10 Bands No-One Expected To Be So Influential Today
In all honesty, being a fan of rock music is often about hindsight. A band release their first album, and while it’s good, it’s either not at all what you’re excited about right now, or nothing like the music that’s blowing up at the time. Then, five years later, all of your friends refer to that record as a pinnacle of sonic innovation, and every young act out there is doing their best to rip off that band’s sound.
In most cases, these moments are more heartwarming than anything else — underdog stories about bands blowing up even though everyone doubted them. But in some, they’re absolutely mind-boggling tales of the world eventually catching up with music that’s doing something powerful and different. And right now, in the shifting state of rock and metal, there are a handful of bands whose current status as musical influencers (even if they weren’t very successful, in some cases) leaves us gobsmacked. It’s not that these guys aren’t awesome, or that they haven’t always been — just that for whatever reason, if you’d told us that their music would become hugely influential when they dropped their first album, we might not have believed you.
Here are 10 bands whose influence on rock, punk, and metal we never saw coming.
For most rock fans in the ’90s, the idea that a non-linear Swedish tech-thrash band would influence the entirety of metal would’ve sounded ridiculous. And yet today, in genres like death metal, European thrash, and of course djent, Meshuggah’s influence cannot be overstated. A perfect example of how an unusual band that stick to their guns and never give up can go on to dominate their genre.
Pop-punk will forever be associated with the mid- to late-’90s. But so much of one of rock’s most exciting innovations is owed to the albums of Berkley, California’s Operation Ivy, who mixed the bounce of ska and dub with the grate of Cali punk to create energized, uplifting music so unexpected that the world needed a couple of years to catch up with it. Definitely a band that thrashers and new wavers ignored in the late ‘80s, until it was too late and their influence was felt everywhere.
At The Gates
No question, At The Gates’s classic album Slaughter Of The Soul was appreciated when it first dropped in 1995. That said, Slaughter was hailed as another a cool, fun Swedish death metal record. At no point did anyone stop and think that in the early 2000s, every American metalcore band would rip off ATG’s riffs in order to add melody to their music without sacrificing heaviness. Every time you jam a Killswitch Engage track, you have these guys to thank for it.
Today, blackgaze — the ethereal combination of black metal and shoegaze — is an inherent part of both genres. But when France’s Alcest first delved into that style in 2005, black metal was very much in the throes of its satanic and synth-laden era. No-one suspected that this outfit, that started as just another solo black metal project, would lead to the reinvigoration and legitimization of the whole genre.
The obvious influence of Seattle’s Botch is how their brand of angular, hard-hitting mathcore went on to inspire and introduce others to acts like Dillinger Escape Plan, Cave In, and The Locust. Just as important, though, was Botch’s tendency to reject scene cliches, taking a more cerebral and earnest approach to hardcore music. As a result, their discography became must-listen material for any musician within the genre who didn’t want to be just another beat-down tough guy.
On the surface, L7 were simply a riot grrl act — women making loud, angry music about issues relevant to women. But the Los Angeles quartet’s incorporation of the downer elements that would eventually define grunge, and their tendency to go full GG Allin (the famous tampon incident, for example, or auctioning off a one-night stand with one of their members), cemented them as one of rock’s most volatile and respected acts. Predictable on paper, anything but on stage — the ultimate rock’n’roll dream.
Listening to Repulsion’s Horrified today can sometimes evoke the same reaction that it no doubt inspired in a lot of death metal and thrash fans back in 1986: What is this gross, noisy record? And yet, for a type of metalhead who wanted things faster, louder, and uglier than ever before, the Michigan band’s only full-length album was the spark needed to light a fire under their asses. The messy, bristling heart of grindcore.
A Day To Remember
Pop-punk and hardcore, together at last — in 2019, the combination seems obvious, right? But in the early 2000’s, these genres were enemies (or so it seemed). The band we have to thank the most for their joining forces is Florida’s A Day To Remember, whose combination of metal, hardcore, and posi-punk showed fans of each cultural niche how much they actually enjoyed the others. Every extreme act with rocking T-shirts featuring in pop culture references and neon colors knows who to thank.
While early black metal groups like Venom and Celtic Frost immediately gained subterranean renown, Sweden’s Bathory were always seen as an act only appreciated by crust punks and Scandinavian black metal dudes. Today, every metal subgenre from melodeath and Viking metal wants to claim Bathory’s genius as belonging to them. More so, Bathory coined an idea that is now metal canon: the one-man underground act, driven by a singular vision. Who knew that this dude with the shoddily-drawn goat on the cover of his first album would change everything?
When Sunn 0))) first vibrated their way onto the metal scene, no-one quite knew what to make of them. They weren’t quite doom, they weren’t quite shoegaze — was drone even really a thing? Now, not only have the band obtained legendary status among their listeners, but they’ve also driven thousands of fledgling doom acts to add throbbing, near-unlistenable levels of low-end rumble to their music. Few bands have reached such heights of acclaim with a name that people only pretend to know how to pronounce.