Since 1910 musicians have associated visual arts with their sonic output in the form of the almighty album cover. And since 1987, Roadrunner Records has been a source of some visually stunning and visually disturbing images in the wide world of album art, nevertheless honoring the tradition. Whether using an image to set the tone for what's to follow on your speakers, or as a means of branding in forever associating a picture with a title, there is no question as to the power of the album cover — which is why the label took a look at every album released on Roadrunner Records U.S. to find the greatest covers in its celebrated history.
Voted on by the Roadrunner worldwide staff, showcasing the iconic vs. the blasphemous, the painted vs. the photographed, as well as the found art vs. the commissioned art, we give you the "Ten Greatest Album Covers in Roadrunner History" — one at a time.
Feast your eyes on #3 below, and check back at RoadrunnerRecords.com every day as the label counts down to number one.
#10: KING DIAMOND - "Abigail"
#9: MACHINE HEAD - "The Blackening"
#8: TYPE O NEGATIVE - "Slow, Deep And Hard"
#7: SEPULTURA - "Chaos A.D."
#6: KILLSWITCH ENGAGE - "The End Of Heartache"
#5: NAILBOMB - "Point Blank"
#4: FEAR FACTORY - "Demanufacture"
#3: SEPULTURA - "Roots"
Brazilian death metal contingent SEPULTURA's last album with frontman Max Cavalera on the mic, "Roots", came out in 1996 just as the metal landscape really began to change in a "nu" direction. In line with the downtuned sounds of the times and honoring SEPULTURA's experimental traditions, "Roots" basically boasted the band's return to their Brazilian heritage. Accented by the affluent tribal tones fully realized in the form of thick, layered percussives — even featuring Brazilian musician Carlinhos Brown playing traditional instruments on tracks like "Ratamahatta", the title was fitting for the sonic offering.
With the emphasis on beats and guest musicians (like Mike Patton, Jonathan Davis and DJ Lethal) aside, this eclectic, chaotic album also gave SEPULTURA an instant classic in the devastatingly heavy track "Roots Bloody Roots".
But as for the visual offering, the Michael Whelan-tweaked "found art" is best explained by Max Cavalera himself.
Says Cavalera, "'Roots' is actually not really that much changed from an extinct Brazilian dollar bill. That's where I got it from — it's public domain so anybody could use it and we didn't have to pay anything. The Brazilian dollar had that face with the Indian on it. It's actually original from the old dollar bill from the '80s that's no longer in circulation."
As for Whelan's input, Max explains, "All that Michael Whelan had to do was add the SEPULTURA S, the tribal S on it, and he did a couple little things on the background, like make it look like some tree roots with a little bit of fire color."
In terms of what this image represented, Max contends, "It was something that, on that album, the whole thing about going back to Brazil and recording with the Indians, it fit the whole purpose of the album."
And in terms of the impact it had, Max shares a little known fact that, "A couple years later there was a designer that used that whole album cover [in his collection] — John Paul Gaultier."
Roadrunner Records Senior VP of A&R Monte Conner on SEPULTURA's "Roots":