So when I say that my personal choice for "greatest album cover" of all-time features a comical Satan, I won't be surprised or offended when you jump in with, "Ahh, yeah. 'Satan Is Real'. Lovin Brothers. Hilarious." That particular cover has reached iconic status even among folks who don't peruse web sites devoted to collecting and displaying wacked out cover art, like this one. Admittedly, it's great; two milquetoast thin men pictured in the midst of exaltation while behind them a ridiculously huge wooden Satan oversees flaming tires. But it's not sharp enough, the overall appearance far from crisp. This matters to me.
I have never heard the contents of this record. I rather shudder to contemplate what such an experience would do to my notoriously tender soul. Might send me inside any of the 391 churches I pass on my way to work, for one. Or, inside any of the 420 bars I pass on the same trek. (I do have an audio file on disc of Van Impe sermonizing on the sexual revolution, with hilarious results. When I dig it up, I will share. Let's just say, Jack Van Impe don't give a shit about your orgasms, bitches!)
What's to love?
The use of color is brutally effective: one half vertical red, the other vertical black. The lettering and--crucially!--the cross are white.
The head 'n' shoulders profile shot of our humbling host is intended to express that this man proselytizing within brooks no secular nonsense. Gaze upon the expansive forehead, the tight-lipped half-smile as he considers the very little odds that the minions of Lucifer stand against his formidable combined shields of unbreakable piety and a head of hair blessed with all the V05 God's willed allowed. Please note that said picture is framed by a white square. Holiest of holies, color I shall smite thee.
Now--if you can summon forth the necessary inner strength--let's check out the Satan side of the cover.
White letters spell out the seemingly-contradictory title, which seems to be blemished by a rather devilish acne breakout. Hey, I know facial bumps'n'craters aren't exactly sightly, but it's rather rude to equate them with the Habitation of Fallen Angels. Underneath the title are several other words equating with what Christians call Hell (Hades, Gehenna, Tartarus) and the beckoning words--IS IT THE GRAVE? The question mark may seem needlessly greater than the actual words, but these religious record makers are far from foolish; why would you want to listen to Jack Van Impe preach his glorious sermon if you didn't want answers? Christians are always thinking, even when it seems they are not! Which is so very often! But we must remember, thoughts that are not very logical are still thoughts. See, I'm trying to be tolerant and set the good example.
Standing in the middle of some isolated flames, right next to the title like it's his drinking buddy is Satan--a bad Don, indeed.
Except...he's not. Look how small he is. Certainly it is not feasible to expect that the artists would render the Dark Lord to scale, but there's a certain standard we have come to adhere to. The Satan depicted here looks like a goddamn Gummi candy. How am I supposed to pledge to further my soul against the Devil when said evil angel appears before me in such a way that I want to go to 7-11 and raid the entire sweets section? Also, the poor state of his teeth seems to suggest that Satan is English, and golly, that's just xenophobic and inaccurate. I've been to England twice, and let me assure you...Satan wouldn't fucking bother.
So far, an awesome blend. It just needs one more element, one more outrageously silly...YES!
Why is Gummi Satan holding a pitchfork that is easily twice as long as he is? How unwieldy is that? "Obey my word, or I will have to make a few clumsy attempts at stabbing you!" Seriously, I don't think Satan even holds it any way but vertically. By the time he was able to maneuver it into position to give you some extra holes, you could have him in a figure four leglock. (Satan must hate when deceased wrestlers end up in his fiery realm, what a blow to his self-esteem. Wouldn't surprise me if he made a deal with God to send Lou Thesz to Heaven after one double wrist lock too many.)
"But that's the brilliance of it, woman! God is trying to show how ludicrous Satan is, and summarily, how ludicrous any human would be to worship such a foolish-looking charlatan! You can either find out through the Word of God, or a comical depiction on a record of sermons. You wanna do it the easy way or the hard way?!"
There you have it. Frankly, the cover to Hell Without Hell never fails to bring a chuckle of wonderment to this agnostic gal. Its almost enough to make me rethink my opinion that the world would be improved by the instant obliteration of organized religion. That's a scary five seconds in my brain, lemme tell ya.