Swirls of sperm and blood, a blindfolded and bare-breasted Lady Justice, an armless mannequin, a cartoonish fist, a magnetic grave — Metallica have always experimented with album art designs, using whatever image best fits the themes and mood of their music.

In a 2018 Maxim interview, drummer Lars Ulrich — always their most outspoken member — highlighted the visual aspect of their aesthetic, even down to the logo of the band's Blackened whiskey.

"The stuff that moves me is contemporary design, mid-century design, '50s, Scandinavian, Danish, Arne Jacobsen, Poul Kjaerholm, a lot of minimalist stuff, Japanese minimalism," he said. "What I bring to it is encouraging it to go in that direction. You bring your own aesthetic to the music, to the artwork, to the T-shirts, to the beverages, to the stage show, to whatever it is that's going on that you're presenting. Then it becomes this balancing act between the different creative forces."

But not all of Metallica's album covers carry the vibe of high art: They occasionally use these images to showcase their sense of humor (like the playful cover of 1998's Garage Inc., with the members dressed like mechanics), and sometimes they keep the designs absurdly simple (the famous, nearly all-black image that decorates their self-titled 1991 record).

Some of this artwork has intriguing backstories. Others are just fun to explore for the sake of it. Let's revisit the stories behind 16 of Metallica's most interesting album covers.

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