The Stories Behind All 19 LP Covers

As Rush‘s art director since 1975, Hugh Syme was one of the prog-rock trio’s closest collaborators. His vivid designs — decrepit puppet kings, fireball jugglers, dalmatians next to fire hydrants — became an extension of the music, drawing on Neil Peart‘s sprawling, philosophical lyrical themes (and their mutual love of silly puns). Syme recently spoke to UCR […]

How Rush Channeled Old Board Game for ‘Snakes and Arrows’ Cover

Hugh Syme and Neil Peart were close, like-minded collaborators by the mid-’00s, having conceptualized three decades worth of Rush album covers. They almost always saw eye-to-eye creatively. One exception — at least at first — was 2007’s Snakes & Arrows, which incorporated a Harish Johari painting based on an ancient, karmic Hindu board game. The visual arose […]

How a Stone Sculpture Guided Rush’s ‘Test for Echo’ Cover Art

“Test for Echo is all about finding your way,” says Hugh Syme, Rush‘s longtime art director, of the prog-rock band’s 1996 LP. And through the inspiration of drummer and lyricist Neil Peart, he arrived at a wise, wintry album cover that symbolized that theme. “Neil did a lot of traveling, and I knew he would venture up into the Northwest […]

How a Real-Life Comet Inspired Rush’s ‘Vapor Trails’ Cover

Like Rush‘s Vapor Trails, the story of its fiery cover art involves tragedy, emotional healing and a bit of magic. The 2002 album followed the prog-rock trio’s five-year hiatus, a period of immense grief for Neil Peart: His daughter Selena was killed in August 1997 at age 19 following a car accident; 10 months later, […]

How Rush’s New Drummer Neil Peart Helped Spark ‘Fly by Night’ Art

Neil Peart made his drumming and lyric-writing debut with Rush‘s second LP, 1975’s Fly by Night. He also took on another, less famous role: conceptualizing its bold cover image. “One of the first lyrics I submitted to [guitarist] Alex [Lifeson] and [bassist] Geddy [Lee] was ‘Fly by Night,’ and when the time came to make our first album together, […]

How Rush’s Debut LP Cover Perfectly Matched Their Raw Songs

Some albums deserve a lavish gatefold with surrealist art allusions, much like Rush’s 1978 LP, Hemispheres. Others, like the prog-rock band’s raw 1974 debut, need just the bare essentials. Rush is one of only two covers in the band’s canon not art-directed by visual wizard Hugh Syme, who took on that role starting with 1975’s […]

Rush’s Understated ‘Hold Your Fire’ Cover Hides a Big Surprise

Hold Your Fire is one of Rush‘s most understated covers: three spheres in a triangular pattern, set against a red backdrop. Ironically, art director Hugh Syme saved his more intricate, eye-catching design for the inner package. “To have the cover that sparse, with [a more intricate interior] — I liken it to the liquid center […]

How Drinking Brandy Inspired Rush’s ‘Grace Under Pressure’ Cover

When Hugh Syme learned the title of Rush‘s 10th LP, 1984’s Grace Under Pressure, he immediately translated those words into colors. That simple starting point eventually spawned one of the artist’s most distinctive paintings, which pivoted from his signature photo-composite work. Eating dinner and drinking brandy at the Toronto home of drummer-lyricist Neil Peart in October 1983, […]

Why Rush’s Minimalist ‘Signals’ Cover Earned an ‘Irate’ Reaction

The cover of Rush‘s ninth LP, Signals, was so uncharacteristically simple and dry, the band’s manager was apparently puzzled to the point of anger. “When I told [him] my concept for Signals, he didn’t seem to appreciate it,” the prog-rock trio’s longtime art director, Hugh Syme, tells us. “It was one of the few times […]

How Iron Maiden Made Eddie Even Creepier for ‘The X-Factor’ Cover

Given Hugh Syme’s work — designing album covers for some of the world’s biggest rock and metal bands — it wasn’t uncommon to encounter strange, occasionally creepy items around the family home. One such oddity was the grotesque adaptation of Iron Maiden mascot Eddie that he crafted for 1995’s The X-Factor. “My daughters benefitted [by knowing] […]