Time is a strange thing, especially in music.
Oftentimes, a band will work tirelessly on a record only for critics and fans to absolutely savage it. Sure, many times this is justified. There’s so much terrible music out in the world, and there are times when bands just wind up blowing it when it comes to writing a new record.
Sometimes though, it’s less about a band blowing it and more about a band going in a direction fans weren’t expecting. Whether it’s a true-cult band trying their hand at writing something for mainstream audiences, or a band clumsily incorporating their love for a genre outside of their own, there are numerous albums that got hated just for being different.
With that in mind, we decided to look back on some of these records that, thanks to time, sound a lot better in the context of music’s history now than they did at the time of release. With the power of hindsight, it turned out a lot of these artists saw the possibility of a new sound or direction but potentially didn’t have the tools to pull it all off.
One caveat for this list: we’re thinking primarily about what reception would be like not only if the albums were released in different time periods, but also if potentially another artist had released it. Part of the backlash to many of these records is due in part to how it totally rewrote a band’s history, and maybe removing that entirely would help it reach a higher level of understanding.
Check out the five albums that would be loved if they came out today.
Slayer – Diabolus In Musica
It was a hard time for many a band in the 90s. Slayer had their own fair share of having to adapt to the times, finding themselves in a world where thrash riffing was rejected, and grooves embraced.
After the hardcore-influenced Divine Intervention, Slayer doubled down on the sound of the times with Diabolus In Musica. The nu-metal influence is pretty clear. Tom Araya busts out some Chino Moreno-esque whispered vocals while the band does their best job grooving. It winds up sounding at some strange midpoint between Slayer, Sepultura, Deftones and Hatebreed, a sound extremely far away from the Slayer classics, and a little too left of center for fans.
Looking back on the record, Kerry King himself stated in a VH1 documentary, “Looking back we were just saying, “alright, how do we make Slayer fit into today’s society?” But, that’s probably my least favorite record of our history. That’s our Turbo [laughs].”
Years later it’s hard not to feel like maybe Slayer was just a little too early. All elements of the 90s have converged in such a way it’s not totally out there to hear a nu-metal groove in a crossover thrash track. Hardcore bands have readily taken from nu-metal in the genre’s evolution into its current state, making Diabolus sound more prophetic than probably anyone in the band was thinking. Definitely worth a relisten.
Cryptopsy – The Unspoken King
If you’re a young person, it may come as a surprise how deathcore was probably the most hated subgenre of heavy metal in the mid-2000s.
Long before Lorna Shore turned the entire style of music on its head, deathcore was perceived to be performed exclusively by swoopy-haired scene kids and pretty boys. Bands, like Bring Me The Horizon and Suicide Silence, earned the ire of the bearded crowd for daring to… have breakdowns? Be teenagers? Have women as a fanbase?
It’s all a little ridiculous in hindsight. With deathcore being a total death sentence for a band’s cred, Cryptopsy‘s The Unspoken King threw the once legendary death metal act on a cross for all to hate. After a tumultuous change up of band members, lead vocalist Lord Worm was out of the band, with new singer Matt McGachy taking his place.
The band wrote a record far away from the ultra-technicality of None So Vile. While they made their name in extremely intricate songwriting, the group instead favored all-out heaviness on this record, and even -gasp- breakdowns. More shocking, of course, is the introduction of clean singing, maybe the greatest sin any death metal band could commit.
Fans absolutely savaged the record, accusing the band of selling out and attempting to appeal to the young deathcore fanbase. Whatever fantasy of the band’s intentions of course never came to light, and Cryptopsy never wound up playing Warped Tour or opening for Whitechapel. Listening back years later, there’s a lot of creativity to be found on the record.
Bands like Lorna Shore have really proven how far you can take deathcore, and how rich that field of influence can be. If released today, the clean-singing and technicality Cryptopsy brought to deathcore would likely be far more appreciated. We’re happy, at least, that deathcore is no longer a cred-killer, and bands have the freedom to explore to their heart’s content.
Earth Crisis – Slither
Every facet of extreme music was affected by the arrival of nu-metal into the mid-90s, including hardcore punk.
