Unless you’re a band like AC/DC or Hatebreed, sticking with the same style (a glorified palette swap for some of them) that your band started with likely is a losing proposition. Or at least one that will all but guarantee stagnation. While not every band has the ability to create something radically different than the style (or styles) that might be in their wheelhouse, generally the most revered and successful ones are those that do.
Here’s a selection of twenty bands – both newer and older – that reinvented themselves musically. Sometimes the changes were subtle, and other times, they were drastic. Some of the bands and musicians here are obvious choices (let’s get this out of the way already: Linkin Park is definitely on this list), but others, less so.
Bring Me The Horizon
Starting out as basically a deathcore band with 2006’s Count Your Blessings, BMTH quickly abandoned that trend, going from breakdown-laden metalcore to ambitious and atmospheric metalcore in the span of a few records. Now they’re a band that embraces pop and more electronic influences while also not losing sight of their core songwriting skills.
On 2010’s A Thousand Suns, Linkin Park impressively created a concept album that was far beyond anything most of their peers were doing. Even more impressive was that the album embraced everything from alt-rock to classic hip-hop influences, filtered of course through the Linkin Park lens. This was after, of course, the band became nu-metal’s biggest band, selling millions of records in a move that could have been a career-killer. Obviously it wasn’t, but it’s a record that many are just now beginning to appreciate in retrospect.
Those weaned on Depeche Mode’s 1990 masterpiece Violator will likely be shocked to find that they were once an ’80s derivative synthpop band that played in major keys. That’s not to say their ’80s material didn’t see DM experience plenty of success – they certainly did considering their stature entering the new decade. 1986 and 87’s Black Celebration and Music For The Masses were a harbinger of things to come, though, as suddenly Depeche Mode went dark. Really dark. Violator just completed that transformation.
The brainchild of Steven Wilson moved through multiple phases (space rock, progressive rock, and even alternative pop-rock) before 2002’s In Absentia. This album garnered PT the most commercial success they had to that point, as a more alternative metal approach was embraced. Still prog, though.
Between The Buried And Me
On 2007’s Colors, Between The Buried And Me truly pushed the limits of where progressive metal could go. Ambitious yet still containing the band’s technical chops they’re known for, it even got a sequel in this year’s Colors II.
Pigeonholed in the nu-metal scene with their first two albums, 2000’s White Pony saw Deftones embracing dream pop and electronic influences and merging them with their distinctive alt-metal sound to create a record that’s embraced by many bands as a key influence today.
The shift from 2004’s They’re Only Chasing Safety to 2006’s Define The Great Line was a seismic one for Underoath. Gone were most of the vestiges of Underoath’s early post-hardcore sound – in its place was an atmospheric metalcore sound that was dark, heavy, and most of all – soul-searching.
Rarely does a metalcore band of this style have everything together on their debut EP. For Australia’s Thornhill, they were still a developing act when they released 13 just five years ago, but since then the promising band has put out both the Sunflower EP and debut full-length The Dark Pool. The results have been nothing short of massive, with the band’s songwriting skills developing in short order. And with more prominent influences like Karnivool emerging to the forefront of their sound, newest single “Casanova” manages to sound kinda like…Muse? It’ll certainly be interesting to see how Thornhill keeps evolving.
Northlane are pretty much unstoppable. The Australian metalcore band succeeds at almost everything they try, and 2019 full-length Alien showed the band injecting prominent electronic, nu-metal, and drum and bass influences into their sound for something that has even more wide-ranging appeal. If you’re not having fun listening to “4-D”, I’m not sure what to tell you.
Holding Absence are a band that’s been developed from the ground up (I mean duh!). Forming a few years back as an exciting band that blended post-hardcore’s emotion with post-rock’s atmosphere, they were quickly snapped up by Sharptone Records. Morphing into a band whose sophomore album, 2021’s The Greatest Mistake Of My Life, showcased some exciting pop influences without losing their identity – and a callback to their earliest work in “nomoreroses” cements the fact that Holding Absence haven’t forgotten their roots.
From lengthy prog-rock concept albums to some of the biggest pop-rock songs of the ’80s. What more needs to be said? Do you like Phil Collins?
In the span of three records from 1997 to 2001, Incubus went from funk-metal alternative underground favorites to mainstream alt-rock darlings. What’s even more intriguing is that those three records are almost equally as good as one another, and you can easily appreciate the kind of evolution they underwent as well.
Nine Inch Nails
From 1989’s Pretty Hate Machine to 1992’s Broken EP, the brainchild of Trent Reznor morphed from a synthpop-influenced alt-rock act to an angry, aggressive, and despondent industrial metal band. When The Downward Spiral dropped in 1994, it changed everything – influencing a legion of future acts and helping to bring the style even more into the mainstream consciousness.
On 2005’s Vheissu, Thrice really pushed the envelope – reframing their exciting post-hardcore sound into an album that brought in electronic influences and also foreshadowed the future direction they’d take as well. It’s more or less the band’s White Pony or Kid A.
Enter Shikari’s shift in styles was more subtle, yet still effective. After two well-received albums, 2012’s A Flash Flood Of Colour garnered the band new eyes and ears with more expanded dubstep and songwriting influences. Tracks like “Warm Smiles Do Not Make You Welcome Here” and the moshpit-ready “Arguing With Thermometers” act more as extensions of the band’s songwriting skills than any kind of drastic, Radiohead-esque change. It’s moreso a DLC of the band’s growth at the time.
Funeral For A Friend
In 2003, Funeral For A Friend released a little album called Casually Dressed And Deep In Conversation. It took the UK and the post-hardcore scene in general by storm. Expecting the band to make an album steeped in hardcore like Conduit a decade later was a surprise, though, with sub-3 minute songs that swiftly run by. Good album, though, for sure!
Before Boston Manor dropped sophomore album Welcome To The Neighbourhood a few years back, the Blackpool outfit were a promising pop-punk band with a lot to say. Even on that early material, though, there were flashes of what they’d become – but WTTN deconstructed everything you thought you knew about Boston Manor in epic fashion. Whether it’s the explosive alt-rock choruses in “Digital Ghost” or the terrifying tale of crippling addiction in “Halo”, Boston Manor are never boring.
Anberlin were already plenty big when they released 2012’s Vital. After all, with Cities in 2007, they had already created what’s often considered the alt-rock band’s magnum opus. On Vital, though, they reinvented themselves as a band that pushed heavy synths and even slicker pop hooks into their arena-ready sound. Tracks like “Someone Anyone” and “Little Tyrants” are guaranteed to get stuck in your head.
After a huge major label debut in 2005’s Ascendancy, Trivium were saddled with the weight of massive expectactions. Quickly releasing a follow-up in 2006’s The Crusade that was often labeled a Metallica ripoff, the burgeoning Florida metal act had much to prove with Shogun. It’s safe to say they delivered on all fronts, with Sho
Radiohead are the poster child for this sort of musical evolution. OK Computer and Kid A were such massive jumps from their early alt-rock beginnings that it really did blow things wide open for a lot of similar acts. Though jarring, those two albums are still a natural evolution for Radiohead, and cemented them as one of this generation’s most unpredictable bands.
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