H.R. Giger’s Greatest Album Cover Art – Rolling Stone
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H.R. Giger’s Greatest Album Cover Art

Revisiting the Swiss master’s brilliantly disturbing music-related artwork

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AP Foto/Keystone,Arno Balzarini,File

Surrealist Swiss painter H.R. Giger, who died on May 12th at age 74, is perhaps best known for inspiring the design of the creature in the Alien movie franchise, also had a long and deep connection with music. Whether via commissioned pieces or licensing deals, his disturbing, erotic "bio-mechanical" images were frequently used for album cover art, among other musically-related projects. We've highlighted some of the best of those eerie uses. 

H.R. Giger, Surrealist Artist and Alien Designer, Dead at 74

Emerson, Lake and Palmer, 'Brain Salad Surgery'

Courtesy of Atlantic Records

Emerson, Lake & Palmer, ‘Brain Salad Surgery’

One of Giger's most iconic covers is this one, created for prog-rock deities ELP's fourth album, released in 1973. Keyboardist Keith Emerson said of the image, "We chose this artwork because it pushed album cover art to its extreme."

Debbie Harry, 'KooKoo'

Courtesy of Chrysalis Records

Debbie Harry, ‘KooKoo’

For her 1981 debut solo album, KooKoo, Blondie frontwoman Debbie Harry enlisted Giger to help take her far away as she could from the blonde bombshell image for which she'd previously been known. Suitably impressed, Harry tapped Giger to direct the music video's for the singles "Backfired" and "Now I Know You Know."

Dead Kennedys, 'Frankenchrist'

Courtesy of H.R. Giger

Dead Kennedys, ‘Frankenchrist’

Bay Area punks the Dead Kennedys included a poster of Giger's Landscape #XX, also known as Penis Landscape (the image depicted rows of erect phalluses in coitus), in the packaging of their 1985 album Frankenchrist, and were subsequently put on trial for obscenity.

Danzig, 'Danzig III: How the Gods Kill'

Courtesy of American Recordings

Danzig, ‘Danzig III: How the Gods Kill’

Given his gothic-demonic proclivities, it was only a matter of time before Glenn Danzig looked to Giger to provide visual counterpoint to his dark musical dramas. 1992's Danzig III: How the Gods Kill is adorned with a version of Giger's 1976 painting Meister und Margeritha, slightly altered to include the artist's interpretation of the Danzig skull logo. 


Paul Bergen/Redferns

Jonathan Davis’ Mic Stand

Giger's visual influence on musicians wasn't limited to album covers. In 2000, Korn frontman Jonathan Davis contacted Giger in order to commission a special microphone stand. On his website, Giger recalled the experience of creating for the singer: "He told me I had complete freedom to design the microphone stand as I wanted and his only concern was that it had be totally functional and as movable as possible. He also wanted it be Biomechanical and very erotic. "

Magma, 'Attahk'

Courtesy of Tomato Records

Magma, ‘Attahk’

French prog-rock band Magma were a suitably bizarre match for Giger — the group sang in its own invented language, Kobaian. The cover for 1978's Attahk is more imposing and less explicitly erotic than Giger's usual work. 

Celtic Frost, 'To Mega Therion'

Courtesy of Noise Records

Celtic Frost, ‘To Mega Therion’

Giger deployed a painting called I Satan, one of his most purely evil creations, for his fellow Swissmen Celtic Frost's 1985 extreme metal opus To Mega Therion. 

Walpurgis, 'The Shiver'

Courtesy of Massa Records

Walpurgis, ‘The Shiver’

Giger's first-ever album cover was created in 1969 for Walpurgis, a Swiss psychedelic rock band. 

Steve Stevens, 'Atomic Playboys'

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Records

Steve Stevens, ‘Atomic Playboys’

Hair-metal guitarist and erstwhile Billy Idol and Vince Neil sideman Steve Stevens commissioned Giger to do the artwork for his 1989 studio debut Atomic Playboys. It was the last time that Giger ever created artwork specifically for use as an album cover. From this point on, any album covers featuring his artwork were the result of licensing agreements. 

Atrocity, 'Hallucinations'

Courtesy of Roadrunner Records

Atrocity, ‘Hallucinations’

For their 1990 debut, German death metal band Atrocity used a piece of Giger art that seemed to marry the feeling behind both the band's name and the album's title. 

Carcass, 'Heartwork'

Courtesy of Columbia Records

Carcass, ‘Heartwork’

British metallers Carcass used an image of a Giger sculpture, rather than a painting, for the cover of their 1993 album Heartwork. The sculpture, "Life Support 1993," was slightly updated for the album art. The music video for the title track also featured an interpretation of the same piece. 

Triptykon, 'Eparistera Daimones'

Courtesy of Century Media Records

Triptykon, ‘Eparistera Daimones’

Swiss underground metal legend Tom G. Warrior, who'd led Celtic Frost, again utilized a Giger work for the cover of his Triptykon project's 2010 album, Eparistera Daimones.

Floh de Cologne, 'Mumien'

Courtesy of Pläne Records

Floh de Cologne, ‘Mumien – Kantate für Rockband’

One of Giger's least-known album covers is this one, for a 1974 album by German rock group Floh de Cologne. 

Sacrosanct, 'Recesse2 for the Depraved'

Courtesy of 1MF Records

Sacrosanct, ‘Recesses for the Depraved’

Sacrosanct was an offshoot of death metal band Pestilence, and though the title of the band's 1991 album Recesses for the Depraved may have sounded like a schooltime activity for daemons, the disturbing Giger cover art accurately conveyed the savage nature of the music. 

Pankow, 'Freiheit fuer die Sklaven'

Courtesy of Contempo Records

Pankow, ‘Freiheit fuer die Sklaven’

Pankow were a politically fiery Italian-German electronic outfit formed in the late Seventies — and are not to be confused with the political fiery East German rock band of the same name that was formed in the early Eighties. The title of the former Pankow's 1987 Giger art-adorned album, Freiheit fuer die Sklaven,translates to  "freedom for the slaves." 

Debbie Harry, 'The Jam Was Moving'

Courtesy of Chrysalis Records

Debbie Harry, ‘The Jam Was Moving’

"The Jam Was Moving" was a single from Harry's 1981 album KooKoo, and like that album featured artwork by Giger. 

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