Top 10 Bands That Are Re-defining Rock Music
By Joseph Wright
Rock music has evolved a great deal since its inception. It goes without saying there is quite the jump in styles between the likes of The Beatles and Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Metallica, or The Rolling Stones and Slipknot. Many subgenres of Rock music were established in the 60’s and 70’s, with Metal and Hard Rock being the most common, before quickly being followed by Punk Rock, Progressive Rock and Glam Rock from the likes of The Sex Pistols, Pink Floyd, and Queen respectively. Indie/Alternative Rock, Grunge and Heavy Metal came soon after with bands such as Radiohead, Nirvana, and Slayer, and this was followed by the likes of Pop-punk and Metalcore from more recent bands such as Blink-182 and Killswitch Engage.
There were plenty of other subgenres established between the 60’s and present day, and this left many people to wonder what was next for Rock music, it almost seemed as if everything that could be done had been done with regards to subgenres. There are plenty of great bands today that would fit into the already established genres, but these ten bands are, in my personal opinion, continuing to re-define Rock music as we know it.
The Dear Hunter and Blackberry Smoke are honourable mentions.
10 – Coheed and Cambria:
Hailing from New York and formed in 1995, the fascinating thing about Coheed and Cambria is that most of their albums are concept albums based on a science-fiction storyline called ‘The Amory Wars’, a series written by the lead vocalist Claudio Sanchez. The only exception to this is their latest album The Color Before The Sun. Now what may be surprising to some is that it isn’t unusual for Rock band members to write their own comic book series’; the likes of Tom Morello of Rage Against The Machine, Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance, and Robert Cummings (Rob Zombie) have all delved into the world of comic book writing. However, Coheed and Cambria’s song-writing being influenced by the comics themselves is a new and exciting prospect. Add that to the unexpectedly high pitched vocals and unique guitar riffs, and that makes for a band that isn’t easy to categorise.
9 – A Day To Remember:
Known for their unusual amalgamation of metalcore and pop-punk, this group from Ocala, Florida redefined the way people see both subgenres. With some songs like If It Means A Lot to You being entirely pop-punk sounding, other songs such as 2nd Sucks being entirely metalcore in style, and some songs such as The Downfall of Us All including aspects of both subgenres. The lead vocalist Jeremy McKinnon stated in an interview with AbsolutePunk “it’s funny because we have been doing this for so long. When we started, this was not cool. Everyone told us mixing the two genres wouldn’t work. Hell, a lot of people still feel that way. We’ve just always played what we wanted to hear, and to be honest people weren’t doing it back then. We loved pop punk, we loved hardcore bands, and we couldn’t decide what to be. So we said let’s do them both.” Their latest album Bad Vibrations is a little on the heavier side but still sticks to the somewhat controversial mixing of the two genres that make the group instantly recognisable.
8 – Architects:
Upon listening to Architects for the first time some would immediately label them as heavy metal or metalcore, but what many think is unique about this group from Brighton, is that they are gradually offering their own take on this style of music to more mainstream audiences. Their music is characterised by choppy, complex guitar riffs, the use of obscure time signatures and rhythmic breakdowns, and the use of synthesised instruments such as keyboards and drum machines. The band has also stated their belief that each new album of theirs should be distinct. As well as this, songs such as These Colours Don’t Run and Broken Cross deal with current social and political issues and have been described as being delivered with “controlled rage and unhindered heart”, many believe that these qualities make them more accessible to those who wouldn’t usually listen to heavier rock subgenres.
7 – While She Sleeps:
This award winning 5 piece band from Sheffield could also arguably be thrown into the metalcore genre, but as lead vocalist Loz Taylor recently stated in an interview with Rock Sound Magazine “I don’t think there is another band out there that sounds like us”, also stating that they have “always kept the genre side of things very much open”. While She Sleeps’ sound typically features heavily down-tuned guitars, thick bass tones, unique screamed vocals, and fast-paced drumming – occasionally complimented by melodic guitar tones and piano interludes – each song is different, and fans often don’t know what to expect when new music of theirs is released, but are very rarely disappointed, if ever. Like many bands on this list, While She Sleeps are arguably still at their prime, having released an album earlier this year, and I’m sure many are excited to see what direction they decide to go in next.
6 – Dance Gavin Dance:
While this group has gone through its fair share of changes since its inception in 2005, their overall sound has been fairly consistent, arguably improving with each new album. They have been described as post-hardcore and could also be thrown into the experimental or progressive rock categories. Their sound includes screamed vocals that sound different in every album despite most being performed by the same artist Jon Mess, as well as clean vocals currently performed by Tilian Pearson, whose high pitched voice rivals that of Claudio Sanchez of Coheed and Cambria. The main unique thing about Dance Gavin Dance, other than their thought provoking lyrics, is the song structures; for each song you genuinely don’t know what to expect next, which is particularly prominent in their latest album Mothership. Due to the complexity of the guitar riffs in the background of each verse there almost isn’t a need for a guitar solo, and as well as this, despite what should be a jolting difference between the clean and unclean vocals, they complement each other very well. The Californian group has been described as “redefining the limits of post-hardcore”, and their latest album is arguably their best and most accessible album to date.
