If there’s one thing Metal Twitter™®© is good for, it’s manufacturing non-controversies within the scene. The latest of these flare-ups occurred when Philly-based death metallers Pissgrave unveiled the cover art for their new album Posthumous Humiliation, set to be released March 1st via Profound Lore.
The album appears to depict the horrifically mangled face of an actual corpse and the usual array of metal tourists and people who claim to like metal but then act embarrassed by it every chance they get went into conniptions, as they’re often want to do whenever confronted with something that gives them an excuse to wring their hands and clutch their pearls.
Thankfully, this bout of faux internet rage only lasted for about a day, but inspiration struck me nonetheless, and I decided to pay tribute to thirty years of extremely poor taste in extreme music by picking out my five favorite albums featuring legit corpses on their covers.
Please note: these albums were chosen based on the quality of their music as opposed to their gross-out factor (there’s way worse out there) and they stand on their own merits regardless of what’s on the cover.
Brujeria – Matando Gueros (Roadrunner Records, 1993)
Back in 1993, everyone’s favorite satanic drug cartel stepped out of the shadows with their debut full length Matando Gueros, thirty-two minutes of blistering grindcore that sounded as disgusting as the decapitated head on the cover looked. Of course, we’d eventually come to find out that Brujeria was made up of members of the likes of Napalm Death, Faith No More and Fear Factory as opposed to devil-worshiping drug lords, but that doesn’t change the fact that Matando Gueros is one of the touchstones of early grindcore.
Merzbow – Venereology (Release Entertainment, 1994)
Venereology is Merzbow’s skull-splitting response to the burgeoning death metal and grindcore scenes of the early 1990s and it is likely one of the ugliest-sounding albums you’ll ever hear. The punishing waves of distortion, feedback and white noise coalesce into a harsh wall of sonic terrorism that’ll have you questioning everything you thought you knew about what constitutes “extreme music,” or then again maybe it’ll just metal your brains until they come oozing out of your ears. I seem to recall reading somewhere that the artwork depicts the corpses of syphilis victims, but I may have hallucinated that.
Carcass – Reek of Putrefaction (Earache Records, 1988)
Of course this list wouldn’t be complete without the granddaddy of ’em all, Carcass. The masters of corpse collage made no apologies for pathology when they unleashed their goregrinding debut upon the masses. In spite of some pretty wonky production, Carcass nonetheless managed to invent a metal subgenre and spawn a legion of clone bands thanks to their knack for repugnant riffage and morbid, medical terminology-laced lyrics. The band would go on to clean up their act both sonically and visually, but you never forget your first kill.
Pungent Stench – Been Caught Buttering (Nuclear Blast, 1991)
Pungent Stench are one of the most underrated bands of death metal’s golden era and their second album Been Caught Buttering is an all-time classick. Indeed, the Austrian trio absolutely reveled in filth, as evidenced by the ultra-gnarly tones and delectably un-PC lyrics of tracks such as “Shrunken and Mummified Bitch” “Games of Humiliation” and “Splatterday Night Fever.” The cover art depicts a corpse that’s been chopped in half and made to make out with itself (“Le Baiser” by Joel-Peter Witkin) and it’s pretty much the perfect visual accompaniment to this ode to exploitation and bad taste.
John Zorn – Naked City (Nonesuch Records, 1990)
What happens when a bunch of avant-garde jazz musicians decide to start a grindcore band? The answer is Naked City, the brainchild of legendary composer and saxophone player John Zorn. The album features twenty-six tracks of high-speed musical psychosis, peppered with demented cover versions of everyone from Ornette Coleman to Ennio Morricone. This is one of those albums that will truly blow your mind, provided that Yamatsuka Eye’s blood curdling screams and Zorn’s sax-from-hell skronks don’t give you an aneurysm first.