Impale your eyes on these metal band logos
If you’re the kind of soul whose parameters for a good time don’t automatically exclude pounding back O.E. on an 880-ft cruise ship with several thousand hirsute men, listening to deathgrunt vocalists extol the virtues of our dark lord and possibly competing in belly-flop competitions in a pool that will almost certainly get vomited into more than once, then get your no doubt sweaty ass down to Miami, Florida, for Monday morning. That’s when black metal’s equivalent of the Disney Wonder Cruise will be setting sail with the genre’s finest bands – from Sepultura to Municipal Waste – on a five-day round trip to Nassau, in the Bahamas. They call it the Barge to Hell, and erstwhile Hawkblocker contributor Jamie Thomson will be on board, pursuing his lifelong interest in screaming on boats and writing a review of the experience for the Guardian’s Travel section. But for the more cowardly of us, there’s another issue to consider: the strange awesomeness of metal band logos.
At first glance, especially if you’ve been away from the metal community for some time (surely not?), the logos of the 40 bands on the Barge to Hell look pretty much the same. You’ve got the gunmetal grey, the varying degrees of illegibility, the obsession with serifs. But think about how far things have come since Motörhead and Megadeth first put teutonic and teutonic together. (Well worth checking out Rick Poynor’s excellent history of metal aesthetics, including a brief discussion of metal ‘characters’ like Derek Riggs’ rotting Eddie, the Iron Maiden made flesh.) The Barge to Hell bands have progressed into pictorial sickles, fraying or “decaying” fonts, and a satanic cartful of crosses.
But OK, they still look pretty similar. So which logos are good? Which are bad? How can you even tell?
I put the question to some of the Master’s students in Branding at Goldsmiths, University of London. Then I compiled their responses, in order to rate the logos according to four criteria:
I am aware that illegibility is a goal of some metal logo designs, but for our purposes we treated legibility as positive. So here, without further ado, is the official Hawkblocker Metal Band Logo Ranking.
1. At the Gates – great name, modern aesthetic, aggressive without needing to rely on a ton of sharp points.
2. Sepultura – another evocative name, with a clear, loud logo and fine detail in the lettering.
3. Municipal Waste – the jury was split on the name, but obviously it’s the best name ever, don’t need no social scientists to tell you that. Everyone loved the logo.
4. Headcrusher – for actually looking like what it might feel like to have your head crushed
5. Sodom – classic, nightmarish name, with a tight, axe-like design: proof that you don’t have to be a mess to be metal. (Personally, I like the horizontal line, too.)
6. Soil Work – high points for clarity and memorability, but lost points for generally poor all-round metalness and for sounding like something related to poo.
7 Havok – high points for an excellent design, but lost points for being accidentally confused several times for “Kayak”.
8. Setta – high points for balanced designed, but consensus was that it was just a bit small to get into the top 5.
9. Morgoth – perfected the dripping spatter effect, which ain’t nothing.
10. Corrosion of Conformity – simple but classic in its brute-like concreteness. Though ironically, the logo conforms to a block shape and seems as if it would be quite resistant to corrosion.
1. Necronomicon A and Necronomicon B – one of them’s ugly and one of them’s Greek, and both lose points for terrible market positioning. You don’t call a new toothpaste “Colgate”, lads.
2. Mayhem – how do you make six letters so illegible yet so unappealing? The upside down crosses really drag the vibe down, too.
3. Nachtmystium – give me a fucking break. Even the Druids would have thought that name was lame. Didn’t get a single positive vote.
4. Sólstafir – trust Icelanders to use lower case and make it all neat and tidy and cute and totally lose our interest in the process.
5. Raging Christ – personally, I think the name has a certain direct power – any band name that sounds like what you’d say when an anvil drops on your foot is OK by me – but the logo lost points for looking like a shitty melted candle. I quote: “Is that supposed to look like moss growing on the letters or WTF?”
6. Possessed – “too caricatural with cross and devil tail”. Can’t argue with that.
7. Sanctuary and Holy Moses – nice video-game logos. How much did you pay your branding agency for these?
8. Napalm Death – personally I can’t ever mark down these legends of metal for anything, but consensus was that their logo was trying too hard. Hey, they don’t call them “Master’s” students for nothing.
9. Novembers Doom – where’s the apostrophe? Multiple Novembers are dooming something? Fuckwits.
10. Bonded by Blood – looks too much like Blonde Boot, which would be a much better name for a band anyway.
11. Hackeneyed – what’s next, a metal band called Gauche? Actually, shotgun.
There you have it. Science has spoken. Please don’t hunt me down in my dreams, black metallers. I’m just the messenger. And just to show you I can take the heat as well as dish the pain, here’s my own black metal logo for you guys to rip apart: