10 Biggest WTF? Style Changes in Metal

For the most part, most metal bands keep their style and sound. They know their niche, stick with it and possibly beat it to death, which is all well and good. With bands like Dismember, Bolt Thrower, Dimmu Borgir, Iron Maiden, Cannibal Corpse, Morbid Angel and such, fans know what they are getting and are OK with that. Heck even a few minor tangents and subtle flirtation with experimentation have risen on some of Metal’s most revered acts: Napalm Death, Amorphis, Death, Hypocrisy, Convulse, Paradise Lost, Anaal Nathrakh, Immortal, In Flames, Gorefest and the most obvious one, Metallica have changed, but all were recognizable. What about the rest?

by Erik T

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However, in the annals of metal, a few bands simply threw their fan base a giant curve ball or a giant middle finger, depending on how you view them. Either with a single album, or over the course of a couple of albums, these bands completely changed; not subtle or delicate changes or temporary injections of experimentation, but huge, sweeping paradigm and style shift that made the band sound like another band altogether.

So I’ve listed a few of my own personal choices for biggest WTF????’s in metal. In some instances the band actually improved and the style shift was welcomed and well received by fans and critics, but for the most part, these bands simply elicited a huge WTF? From their fan base.

As always feel free to comment, add your own or tell me how wrong I am about my personal opinion:

1) Covenant becomes The Kovenant.

So after two promising black metal albums and being forced to change their name from Covenant, former Dimmu Borgir bassist Nagash said fuck it and threw a K on the moniker. And once a band changes the name like that, you know a style change comes hand in hand. Though strains of change surfaced on 1998s Nexus Polaris, no one was quite ready for the musical change that came with the ‘K’. Arguably setting the trend for black metal bands turning to cyber metal (along with Samael-but more on them later) , 1999s Animatronic and 2003s S.E.T.I laid the groundwork for ‘black cyber/industrial metal’, much to the chagrin of their black metal fan base. And while Animatronic still stands as one of cyber metal’s earliest examples, eventually becoming accepted as a solid album, S.E.T.I saw the band become even more industrial and electronic even drawing comparisons to Linkin Park and Marilyn Manson

So the band went from this:

To this:

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  1. Commented by: Staylow

    Interesting Idea Erik. I was really expecting to Find Disillusion on this list. The Change from ‘Back to Times of Splendor’ to ‘Gloria’ is staggering, and more than WTF? worthy – I know it’s atop my list. Either way, good read.

  2. Commented by: Erik Thomas

    I actually considered Disillusion but had to limit it to 10 they def would have been 11 or 12

  3. Commented by: vugelnox

    I’d argue that the cyber metal concept was and is only equaled by rap “metal” as the worst thing to come down the pipe stylistically in the last few decacdes.

  4. Commented by: gordeth

    You forgot the biggest WTF of them all: Pyogenesis. Their transformation from death/doom to pop punk still boggles my mind.

  5. Commented by: Blackwater Park

    Dimmu Borgir is a bad example of knowing what to expect, or a band that hasn’t changed. Listening to their debut in comparison to their latest album is a VERY BIG change!

    Disillusion DEFINITELY should be on the list, not as 11 or 12, but possibly as #1. I can’t think of another band that changed so dramatically between releases.

  6. Commented by: Blackwater Park

    Oh, and Same Difference is a FUCKING AWESOME and criminally underrated album. If this didn’t have a cute little dog on the cover, people would not be slagging it at all. Fucking killer album!

  7. Commented by: Blackwater Park

    Also, what about Celtic Frost. From the brilliance of To Mega Therion to the shit-platter of Cold Lake and then not back, but in a completely new direction with the awesomeness of Monotheist.

    Sepultura from Morbid Visions to Roots to A-Lex.

    Fear Factory from Soul of A New Machine to Demanufacture to Transgression back to Mechanize.

    Machine Head from Burn My Eyes to Supercharger to The Blackening.

    Could go on and on actually…

  8. Commented by: Erik Thomas

    Yup- Celtic Frost was another one I flirted with.

  9. Commented by: vegard

    cool feature! my own wtf moment came with the showdowns second album. their debut is one of my favorite albums, but the whole glam thing they did on the follow-up…i don’t even want to think about it.

