One of the enduring stereotypes of heavy metal that persists into the new millennium is that metal is famous for its over the top cover art. There is no doubt in my mind that metal has always prided itself on the ability to take cover art to it limits, drawing inspiration from comic books, history, haunting visages, or simply by stretching imagination like a rubber band.
So it makes perfect sense that somebody has assembled a coffee table book of metal album covers over the course of the genre's evolution. "Heavy Metal Thunder" (which takes its own cover from Thy Serpent's "Christcrusher," is just that: a compendium of some of the best, and worst, that metal artists have to offer. Compiled by James Sherry and Neil Aldis, these two British gents have put together a new complete photographic encyclopedia of metal excess. Complete with a forward by Scott Ian, the book winds through the genres and periods of metal with just the right mix of studied consideration and casual bemusement.
The book also sets aside whole sections for individual bands that have had a profound effect, or lasting legacy of cover art. Black Sabbath, Motorhead, Kreator, Slayer, Iron Maiden, and a host of others (including Manowar and Obituary...huh?)
There are some who might complain that the book is incomplete. That it features no covers from Led Zeppelin, Def Leppard, Deep Purple, or a whole host of other "metal" bands. In contrast, I think this is one of the books greatest strengths. Too often in this type of environment, the definition of metal is stretched too thin to allow for greater appeal to a mass audience. Instead, Sherry and Aldis went the other way, and included some of the most storied and forgotten metal covers ever to exist.
Oh, and for you black metal fans, if you ever get tired of reading the Necronomicon, there's a whole section devoted to some of the art that Scandanavians have brought to the metal gate-fold.
In the end, the book is a great collection of where metal was and where it exists. From then to now, you can see things to pique your interest, see what you might have missed, and occasionally chuckle for what passed as cool back in the day. (Be advised, there is a section on hair metal. There's also some punk and such mixed in.)
It's a must for metal fans.