Bad news for fans of biomechanical nastiness, and the Aliens franchise: Swiss surrealist artist H.R. Giger has died at the age of 74. He suffered injuries in a fall, and could not recover.
Giger was painting and sculpting in his singularly striking style long before he became involved with the 1979 movie Alien – but it was his work for Ridley Scott’s sci-fi horror masterpiece that broke him into the mainstream. It’s Giger who is responsible for the look of the eponymous creature, all slimy sinew, acidic blood and double-jawed fangs.
The artist’s immediately attention-grabbing approach to composition, not to mention his habit of incorporating some fairly explicit sexual content into his works, naturally attracted artists from other mediums. So, inevitably his designs have appeared on the covers of several albums over the years – and beyond that, Giger worked on set design, photography and bespoke equipment for bands like Korn and Blondie.
Here, Clash has compiled just five of Giger’s most appealing – if that’s quite the right word – creations that found their way to the artwork of albums. Warning: this does contain some explicit, definitely NSFW material. So scroll down at your own risk.
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Danzig – ‘Danzig III: How The Gods Kill’ (1992)
The metal band’s LP of 1992 featured Giger’s 1976 painting Meister Und Margeritha on its cover, albeit with some modifications. Erect penises generally aren’t seen on album sleeves, after all (though someone try telling Death Grips that).
Emerson, Lake & Palmer – ‘Brain Salad Surgery’ (1973)
Probably the most well known of Giger’s LP covers, what you see here – and what’s inside the cover, too – represents original work undertaken specifically for the British prog band. Giger’s version of the ELP logo, first seen here, would be used by the band again and again. Which must have cheesed Giger off somewhat, as – according to Wikipedia, anyway! – he was never actually paid for his efforts. Hmm.
Debbie Harry – ‘KooKoo’ (1981)
The Blondie singer’s first solo album was already guaranteed to attract attentions based on Harry’s previous successes – but with a cover like this one, there was no chance of anyone avoiding its arrival. Harry was initially taken aback by Giger’s design, based on a photograph by Brian Aris, but came around to it despite its extreme acupuncture. The London Underground objected though, and refused to display posters promoting the LP on their network.
Celtic Frost – ‘To Mega Therion’ (1985)
Swiss extreme metal act Celtic Frost didn’t need anything particularly savage on their sleeves for the thrashing noise to make a deep impact. And yet, for this second studio set, they turned to Giger for what can only be described as a very Giger creation. The painting is titled Satan I, and predates the album it’s been so closely associated with since. Still, great minds and all that…
Dead Kennedys – ‘Frankenchrist’ (1985)
We’re cheating a little here. The cover to this third LP from the Californian punk-rockers actually featured some chubby chaps in small cars wearing hats (it’s a Shriners parade). But frontman Jello Biafra’s original plan was to use Giger’s quite startling Penis Landscape (1973) in its place – something which just might have upset a few people. Really, just look at it. Eventually, the painting was included inside the ‘Frankenchrist’ packaging as a pull-out poster. Which still led to some problems, the legal fall-out almost bankrupting Biafra’s Alternative Tentacles label.
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RIP H.R. Giger, 1940-2014
H.R. Giger photo: Annie Bertram