Vegan straight-edge hardcore luminaries Earth Crisis found themselves at a crossroads. They dropped Breed the Killers on Roadrunner Records, and failed to make the most with their new major label home. They were quickly dropped, and found themselves back with home team label Victory Records, still with the hopes of releasing a truly impactful record on a bigger label.
Enter Slither. It’s an even further departure from their previous album from their roots, now showing the band incorporate clean singing, poppy song structures and straight up nu-metal leanings. Sure, Karl Buechner’s perspective was intact, taking square aim at corporate snakes out to destroy the world. But the album’s musicality lies squarely in the JNCO-core, at times calling to mind the riffs of Helmet and slowing down their tempo considerably.
Fans weren’t stoked. That said, we still think there are some killer tracks that wouldn’t sound out of place at LDB Fest or FYA in 2023. “Nemesis” finds a nice midpoint between the new-found melody and hardcore riffing of albums’ past. With groups like Regulate bringing clean-singing and no one raising an eyebrow, it’s likely a record that would be pretty well-accepted if released today.
Entombed – ‘Same Difference’
What happens when godfathers of a genre-defining guitar tone decide to change up everything about their winning formula? You get Entombed’s Same Difference.
To their credit, Entombed had a perfect trilogy of releases in the early 90s. Left Hand Path, Clandestine, Wolverine Blues each hold their place in the death metal canon, improving on what their peers were doing and planting another flag for Sweden’s dominance over the genre. As time went on however, Entombed decided to stray from their well-built path, starting with DCLXVI: To Ride Shoot Straight and Speak the Truth.
Speak the Truth built on the foundation of ‘death n’ roll’ built up by Wolverine Blues, but expanded the roll part of that formula. Fans weren’t too stoked on that album, though at first it seemed like it was maybe a one-off experiment to highlight vocalist LG Petrov’s range.
Not so. Instead, Entombed would double down on their efforts in rock music, writing the even rockier album Same Difference. Front-to-back it’s an album of pure hard rock, Petrov taking the role of a Phil Anselmo-like firespitter, eschewing previous aggressiveness in his vocals. Enthusiasm aside, pop riffs and grooves aren’t what people get into Entombed for, and with nary a death metal riff in sight, fans were pissed.
Petrov himself would later go to disown the album, but frankly the band does a lot of things right. By now, a band’s transition from heavy metal to mainstream rock pastures is well-trodden territory, but Entombed’s attempt is actually pretty impressive. The use of reverb and effects pedals gives the whole thing an extremely spacey vibe, and it never gets soft by any means. If anything, it sounds like a Hum record if they decided to try and get on Ozzfest.
Bad Religion – Into the Unknown
It says a lot when an album is so hated by both fans and artists alike, the band in question has made every effort to erase its existence.
Bad Religion‘s sophomore album Into the Unknown was a hell of a digression from the band’s roots, and in a very short period of time turned away from their starts as a California punk band. The group was all set to be next in line for punk greatness after Black Flag and Dead Kennedys, thanks to an excellent self-titled EP and their debut How Can Hell Be Any Worse?
However, Bad Religion decided to take a major detour, quite literally Into the Unknown. Instead of settling for more punk music in the vein of what they were previously writing, Bad Religion began incorporating progressive rock ala King Crimson. This produced an absolutely trippy record filled with keyboard-lead songwriting. Bad Religion massively slowed down their pace, opting instead for patient songs instead of high-tempo punk rock.
Understandably, it was a massive shock, and the backlash within the band was nearly immediate. For a few years, the bands called it quits, citing their personal lives moving away from the band, though it’s hard not to see the reaction being part of that. Luckily, they reformed in 1986, dropped their opus Suffer in 1988, and took their position as punk royalty.
Still, we really dig the band’s exploration. To their credit, prog was in a pretty dogshit place in 1983, with not a whole lot of positive influences to pull from. If attempted now, we can easily see them pulling a wide array of different influences from the years of prog that continued past this album. A few bands have worked their way into that territory, e.g. the extremely technical playing of bands like Such Gold and Belmont, or the storytelling of Propaghandi. Maybe Bad Religion and Brett Gurewitz could do us all a solid and relist this on Spotify so people will know what’s up.