Top 5 Metal Band Logos that influenced their Genres
By Renee Taillon Provisional RGD, Freelance Graphic Designer
Born from posters and flyers, band logos became iconic in the 70's. With logos like Aerosmith's iconic winged script, The New York Dolls with their name written in lipstick and KISS, these bands helped solidify that having a band logo was cool. With the rise of logos, metal bands took this into account and, like with everything, pushed it to the extreme. Flash forward to today, where this once underground genre now influences the mainstream.
Arguably the most recognizable metal logo because of their influence in the fashion industry (thanks Kanye), the Metallica logo has had four iterations, but like with many rebrands, they have returned to the original with a few small changes done in 2008 by James Hetfield with the help of Turner Duckworth. Sharp and bold just like their sound, the A in the centre leans to the right to add balance. A custom san serif called Pastor of Muppets (a play on Master of Puppets) by Ray Larabie, it’s customized further by the elongation of the top bar of the T. But Metallica aren’t the only band with an amazing logo that captures the feel of their music.
The original design for this logo was done by front man Dennis Wilcock (before Bruce Dickinson -- hard to believe Iron Maiden existed without him) with the help of Art Director Ray Hollingsworth. Built from custom type, the simple yet heavy feel of the logo is iconic to traditional metal. Iron Maiden is one of the only bands that only has one logo! This custom typeface has stood the test of time with almost no changes since 1977! The font itself is called Metal Lord which helps solidify Iron Maiden’s impact on the metal community. Epic and bold with sharp edges, the font allows you to feel what the music actually sounds like.
Darkthrone from Norway was heavily influenced by Mayhem (arguably the first true Norwegian black metal band although the movie released in 2018 called Lords of Chaos isn’t that great and is pretty inaccurate). Their logo is almost symmetrical with protrusions from the D, T, K and E making it look like a bat. The dripping, tree-like terminuses, uncomfortably distorted pentagram and monochromatic colour palette make it feel like a xeroxed zine from the 80’s and adds to the low fi sound of black metal. Most black metal logos, as with the previous two, are often designed by non-designers. Put to paper by Tomas Lindberg, front man of At The Gates, while the band was still in their death metal phase, this logo transitioned seamlessly into black metal. A definite runner up for my favourite black metal logo is from Afsky, a one man band that falls under the classification of folk black metal. A toned down version of the traditional sense of a black metal logo, his album artwork draws heavily from Peter Saville’s influence with the use of paintings with small graphic elements (a must listen if you're into it).
A derivative of early Black Metal and Thrash, Death metal brings forth a pummelling sound with harsh vocals and macabre images. The most recognizable logo within the Death metal genre is from a band called Death. Death’s logo is harsh with sharp edges and 90 degree angles. The original logo was hand-drawn by the band's lead vocalist and guitar player, Chuck Schuldiner. The original logo played up metal tropes with reapers, scythes, spider webs and even an upside down cross. Over the years the logo has been simplified as the band transitioned to a more progressive and technical sound. Death, in general, always relied on the imagery of their album covers to be the way that they are portrayed in the music world.
Before metal, there was, what is now referred to as, proto metal. Birthed from rock and roll but with a weightier sound, these bands paved the way for what we know today as metal.
Although they can't accept it, Led Zeppelin is central to the proto metal scene. Founded as a blues cover band, Led Zeppelin grew into one of the most famous bands of the 70’s. Between their logo and cover art, they have influenced bands with heavier sounds to come. Designed in 1973 by Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell of Hipgnosis, Led Zeppelin's logo was initially intended to be used as part of the cover art for Houses of the Holy. The white lettering on a solid background, nesting of letters, tight kerning and strong type is akin to both Iron Maiden’s logo and Anthrax in its own way. Clearly the influence this band has had over the metal scene is more than just sound.
Renee is a graphic designer based in Hamilton, Ontario. She is a branding specialist, packaging connoisseur and doting dog mom to an English Bulldog named Rosemary. Recent graduate of a design program based in NYC, she is still making connections in the local design community. A driven and constant communicator, Renee has a penchant for the weird and curious. When she isn’t hunched at her computer, she’s roller skating on the waterfront, cross stitching or baking up a storm.