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Friday, August 20, 2010

Metal Louvre: Iron Maiden - Killers

If not for Number of the Beast, this would most iconic image in all of heavy metal. I always think of Maiden's Killers album as worthy of a "Where were you when you first laid eyes on this cover?" query.

For me, it was late 1982 as one of the first metal albums I ever heard in my cousin's bedroom. I tell the story frequently, but it was played with Ozzy's Diary of a Madman and later the following year, with Dio's Holy Diver. I was 12, well-trained in slasher flicks and gorefests and still I found the Killers album artwork utterly disturbing. Took me two songs into Killers to hone in on the music before I could get my eyes off the album cover.

"That's some wild shit, huh?" my cousin said once I stopped scanning over this depiction of savagery. I can still hear those words. Now I know why he kept his heavy metal albums hidden from his parents in his dresser drawer. The vividness of a nihilistic Eddie chopping down citizens already held on governmental lockdown (take note of the soldiers on the rooftop in the background and the twisted antennae indicating surveillance equipment) is truly horrifying. You only see the reliefs of those soldiers in the background, but they're certainly privy to Eddie's butchery and they're doing nothing about it. My guess, they're enjoying the party.

For me, it's not so much Eddie's venomous snarl and dripping hatchet that makes Killers so raw. It's the wherewithal of those soldiers to leave him to his dirty business and the victim's hands clutching at Eddie's shirt in desperation which cuts deep. It's so Clockwork Orange-esque in its implied brutality you wonder if Eddie's humming "Singing in the Rain" through his gnashed teeth.

The thing which makes A Clockwork Orange such a powerful and emotional trip (despite audiences and critics of yesteryear who claim it's devoid of emotion) is the manner it chooses to inflict its violence. Just enough blood to convey horror at face value, but it's more about recklessness, adrenalized flagrance and a dastardly disregard for human welfare. All of those of are captured in the Killers album cover and there's been literally nothing since in metal which severs to the bone like this image.

Goat horns? Cannibals gnawing on fetuses for appetizers? Disemboweled mortals on Satan's talon? Pussy compared to this. Sadly it's become Hot Topic couture in the metal revival, robbing Killers of its bloody wallop.


Metal Mark said...

Riggs really begins to define Eddie with this one. Aside from the main action I also love the background. We talk so much about Eddie, but Riggs is fantastic at backgrounds too. The contrast between the dark skies, the black building and the different colored curtains only adds to the effect of the cover as a whole.

Crescent Shield said...

Excellent, excellent post. So true that this iconic image is only eclipsed by Number of the Beast. Its so vicious and savage. Not showing the victims bloody wounds makes it all the more so. And I think one of the most frightening elements of it is Eddie's subtly outstretched hand. He's coming for me next! Ahhhh!

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

What's striking to me is Riggs' use of the sweltering green and green tinted rooms in the tenement building to offset the overall ugliness, as if there's a small glimpse of beauty in an English hellhole under government arrest.

With Eddie's role being defined as a horrifying streetpunk harbinger of death during the Dianno years (keeping in mind the likewise gruesome singles art from these albums) I find it deliciously ironic Number of the Beast ushes the ultimate anger and evil into a smiling usurper of the devil, claiming Eddie to be the ultimate evil. He who controls Satan should be feared above, is the implication. For that come into effect, Killers had to be as vicious as it is. We're next, indeed, CS!

Thanks for your comments, gents!

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

sweltering pink and green, I meant

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I think Iron Maiden's distinct logo has adorned all of the band's releases since the debut; the typeface originates with Vic Fair's poster design for 1976 science fiction film, The Man Who Fell To Earth.