  10. Commented by: Brian

    Thought I’d see Megadeth here for sure as we all remember the album Risk. Excellent article though, well done!

  11. Commented by: Andy Synn


    With Dimmu/Sepultura/Fear Factory the change was much more gradual than the bands considered on this list I would say.

    Granted Roots and Digimortal were somewhat out of left-field (the former for being so heavy on elements only previously hinted at, with the latter simply being an abortion of the sound they had been developing), but with Dimmu I really think that stylistically it’s clearly the same band from For All Tid (can’t be arsed finding the Norweigan letters)the production and focus being the maint hings that have changed/grown.

    The …And Oceans one really makes me sad though.

  12. Commented by: Andy Synn

    Ha, I just reached the last band ont he list.

    I thinkt he difference in their case (I won’t ruin it) is that they continue/d to do whatever they turned their hand at a really high level of quality. Their latest albums are amongst my most listened to I think.

  13. Commented by: Appollyonx

    The Samael mention made me think. Yeah they went from playing Black Metal to cyber and then just released a brilliant Black Metal album with elements of both styles. But what it made me think about was maybe a band just wants to try something out and then decide Fuck we screwed up. Then they go back to their original style. Samael’s sound didn’t change that drastically, there was still a BM element even through the cyber albums. And as far as that goes, Exodus and Eternal could stand up next to Blood Ritual and Ceremony of Opposites any day.

  14. Commented by: gordeth

    Another band that should be on this list is Afflicted for abruptly switching from unique progressive death to cheesy power metal over the course of only a single year.

  15. Commented by: Clauricaune

    Amorphis, In Flames, Katatonia, The Gathering (that vocalist in Almost a Dance is hilarious), Sigh, Moonspell, Paradise Lost, Anathema, Sentenced are other bands that come to mind.

  16. Commented by: stevhan the invincible

    Tiamat from black to pink floyd (and back)

    Darkthrone death metal >cult black > punk metal

    Pestilence: from straight up thrash to great fucking death metal to Jazz metal that is W.T.F? if you ask me

    You didn’t even mention VoiVod, that sort of makes this post worhtless, I’m sorry to say so…

  17. Commented by: Mike

    Love the Carcass transition. Hate grind, but love their last two releases. Heartwork is an undisputed classic.

  18. Commented by: Mike

    Though still death metal, Decrepit Birth going from brutal DM to Death-inspired tech death was a WTF moment to many.

  19. Commented by: Andy Synn

    “Amorphis, In Flames, Katatonia, The Gathering (that vocalist in Almost a Dance is hilarious), Sigh, Moonspell, Paradise Lost, Anathema, Sentenced are other bands that come to mind.”

    Amorphis/In Flames/Katatonia were all pretty steady changes imo, certainly not WTF-worthy.

    Anathema and Sentenced were drastic, but generally well-done, shifts in style – not really WTF, but more pleasantly surprising!

    Paradise Lost though… yeah, forgot that one, their shift to Depeche Mode-influenced music was a definite WTF moment for most of us. Big shift and a bit harshly done.

    ^ also Tiamat. Black/Pink FLoyd was one thing, but the mid-period dancey-ness was wayyyyyy too much.

  20. Commented by: stevhan the invincible

    Oh and thee ultimate WTF band are The Melvins right?
    With their latest surprise being that they released three consecutive records with more or less same style and the same line-up.

  21. Commented by: Staylow

    Another one on top of my list: Amoral – ‘Reptile Ride’ to ‘Show Your Colors’ – seriously, what a horrendous change.

  22. Commented by: Erik Thomas

    Good comments guys; a couple of things on my end- I never heard Cold Lake, just read the reviews, so i cant personally speak to that shift. And some reason i never actually got into Voivod, never heard an actual Voidvod album. Paradise Lost was actually on my list- it was typed up with youtube links and everything- but I had to put Carcass in that spot.

  23. Commented by: Biff_Tannen

    ‘Left Hand Path’ and ‘Clandestine’ are both solid gold stamped CLASSICS. I don’t think anyone would argue against them being called classics, especially the former.

