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10 Rock and Metal Bands That Changed Their Sound (For Better or Worse)

We’ve all made changes to try and fit in; I wore a hat pretty much exclusively through my university years. Some of us find a lot more success in the field of changing up their image than I did, however, especially in the music industry.

Here are ten examples, hand-picked and “having to click through to the next page to see more adverts”-free, of times rock and metal bands did exactly that – whether it worked out for them or not.

1. Mastodon

Famous for shifting sounds more often than a twitchy DJ, even sludgy legends Mastodon managed to cause a pretty big stir in their fanbase with an apparent shift towards a more radio friendly style of rock.

However, the transition was pretty much only noted by the vocal minority and, with their latest effort Hushed and Grim being some of the best stuff they’ve put out, it’s safe to say that this wasn’t a sound change that affected them too badly.

2. Ministry

One of the more drastic shifts in tone on the list, Ministry’s early 80s synth-pop roots couldn’t be further removed from their current – and far superior - industrial metal leanings.

Seriously, their first album, With Sympathy invokes images of Depeche Mode wearing black platform boots and trench coats. Thankfully, lead singer Al Jourgensen isn’t sugar coating just how much he hates that period of the band now – even if he is telling a few fibs about just how much he wanted it at the time.

3. Fleetwood Mac

The sad passing of Peter Green a few years ago, the founding member of Fleetwood Mac, threw into stark clarity just how different his era of the band was.

While the Fleetwood Mac everyone has heard on the radio is defined by that mid 70s pop-rock sound, Green’s Fleetwood Mac were a much different affair, defined by their British blues roots. And while I can’t say one way or the other which I personally prefer, I think the jury is out on which iteration of the band most people side with.

4. Opeth

Opeth lead singer Mikael Akerfeldt couldn’t have put it much better when he told music outlets ““At this point, I think we could probably write the heaviest song we’ve ever written, and unless I scream on it, people would still complain.”

Yes, their transition from being one of the heaviest bands on the scene to their new folky, proggy feel was a bit of a breakneck one for some fans – especially Akerfeldt’s switch to clean vocals from his intense death metal growls.

5. Radiohead

Another band who treat musical consistency with the sort of disdain reserved for having to sit on a wet park bench, Radiohead changed alt-rock as we know it with the release of “Ok Computer” – then totally abandoned the genre.

The reasons why are varied and often speculated upon – Thom Yorke’s depression, and the advances in being able to produce digital music to name a few – but it certainly split the fanbase and most casual listeners into two distinct camps.

6. Kiss

Most people aren’t too familiar with Kiss’ ill-fated attempts to record and release a grunge album, Carnival of Souls in the 90s. I’m a little bit jealous of them if I’m entirely honest.

Yes, the band famous for heels and makeup stripped it all back in an attempt to restore some faith in the Kiss name, lost through years of in-fighting, differences of opinion and musical direction and just plain old not liking each other much.

The result? Well, it was pretty shit. There’s really no way around it. Kiss were paid a huge, frankly unreasonable sum of money to go back to the makeup and heels and they took it, saving us all from the horrors of a retail release.

7. Rush

Canadian prog legends Rush weren’t always bound by the flowing, almost ethereal guitar work they’re most famous for. No, like all of us, they had a little bit of a soft spot for synthesizers at one point.

And while it certainly wasn’t bad – Signals had some certified bangers scattered throughout – they returned to the known with their tenth studio album Presto, bringing back the guitars and presumably throwing all the synthesizers out of the window.

8. Pantera

Transitioning from what was essentially glam hard rock to thrash metal is something most bands wouldn’t be able to make stick. But most bands don’t have Phil Anselmo leading the line, do they?

Yes, Pantera’s early sound is in parts unrecognisable compared with the full-frontal musical assault of Vulgar Display of Power and Cowboys from Hell, which cemented their status as straight-up thrash gods. Shockingly, they never went back to the glam stuff.

9. Linkin Park

You’d be easily forgiven for listening to a post-2017 Linkin Park song and not even knowing that it was the same band that released hits like Numb and One Step Closer.

As much as they played around with formulas and genres back in the nu-metal glory days – a certain Jay-Z springs to mind - nothing has quite prepared me for them creating music with Pusha T and Stormzy all the same.

10. Black Veil Brides

I’d just about forgotten about Black Veil Brides until a few years ago, when I discovered that they were chock full of new members, but it was the gap between their first and second album where the big changes happened musically. Well, until the gap between the second and third. And so on.

Dropping the screamo, metalcore vocals for something closer to contemporary radio rock sounding utterings, they would have been basically unrecognisable had they all not sill looked like an all stick insect Kiss tribute band.

And then they changed again! Forgoing pretty much all of their musical identity to release rock opera style sounds, Black Veil Brides clearly never planned on sticking to anything for too long.

Posted by Eddie "still regrets that hat" Hull published on: 30 May 2022

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