at highlighting the classics of the medium. In this new feature we're examining some of the greatest album artwork ever commited to record, and breaking it down by genre. First up: prog rock. Prepare yourselves.

5

Metallica -- ...And Justice for All

5.jpg

I bet that only a small portion of folks actually remember anything about Metallica before their self-titled release came out. Though it may be hard to believe, Metallica was once a powerhouse of progressive metal. In fact, arguably their greatest contribution to the metal scene was taking the traditional thrash metal formula and marrying it beautifully with progressive elements. This musical blending peaked on their fourth release, 1988's ...And Justice for All. For metal fans, this album is either an underrated classic or Metallica's biggest flop. Regardless of your opinion on the album, it's hard to argue against the enduring image of the album cover. No detail in Stephen Gorman's beautiful cover art has been spared. From the obvious details of the ropes pulling Lady Justice apart, the cracked marble, and spray-painted graffiti to the more subtle overflow of her scales with money and her exposed breast, every bit of this cover perfectly portrays a government ripe with corruption. Though some will argue about the endurance of Master of Puppets' cover or even (bafflingly) the cover of Metallica, ...And Justice for All is easily Metallica's most readily recognizable, not to mention artistically meritorious, contribution to music history.

4

Yes -- Yessongs

4.jpg

Few artists' work are as easily recognizable as that of Roger Dean. Don't know who I'm talking about? Go through your vinyl and pick out a Yes album at random. See what I mean? Everyone knows his style when they see it, even if they can only articulate it as 'I think I've heard that album before.' His work beautifully combines familiar, earth-like elements in forms and patterns that are recognizable, but distinctly alien in their Escher-esque construction. His work has become so associated with Yes' powerfully symphonic music that, to this day, his influences can be seen in modern art. Don't believe me? Just look at James Cameron's latest film, Avatar. The sprawling trees, spiraling plants and floating mountains all produce immediate and recognizable comparisons to Dean's work. Though Yessongs is the most archetypal and widely-recognized of his works, any other Yes album, like Fragile, Tales from Topographic Oceans, Union, or even Fly From Here, produce the exact same feeling of musical familiarity.

3

King Crimson -- In the Court of the Crimson King

3.jpg

It is extremely difficult to think of a more recognizable face in progressive music than King Crimson's schizoid man. Every detail about his face seems to have been purposefully constructed to portray a man stuck in a world of chaos. His eyes gaze at some unknown terror, wide with the realization that his world is exactly as fucked as he believes it to be. His mouth screams, to us, silently, with uncontrolled agony and confusion. Even his nostrils are flared and his skin old and wrinkled. The album cover was actually the only work ever done by computer programmer Barry Godber, who died shortly after the album's release. The painting was rescued from sun bleaching by guitarist Robert Fripp, and it has survived in our culture as a symbol of all that is complex and beautiful with rock music, springing involuntarily to mind alongside Ian Anderson's diverse woodwinds, Michael Giles' relentless percussion work, and Greg Lake's crooning vocals.

2

Emerson, Lake and Palmer -- Brain Salad Surgery

2.jpg

To its detractors, Emerson, Lake & Palmer's album Brain Salad Surgery embodied everything that was wrong with progressive music. The music was huge and self-indulgent to a fault, almost masturbatory in its obsession with its own mightiness. It was often obtuse, confusing, and even repellent with its own stylistic schizophrenia, switching from ballad, to classical, to aggressive rock without remorse. There is hardly an easily accessible moment to be found on this album. All of this and more is irrevocably tied to the haunting cover image by H. R. Giger. Even his cover art is seen to embody the negative aspects of rock music, subtly emphasizing the connotations of fellatio already apparent in the title. And yet, for every time some high-and-mighty musical purist sees this cover and uses it to attack all of progressive music, one more person sees it and goes away humming to themselves: "Welcome back my friends, to the show that never ends..."

1

Pink Floyd -- The Wall

1.jpg

In all honesty, I probably could've done this list entirely from Pink Floyd albums. Plenty of their other album covers, or elements of them, are immediately recognizable within popular culture--the burning handshake from Wish You Were Here, the prism on Dark Side of the Moon, the flying pig on Animals, even the psychedelic cover to The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. But the truth is, the cover of The Wall has had a far larger impact on the mass consciousness than any of these others. One of the few Floyd covers not done by Storm Thorgerson, this one was actually done by cartoonist Gerald Scarfe, who continued to work with Roger Waters on the theme up through the movie version of The Wall. All of the associated images with this album are still recognizable today, be it the marching hammers, or the scene of one flower raping another, or the beautifully stylized judge sentencing Pink to tear down his wall. Sure, you may see more t-shirts emblazoned with the prism artwork, but no other Pink Floyd image has as much symbolism or meaning to us today as The Wall.