Led by Benji Webbe, Skindred are a Welsh outfit that have been compared to “literate genre jumpers like Soulfly and System of a Down” by Allmusic writer Johnny Loftus. The band’s musical style mixes Heavy Metal, Alternative Rock, and Reggae. The band also integrate elements of Hardcore Punk, Ska, Hip hop, Drum and bass, Dubstep, and various other influences into their music. Somewhat unsurprisingly given the range of genres that they like to work with, they are also very enjoyable to watch live, winning awards such as ‘Best Live Band’ in 2011 at the UK Metal Hammer Golden Gods Awards. They often incorporate comedy into their sets, such as recently hyping up one of their own tracks at a concert before playing a clip of a track from pop artist Justin Bieber, after which they encouraged the crowd to tell them to turn it off. Skindred like some of the bands further on in this list are a great example of how updated technology like DJ desks and synthesised instruments can take rock music to new places.
4 – Hacktivist:
There are many reasons why Hacktivist is something we haven’t really seen before in the Rock community; the group, hailing from Milton Keynes, are recognisable for their deliberate distorted and dark sound as a result of their use of tuned down 8 string guitars and 6 string basses, as well as mixing the genres of rock and grime, resulting in what has been described as essentially bringing rap-metal back from the dead. This group not only has given life back to this genre, but has also added their own twist to it, not only with the Grime aspect (an evolving genre in itself) but similar to Skindred and a couple of others on this list, Hacktivist has done a great job of incorporating updated technology into their sound. The band was only formed in 2011 and has already had a number 1 single on the iTunes Metal Chart and has performed on more than one occasion at Download festival (performing on main stage in 2017), meaning there’s a good chance that Hacktivist’s best years may still be ahead of them.
3 – Ghost:
There’s plenty that can be said about the Grammy award winning Swedish group also known as Ghost B.C. From their outfits, to their stage performances, they have an incredibly unique aura, not just to their appearances but also to their music itself. For starters, (until earlier this year) no one knew the identities of any of the band’s members. Five of the group’s members wear identical costumes and the lead vocalist has best been described as a ‘demonic anti-Pope’, wearing a mask of skull face-paint. The lead singer was known only as ‘Papa Emeritus’ and the rest of the band were known as ‘Nameless Ghouls’. With regard to the music itself, it has been categorised in many genres, even being described by one of the ‘Ghouls’ as a mix of pop music and death metal. The band’s music is said to be mostly influenced by Pink Floyd but they have also been compared to Black Sabbath and Judas Priest. There really isn’t another band out there currently quite like Ghost, and it’s unlikely that there will be one any time soon.
2 – Crossfaith:
This Japanese group formed in 2006 have actually written songs with a couple of the other bands on this list and have toured alongside 3 of them. They are one of the first groups to fuse metalcore with dubstep and other forms of electronic music, which gives them an entirely unique sound that’s almost impossible to categorise. Crossfaith have been nominated for many awards in recent years such as ‘Best Breakthrough Band’ and ‘Best International Band’ and it’s easy to see why. The group themselves have described their music as quite westernised, which is the reason they have given for their English song lyrics. Others have quite memorably described the group as “Slipknot tearing The Prodigy limb from limb” which is probably about as close as you could get to comparing this group to well-established bands of the past. As is the case with all of these groups, Crossfaith is still going strong and their popularity is only increasing all over the world.
1 – Enter Shikari:
There really isn’t anyone quite like Enter Shikari. Formed in 1999 under the name Hybryd, they are considered to have pioneered the electronicore genre which as you may have guessed, is the mix of metalcore and the use of updated technology in their sound, which arguably inspired the sounds of some of the other groups in this list. Enter Shikari’s lyrics, written by frontman Rou Reynolds, are often politically-charged. In a 2015 interview, Kerrang! Magazine wrote: “With Shikari a rare, political voice on the UK rock scene, Rou remains baffled by bands ‘labelling themselves as punk that aren’t speaking about anything of importance’. ‘To us it’s second nature,’ he says. ‘It’s what this music is for. If you take out the social commentary, it’s not punk, it’s just noisy pop.’” Political issues that the band have written about in their lyrics include — climate change and the misuse of natural resources, Donald Trump’s presidency of the United States, and the privatisation of the UK’s National Health Service among other things. This political standpoint and their constantly evolving sound mean that Enter Shikari will most likely continue to grow in popularity and re-define rock music as we know it, for many years to come.