  24. Commented by: Biff_Tannen

    I thought that Mayhem’s “Grand Declaration of War” would be the number one (or number 10 for the big reveal) WTF album of all time ??!!

    Decent write-up, overall. We need more stuff like this around here, keep it coming !

  25. Commented by: Stevhan The Invincible

    Erik, seriously: “And [for] some reason i never actually got into Voivod, never heard an actual Voidvod album.” Isn’t there some TotD staffer that can school you a little? This band is so diverse and churned out some really awesome (and borderline atrocious) stuff.

  26. Commented by: Biff _Tannen

    Yeah, Voivod was fucking awesome for most of their career. You really should check out “killing technology” or “Dimension Hatross” ASAP. If you can get past Snake’s vocals, there is some major genius at work.

  27. Commented by: seaofcartilage

    holy shit later Therion SUCKS.

  28. Commented by: mccumberv

    Enslaved had a major style change from their Eld album to what you are hearing on Axioma, its all still good but I think its a pretty big change.

    My Dying Bride’s 34.7888% complete was pretty messed up, even though I thought it had a few good tunes.

    Immortal going from Diabolical Fullmoon… to All Shall Fall, haha, that is a huge WTF.

    This is a great subject..

  29. Commented by: Gabaghoul

    Great feature. Others you could have added:

    Extol. Compare the harsh progressive black metal of Burial and Undeceived to the smoother progressive metal of The Blueprint Dives and beyond.

    Cave In. From the spazzcore of Until Your Heart Stops to the spacey program of Jupiter to the indie rock of Antenna.

  30. Commented by: ETPY

    disillusion is number one for me simply because back in the times of splendor is still one of my personal favorite cds.
    Another one that sticks out to me personally since i love hardcore is No warning NYHC inspired on Ill blood to the linkin park garbage on suffer, survive. that is still one of the worst cds ever made.
    Early neurosis is pretty different too, listen to pain of mind then listen to the eye of every storm.
    Dillinger escape plan to some degree.

  31. Commented by: Blackwater Park

    I think Metallica is a serious WTF. When Justice came out that album was about as progressive as metal could get. Then when the Black Album hit, it was all trimmed down to about as straight forward as it gets. I think the whole Metal world did a WTF upon its release. Load took it a step further, not music wise, but in terms of image. The eye-liner, fur coat bullshit was definitely NOT “recognizable” as the Metallica we knew in the 80s.

  32. Commented by: rycro

    Good article. I enjoyed Covenant before the “K”. And even though Ulver changed, the albums they came out with are interesting, but hard to find for purchase.

    One band I think that was missed is Moonspell. They went from satanic death/black metal, to Gothic metal, to cyber gothic metal, then gothic death metal. All in all, some good albums in there, especially at the beginning and end of their collection.

  33. Commented by: Kc70

    Some more that also come to mind:

    Belial – never again to 3
    Morgoth – resistance to feel sorry for the fanatic
    Anorexia nervosa – exile to drudenhaus
    Masters hammer – jilemnice to slagry

  34. Commented by: Callum

    Almost all the links are gone so I have to give up on this list, please update it !

  35. Commented by: E. Thomas

    we might just do a new one….

  36. Commented by: Gus

    few additions to the list..

    2.Paradise Lost
    3.In Flames

  37. Commented by: Jay

    Maybe my eyes are a little blurred today but did anybody say Venom and the power metal years? Pretty big WTF. I still remember getting way into them in the earlier half of the 90s and then grabbing Calm Before the Storm. It was definitely not what I was expecting nor wanted.

    I like the Carcass WTFs. Last two albums (pre-Surgical Steel, which I dig quite a bit) are a blast, even though I prefer the earlier stuff. Also agree that “Same Difference” is horrible, but I’m all for Uprising and Morning Star. Really dug, the covers album in that period though. The Captain Beyond one especially, but I’m a sucker for anything on Man’s Ruin Records. ANYTHING.

  38. Commented by: Ricieri

    I wiil add the finish band Xysma to this list becouse their change was really WTF. They were a gore grindcore band like Carcass and became a rock n roll band whose songs were featured in the soundtrack of hollywood movies. Even their images were dramatically changed to reflect pop like artists.

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