The first couple of albums were just crazy Eddie killing people in alleys. But around Piece of Mind, themes began to emerge. Lobotomized Eddie. Egyptian God Eddie. Terminator Eddie. I must have logged as many hours staring at the Powerslave artwork as I did studying sophomore English. More, probably.
Album covers like Sabbath's The Mob Rules had as big an impact but with less mystery. It was less about "oh, what does this weird symbol in the background mean" and more about "Jesus these guys are total devil worshippers."
Turns out that all of Maiden artwork until 2002's Fear of the Dark was done by a guy named Derek Riggs. Of course I knew that because Maiden put everyone who did anything for the band into its tour programs - another reason I thought/think the band is so cool - and Riggs was always in some weird photo.
But he had a falling out with the band's management and refused to do any more art for them, even signing over the rights to the images he had created over the years. He is a real artist's artist, this guy, and in this Metal Sucks interview with Derek Riggs, we get these nuggets:
I was always trying to make the albums flow from one to the next. There’s more than just a bunch of pictures. There’s a visual, symbolic language that’s shared between releases. [laughs] Of course, I made Maiden think that it was them that was doing that.
When I’m painting a cover, this is what’s going through my head. The cover for the CD or record is the front end, but what’s making the money for the band is the merchandise. Of course, in [the band members'] minds, they’re the equal of Mozart. But if you’re like the FBI and follow the money, you’ll see that the band is just a front for a very large merchandising operation. The band might not know enough to know this, but I know it. So you look at a cover and think, “That’s not going to make a good shirt
I was right on the border of this for Somewhere in Time. The artwork is good on the record to hold in your hands, but it almost doesn’t work on a t-shirt.
Really, I’ve done zombies. At this point, it’s like, “How do you want your zombie? Would you like him with a burning city behind him or with lightning? Do you want him boiled or fried?” [laughs]
It's a really solid interview - check out the whole thing.