10 of the greatest surprise-released rock albums ever
During the height of record label excess, a band was worth only as much as was spent on promoting their album. Roll-outs inherently involved full-page spreads, radio station tours, TV interviews, and a good amount of posing sensuously for cameras. But in the modern age of online promotion and social media, strong pieces of art can snowball into cultural institutions on the backs of fan favour alone.
Today, surprise-dropping an album is as much a part of pop culture as hailing a cab with your phone, or using CBD oil for stress. But while plenty of hip-hop and pop artists have dropped records without a hint of promo, only a handful of rock acts have done so successfully. Here are 10 of the ones who most impressed us out of the blue…
Bad Wolves – False Flags Vol. 1 (2018)
Though the tracks from this EP were all eventually included on Bad Wolves’ full-length debut Disobey, the band dropped this debut EP out of nowhere in March of 2018. Not that Bad Wolves were entirely without promotion – they’d already released their cover of the Cranberries’ Zombie, which is the track that first thrust them into the limelight. These days, these guys would have to work hard to release something without people noticing first.
Sleep – The Sciences (2018)
Not only did weed metal overlords Sleep surprise-drop their first full-length album in almost 20 years, they did it on 4/20. The stoner doom trio’s massive fifth studio album The Sciences was announced on the day before Pothead Christmas, and exploded onto the metal scene of 2018 like a mushroom cloud of reefer smoke. Bleary-eyed dudes in cargo shorts around the world rejoiced as one.
The Raconteurs – Consolers Of The Lonely (2008)
Unfortunately, The Raconteurs’ attempts to drop Consolers Of The Lonely without any promotion fell short of completion. Though the album was announced just under a week of its release, iTunes accidentally posted it early, resulting in some fans getting copies before its official birthday. That said, given the high-profile nature of the band, even trying to release this record spur-of-the-moment was an impressive move.
Krallice – Wolf (2019)
Black metal is the perfect place to surprise-drop a record, given that it’s an insular world driven by its own diehard fanbase. Brooklyn progressive extreme act Krallice proved this with their Wolf EP, which they released out of nowhere in 2019. Acrobatic and frantic, the album showed just how little promotion matters when musical talent is at such a fevered pitch.
Carpenter Brut – Leather Teeth (2018)
With Leather Teeth, synthwave act Carpenter Brut thrust their signature style into the ears of so many rock and metal fans. Even more impressive is that the band dropped the album out of nowhere at midnight in March of 2018. Throbbing with ’80s horror eerieness, the record took on a life of its own with no outside promotion, and has since made this act many listeners’ go-to performer in the synthwave world.
My Bloody Valentine – mbv (2013)
Shoegaze pioneers My Bloody Valentine did something brilliant with mbv, their third full-length and their first album since 1991: they crashed their own website. The record was announced on February 2, 2013, and was made available on their relaunched site that night at midnight. The site summarily crashed due to the sudden onslaught in traffic when the record was released. Bringing down your own homepage – definitely proof that you’ve still got it.
Foo Fighters – 00020225 (2019)
The end of 2018 saw Foo Fighters airing out their cellars by surprise-releasing a series of numbered EPs. Arguably the best of them is 00020225, featuring a cover of the Psychedelic Furs’ Sister Europe, as well as the oh-so-Foo’ed-out single The One. That said, it’s hard to put one of these EPs over the others, so one might just want to listen to them all, in quick succession.
Liturgy – H.A.Q.Q. (2019)
Maybe it’s good that Brooklyn black metal upstarts Liturgy didn’t try to promote 2019’s H.A.Q.Q. before its release. The album is so bizarre, off-kilter, and experimental that music journalists and publicists would’ve undoubtedly tried to put it into one niche or another. Instead, the band were allowed to be as weird as they wanted to be, and only attracted those listeners truly interested in their eclectic madness.
The Acacia Strain – It Comes In Waves (2019)
Massachusetts metalcore crew The Acacia Strain weren’t letting 2019 go without a fight. The day after Christmas, the band dropped It Comes In Waves, a bleakly epic album that took their melancholy heaviness to even darker corners. Arguably the creepiest part of the release was the track listing, with each song named only one word, which eventually spells out the sentence ‘Our Only Sin Was Giving Them Names.’ Jesus Christ.
Bring Me The Horizon – Music To Listen To… (2019)
Maintaining their tradition of using insanely long album titles, Bring Me The Horizon ended 2019 with the release of Music to listen to~dance to~blaze to~pray to~feed to~sleep to~talk to~grind to~trip to~breathe to~help to~hurt to~scroll to~roll to~love to~hate to~learn Too~plot to~play to~be to~feel to~breed to~sweat to~dream to~hide to~live to~die to~GO TO. The record featured collaborations with YONAKA and Halsey, and further the band’s forays into electronic and hip-hop influenced music.
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