Following the success of their previous album, The Real Thing and its subsequent tour, Faith No More took a break for a year and a half before beginning work on the follow-up, Angel Dust. During this time Mike Patton rejoined his high-school band Mr. Bungle to record their eponymous début album. This situation had an effect on the band, since drummer Mike Bordin thought the writing process was like the state of a “magic slate” having been “completely covered in writing; there was not any more room for any more writing on that slate, so we all went and said all right, and erased everything, and started writing new stuff,” and Patton was creatively revitalized. They decided not to “play it safe” and instead took a different musical direction, much to the dismay of guitarist Jim Martin. Martin also didn’t like the title of the album as chosen by keyboardist Roddy Bottum. In an interview taken while they were in the studio he said that “Roddy [Bottum] wanted to name it Angel Dust, I don’t know why, I just want you to know that if it’s named Angel Dust, it didn’t have anything to do with me.
Bottum stated that he chose the name because it “summed up what [they] did perfectly” in that “it’s a really beautiful name for a really hideous drug and that should make people think.” The artwork similarly put a beautiful face on a horrible image by depicting a soft blue airbrushed egret on the front cover, photographed by Werner Krutein, while on the back is an image of a cow hanging on a meat hook, created by Mark Burnstein. Both bassist Billy Gould and Mike Bordin said that the image on the rear of the album is not based on any opposition to vegetarianism but rather a preview of the music, suggesting its combination of being “really aggressive and disturbing and then really soothing”, the “beautiful with the sick”.