Michael Raymond Whelan is an American artist of imaginative realism. For more than 30 years, he worked as an illustrator specializing in science fiction and fantasy cover art. Since the mid-1990s, he has pursued a fine art career, selling non-commissioned paintings through galleries in the United States and through his website. (Text and image taken from Wikipedia)
The paintings of Elric of Melniboné originally used for Michael Moorcock‘s fantasy novels, have been used for all four Cirith Ungol studio albums. The cover art has their own titles and were all made in the 1970’s. Some of the paintings are available at Whelan’s webshop. Here is an overview of which painting has been used for which album cover:
The Corroseum: Your covers were done by the formidable M. Whelan. How did you manage to get his permission to use his works? Do you consider the elf warrior on all your covers some kind of trademark for the band, some kind of mascot? What would be the best album cover of the band in your opinion and why
GREG: Michael is the finest fantasy artist around. I think maybe some people buy the album for the cover art and throw the record away! The series of Elric paintings gives the albums a nice sense of continuity. And Michael has a couple more Elric paintings that could be used for a new album. Personally, I think the F & F cover is one of the best album covers ever.
Metal Heart: How did you get in contact with Michael Whelan by that way, the drawer of your very impressive album-covers? Just phoned him and he said: Yeah? Has he ever heard your music and what does he think of Cirith Ungol? Did you have to pay for the covers a lot?
ROBERT: At the time we wanted a “Sword and Sorcery” (S&S) theme cover called “Berserker” by Frank Frazetta (a famous S&S artist) but it was taken by the country rock band Molly Hatchet! I was reading “Stormbringer” by Michael Moorcock at the time and was thinking man this is the ultimate cover art! I never thought we could use it but I contacted the publisher who got me in touch with Michael Whelan, who is one of the few people in our entire music career who was honest, friendly and kind, and he let us use it. I think we were the first album covers he had done at the time and we really wanted to use all his “Elric” series on our covers which we did! I told him that I always wanted to buy the painting for the cover Stormbringer from him if we made it big but we never did. He was quite successful then, but now he is probably the world foremost fantasy artist/painter/illustrator and his paintings cost $$$. I think he liked our music especially “Frost and Fire”. We really didn’t pay him much money back then but now I’m sure he would be very expensive. Recently he painted Meatloaf’s “Bat out of Hell” and some covers for the band Sepultura. It is funny, Deep Purple had an album named after the book and we got the cover. Blue Oyster Cult also had a song “Bane of the Black Sword” which was based on Michael Moorcock’s writing. Moorcock himself wrote and played with an English band “Hawkwind”.
See also by Michael Moorcock