Credits

Words by Sarah on Nov. 16, 2011, 7:14 a.m.

Advertisement
Radio K 2
Leave a comment
Top 5 Progressive Album Covers

Posted by Sarah on Nov. 16, 2011, 7:14 a.m.

Share this content
Related news

Records Kill 'Em All and Ride the Lightning reissues

Posted Feb. 17, 2016, 7:09 p.m.

On April 15 (Record Store Day 2016) Metallica will reissue their first two fulll-lengths in digitally remastered formats. Both Kill 'Em All and Ride the Lightning will be re-released on ...

Videos Some Kind of Monster on 10-year Blu-Ray edition

Posted Oct. 5, 2014, 11:45 a.m.

Metallica's documentary chronicling the making of their Monster record, Some Kind of Monster, will be issued on a 10-year anniversary edition 2-disc Blu-Ray set on Nov. 24. The film ...

Videos Metallica's Through the Never on video

Posted Dec. 14, 2013, 9:56 a.m.

On Jan. 28 Metallica will release their Through the Never 3D film on DVD and Bluray. The items will include a limited edition package and contains bonus footage and making-of ...

Advertisement
Radio K 2

Series: The Set List

A collection of items grouped by topic, eg. "Top 5 Worst Beatles Songs" or "Top 10 best '77 punk releases".

More like this

Top 10 Songs From the New David Bowie Boxed Set “A New Career in a New Town”

Music Top 10 Songs From the New David Bowie Boxed Set “A New Career in a New Town”

Posted Dec. 12, 2017, 2:29 p.m.
The Set List

David Bowie, one could argue, is the most influential artist ever. I may get some shit for that comment, but he had done more to ...

Top 10 Acts Worth Mentioning at Riot Fest 2017

Music Top 10 Acts Worth Mentioning at Riot Fest 2017

Posted Oct. 4, 2017, 2:31 p.m.
The Set List

Sometimes you reach a point in your life when something inside of you just breaks and no matter what you do, you can't fix ...

Top Ten Acts We're Excited About at Riot Fest 2017

Music Top Ten Acts We're Excited About at Riot Fest 2017

Posted Sept. 14, 2017, 10:41 a.m.
The Set List

Multi-day music festival Riot Fest returns to Douglas Park in Chicago for its twelfth year, September 15-17th. The independent music festival specializes in punk, rock ...

Top Five Acts We're Excited About at Pitchfork 2017

Music Top Five Acts We're Excited About at Pitchfork 2017

Posted July 11, 2017, 2:23 p.m.
The Set List

Pitchfork Music Festival returns to Union Park in Chicago for it's twelfth year (except 2005's "Intonation Music Festival" tag) July 14-16. As usual ...

Top 5 TV Themes

Music Top 5 TV Themes

Posted June 21, 2016, 3:29 p.m.
The Set List

TV theme songs are their own art form: they aren’t singles and they aren’t cinematic scores. Instead, they have to be memorable while ...

Top 5 Album Closers

Music Top 5 Album Closers

Posted March 1, 2015, 3:46 p.m.
The Set List

1 Devin Townsend – "Tall Latte" (Ziltoid, the Omniscient) Ziltoid is an impeccably funny album. Not only is the premise itself spectacularly silly (an alien destroys ...

Top 5 Bands That Never Topped Their Debuts

Music Top 5 Bands That Never Topped Their Debuts

Posted Nov. 25, 2014, 5:23 p.m.
The Set List

1 Guns N' Roses - Appetite for Destruction Admit it: you love this album just as much as everyone else. And with good reason; GNR's ...

Our Top 5 Favorite Album Openers

Music Our Top 5 Favorite Album Openers

Posted Aug. 12, 2014, 5:34 p.m.
The Set List

The challenge of listing the definitive "best" album openers is perhaps impossible. While we're dedicated at SPB to challenging the odds and defying convention ...

5 Acts Not To Miss At... Beacons Festival 2013

Music 5 Acts Not To Miss At... Beacons Festival 2013

Posted July 29, 2013, 5:03 p.m.
The Set List

Boasting a packed, diverse lineup of bands and musicians, Beacons Festival has something for everyone. These are the acts which have caught our eye and ...

Top 5 whoa-oh songs

Music Top 5 whoa-oh songs

Posted March 17, 2013, 1:48 p.m.
The Set List

Whoa-oh is both a pop-punk staple and a songwriting trick that finds its way across many genres. Is it a gimmick to create an easy ...

x

Logo

Looking for the SPB logo? You can download it in a range of styles and colours here:

Click anywhere outside this dialog to close it, or press escape.