Dirck Halstead, Getty Images

Whether you're a seasoned listener or a heavy music neophyte, if you see some kind of mythological winged creature or a 'Masters of the Universe'-inspired landscape on an album cover, chances are it's from a power metal band. While this over-the-top brand of artwork is definitely an acquired taste (as is the genre itself), we hope you enjoy this list of our 10 favorite power metal album covers.

'Frost and Fire' (1980)
Cirith Ungol
Frost and Fire album cover
Although Michael Whelan is more well-known for his album art for groups like Obituary and Sepultura, it's his work on Cirith Ungol's 'Frost and Fire' that gets him a slot on our list. Whelan's image of a sword-wielding warrior embodies the "blood and glory" spirit of the genre. Pick this one up on 12-inch vinyl for the full effect.
'Kings of Metal' (1988)
Kings of Metal album cover
No power metal discussion is complete without the New York-based battle ram known as Manowar. We could have chosen at least two or three other albums from their discography, but we wouldn't feel right leaving the cover for 'Kings of Metal' off the list. Painted by renowned fantasy artist Ken Kelly, the muscled dude on this album cover went on to grace thousands of denim jackets circa 1988.
'Livin' in Hysteria' (1991)
Heavens Gate
Livin' In Hysteria album cover
Probably the least-known group on our list, Heavens Gate have a sound comparable to their German brothers Helloween and Rage. On the cover to their 'Livin' in Hysteria' album, we see a chained slave sweeping up a skull while his dragon captor enjoys a toke from a giant pipe. This is the kind of stuff power metal dreams are made of.
'The Odyssey' (2002)
Symphony X
The Odyssey album cover
New Jersey isn't the first place that springs to mind when discussing progressive power metal, but there's no doubting the lasting influence of Symphony X. Lead by neoclassical guitar maestro Michael Romeo, the quintet has unleashed one fantastic album after another since the early '90s. With a cover design depicting Homer's Greek hero Odysseus, the album also features an epic 24-minute title track with lyrics inspired by the ancient poem referenced in the album title.
'The Glorious Burden' (2004)
Iced Earth
The Glorious Burden album cover
Guitarist/vocalist Jon Schaffer's admiration for American history has been well-documented. At one point, Iced Earth frontman even ran his very own historical collectibles store. It's no surprise that he commissioned Russian artist Leo Hao to paint this American Civil Ear battle scene with an attention to detail usually reserved for multimillion-dollar HBO war miniseries.
'Hell Destroyer' (2007)
Hell Destroyers album cover
Look out: There's a heavily armored knight flying toward you, and he looks like he's in a really bad mood! Marc Sasso has created album covers for the likes of Dio and Morbid Angel, but this painting he dreamed up for Californian metal masters Cage is his most thrilling. In this age of sterile Photoshopped album covers, Sasso proves that nothing can top the feeling evoked by a beautifully crafted work of art.
'Masterpieces' (2008)
Masterpieces album cover
We tip our hats to Sam "Samwise" Didier. For Hammerfall's album of their favorite cover songs, the artist managed to squeeze in visual references to almost every artist that the Swedes paid tribute to on the record. Didier is also the art director at Blizzard Entertainment, where he's designed artwork for computer games like 'World of Warcraft' and the 'Diablo' series.
'Polaris' (2009)
Polaris album cover
The cover for 'Polaris' -- the 12th studio album from Finnish metal survivors Stratovarius -- looks like a scene stripped out of a Roland Emmerich screenplay. The sci-fi blitzkrieg depicted here comes courtesy of Gyula Havancsák, who has also created artwork for everyone from German thrash dealers Destruction to cult Hungarian metallers Sear Bliss.
'The Frozen Tears of Angels' (2010)
Rhapsody of Fire
The Frozen Tears of Angels album cover
This Italian band's seamless blend of symphonic keyboards, choral swells, triumphant choruses and classical-music-informed arrangements is strangely cinematic in its delivery. Likewise, the artwork for 'The Frozen Tears of Angels' does full justice to Rhapsody of Fire's bombastic musical vision. Kudos to Colombian painter Felipe Machado Franco for capturing the band's essence with one arresting image.
'New Era Pt. 3: The Apocalypse' (2010)
 New Era Pt. 3: The Apocalypse album cover
Speaking of Franco, he's also responsible for the dreamscape on the cover of Derdian's 'New Era Pt. 3' album. Like most of the other album covers on this list, the artwork here could double as the theatrical one-sheet for one of those sword-and-sorcery films that were so popular in the early to mid-'80s.
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