Meet Ken Kelly, the man behind the metal-est Phoenix cover ever

By now you've probably seen or heard that this week's Phoenix is the Metal Issue -- and it should come as a pleasant surprise for any genre loyalist to learn that our staff hand-picked a badass painting by the prolific Ken Kelly as the issue's cover art (above). Though this dude has crafted iconic images of everyone from Conan the Barbarian to Tarzan to Vampirella, his most recognizable work is a pair of album covers he painted of KISS for 1976's Destroyer and 1977's Love Gun.  And well, it doesn't get much more fucking metal than that.  

Born in Connecticut in 1946, Ken Kelly started making art as a toddler and has been going full-speed, brush in hand, ever since.  After high school he spent four years with the marines, serving in both Guantanamo Bay and Vietnam, a tour that may have provided some real-life inspiration for his more gruesome depictions of war-torn realms.  From there he studied with like-minded legend Frank Frazetta, who helped guide the talented artist towards a lively career creating book covers, comics, and album art.  Kelly spent the next 30-some-odd years painting primitive beasts, noble heroes, and alien landscapes -- using his own vivid imagination to give life to some of fantasy's most original voices.  

His work consistently blurs the lines between mythology, horror, and science fiction, and his affinity for using vibrant, eye-popping colors against dark backdrops has made for some seriously explosive art that, like your favorite thrash-metal anthem, pulses with static energy.   

Most recently, Kelly painted some album art for prog-rockers (and apparent drug-fiends) Coheed and Cambria, giving their 2007 release, No World for Tomorrow, a classic sci-fi look.      

So peep some of Kelly's metal-est work, and check out a video of him explaining why his original painting of KISS for Destroyer was deemed "too violent" by music industry execs. 


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