One of the best parts about music is following musicians throughout their careers and getting the chance to hear them mature, change and develop with each new album they record, each new song written. If you pay attention, you can really get a feel for their lives through lyrics, and less obviously so, the music presented underneath the words. Some artists never change, some change drastically, and some just simply get better or worse, with change being completely absent from that formula.
These changes can be evident between two albums, or a slow evolution over their entire career. Now, depending on a listener’s own personal likes, interests and opinions, these changes can be great, or make you turn away from ever listening to another album by that particular artist and causing you to lament when you hear the good old stuff. I am here to talk about some albums that were far greater than their previous album(s); with everything from talent, song writing and creativity being increased exponentially. Albums where every song just blew me away.
Most of the times you see this huge growth in a musician right after their debut album, after the bands do nothing but tour, rehearse and rehearse some more, literally doing little more than performing or practicing. Obviously, this never ending practice yields tremendous results for the artists, and we as listeners are treated to the fruits of their efforts. Other times, they just seem to randomly put in a fantastic effort.
Just a heads up before I begin, I am only writing about artists I listen to, picking from the roughly 4800 songs I own, not just artists in general. I will not be sticking to a single genre, though most could be considered “rock” if I wanted to be super generic. That being said, I do listen to a somewhat diverse set of music, so hopefully there is something in hear you may have heard of and I inspire you to check them out.
Also, many of these opinions may be based off of when a listener started following a band. For example, if someone started listening to an artist after they had their huge boost in talent, the listener may have missed out and thus, completely disagree with me on some things here. Anyways, let’s get to it!
Note that these are listed in no particular order.
“Bury Your Dead” (2008) by Bury Your Dead
Genre: Metal, Hardcore, Screamo
Starting off, I must say this album did not impress me as much as the others on this list, but I wanted to put it in simply to commend a band that has won me over. Bury Your Dead’s first two releases, “Cover Your Tracks,” and “Beauty and the Breakdown” did nothing for me. They consisted of breakdown after breakdown, similar sounding songs, and nothing but screaming, all things I tend not to enjoy about bands.
So what is so different about this album to have won me over?
This album to this day has me perplexed. They have a new vocalist for this one, and he certainly adds a new, catchier flair to the songs, though he still does nothing but scream. The music sort of gives you a break from the breakdowns every now and then, but barely. But I suppose it is these minor changes, with the addition of just more creative and catchy songwriting…yes they have catchy breakdowns… that has finally gotten me to like this band. Their future albums also feature some extremely large changes, but this one still holds as my favorite, largely because I feel like they found a sound that works with all the members and could present it in a satisfying way. They do far more experimentation in the future albums, as I said, but this one seems to suit them the best.
I recommend this one to anyone into heavier metal music. May it win you over the way it has me.
“A City By The Light Divided” (2006) by Thursday
Genre: Post-Hardcore, Alternative, Indie, Punk
Prior to this album, Thursday had already released some solid records, boasting a unique sound paved over with clean vocals and occasional screams that melded well with the music, resulting in something truly pleasant to listen to for anybody willing to listen.
Then Thursday came out with this album, and it blew me away. From quality, to talent and lyrics, this album took everything I loved about Thursday and improved upon it greatly, completely refining everything. The album is chock full of energy and diversity, having fast paced, on the edge of your seat titles like “At This Velocity” to slower, more slower and beautiful songs with great lyrics like “Autumn Leaves Revisited” and plenty of in of songs styled in between.
From start to finish, each song impressed me more and more. This is literally one of the few albums that I have heard that I absolutely love every song on, and such joys should be spread to the world, so that everyone can listen to this incredible album. I promise it is worth your time. I would even go as far to consider “A City By The Light Divided” to be perfect, and I absolutely recommend it to any and everyone.
“Waking the Fallen” (2003) by Avenged Sevenfold
Genre: Metalcore, Post-Hardcore
Avenged Sevenfold has always been an acquired taste for me, a bit unusual since they have some truly amazing talent. Each album they released, I always disliked, sometimes even bordered on hated after the first few listens. But eventually, they grow on me, and I end up loving them. Sevenfold is now one of my favorite bands, oddly enough. This hate to love feeling all started way back when I had my first listen of them back in 2004, when I bought “Waking the Fallen” for a reason I cannot remember. After my first listen I thought it was far too long, had bad screaming and an overall underwhelming production.
After two or three more full listens of the album, my opinion changed completely. I still didn’t love the screaming, but the songs were only so long because of all the technical writing and various parts packed into each song, making each one an exciting and mysterious venture, never knowing where you will end up by the end. Not to mention that each song was crafted with incredible musicianship and hard, slightly raspy, yet beautifully melodic clean vocals mixed with intense screaming that made each and every song on the album a masterpiece. What started out as a cd I regretted buying, instantly became one of my favorites, if not my favorite back then.
So how did this album make the list? Because I went back and bought their first album, and what a difference. Let’s talk about writing style. Though still metal at heart, the songs just didn’t have any real kick or drive to them on their debut album for the most part, resulting in some very boring riffs getting repeated 4-8 times. Though it was a lesser quality album and shouldn’t be judged for that, the whole thing just seemed like a mess. The mixes were ok, but it just sounded bad overall, like the band was trying to find a good, fitting sound for their talents and were falling short. Sometimes when the band would go to a clean part, it seemed from out of nowhere, or the screaming seemed forced on some parts, or the vocals didn’t quite fit. This experimentation is quite common with debut albums and I do not hold it against the band whatsoever, in fact, overall it is still a pretty good album, especially for a bunch of kids in high school.
So how was this problem fixed? Besides just getting better and touring and getting more comfortable with being a band, was the inclusion of guitarist, Synyster Gates, now one of the most well known musicians in music. He was the missing piece of the puzzle that the band was missing, and with him joining the ranks, the band was allowed to shine as they were destined to.
Enter “Waking The Fallen.” The quality is infinitely better, the songwriting, creativity and talents jumping through the roof as well. The jumping genres present in their debut were done here as well, but the transitions all seemed much cleaner and smoother, and there were more of them to boot, leading to a more diverse/unique sound, differing from the more metal heavy debut. In short, the sound they struggled to obtain all fell into place quite nicely for this album, making it a true sequel to the first, keeping the familiarity established in the first and improving upon it , plus adding a whole new side of things to really treat the fans and show them what they were really capable of at the time.
I know my friends and I who had this album fell in love with it, and with the vast improvements and efforts made by the band, it is well deserved. This is the album that took them to fame, and a few listens (if you are like me) will show you why.