Every so often, the world of music is shaken to its foundation by the release of an album that feels way ahead of its time. No matter the genre, a seriously influential album can reshape the world of music. Whether it was the creation of a new playing style or the birth of an entirely new subculture, some releases change the game for everyone.
In this article, the Kore Studios team take a look at a range of albums from the past few decades. From techno to metal to hip hop, we’ll dive into some of history’s most influential albums to better understand the potential of music to change the world.
Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath
The likes of Blue Cheer, Vanilla Fudge and Led Zeppelin are often lumped in with Black Sabbath when talking about the origins of metal music. All of the above bands played loud, fast and heavy songs with distorted guitars and pounding drum beats. But for our money, it’s hard to argue that Sabbath are not the true godfathers of the genre.
With Tony Iommi’s iconic ultra-distorted (for the time) guitar work and lyrical themes of devils and drugs, Black Sabbath is about as metal as it gets. Formed in the late 60s, the band’s self-titled 1970 debut is a prime example of a seriously influential album. It rarely feels as though an album you’re listening to is so unique that it needs a whole other genre to classify, but that’s undoubtedly the case for Sabbath.
The influence of the Birmingham group’s first album has been endless and pervades heavy music to this day. It feels as though every metal band to follow Black Sabbath count them as an influence. From heavy metal legends like Motörhead and Metallica to the more recent ‘doom metal’ resurgence with Electric Wizard and Uncle Acid, the formidable shadow of Black Sabbath looms larger with every new metal release.
Kraftwerk – Autobahn
If anywhere is renowned for its innovation, it’s Germany. Over the years the Germans have invented the printing press, the rocket engine and, depending on who you ask, popular electronic music. The electronic rhythms that pervaded 80s pop songs and nightclubs wouldn’t arrive for a decade after Kraftwerk’s mind-blowing debut, setting the band up for some serious experimentation.
By the time Autobahn was released in 1974, Kraftwerk had achieved some popular success while somehow managing to remain entirely one-of-a-kind at the same time. Their vibrant menagerie of rare and often unique instruments included synthesisers and vibraphones that contributed even further to a unique Kraftwerk sound.
By the late 70s, Kraftwerk had cemented themselves as the trailblazers of electronic music, alongside Italian innovator Giorgio Moroder. As the 80s dawned, electro-pop was storming the charts, with the distinctly Teutonic sound of Florian Schneider and Ralf Hütter acting as an inspiration – knowingly or otherwise – for just about everyone. From The Human League to Daft Punk, the pervasive ‘robot pop’ of Kraftwerk has shaped electronic music as we know it, and will continue to do so for years to come.
Sex Pistols – Never Mind The Bollocks
We should make it clear from the outset: we don’t consider Sex Pistols to be the progenitors of punk. They may not be the most influential band in the genre overall – that honour goes to the likes of The MC5, The Stooges, New York Dolls and Patti Smith – but their influence on the style and punk scene in the UK is undeniable.
The distressed denim, safety pins and superglue-spiked hair of the late-70s punk scene may not have been created by the Pistols, but they (and their notorious debut) certainly helped to cement it. Never Mind The Bollocks made punk popular; it’s now hard to find anyone who’s never heard Anarchy in the UK or God Save The Queen. Combine that with the eccentricities of manager Malcolm McLaren and their association with fashion designer Vivienne Westwood and the band were guaranteed to make a smash.
While their musical influence may have been surprisingly small on the punk bands that followed, the attitude, look and even dance styles of the Sex Pistols have had a huge impact on the world of punk and alternative culture for years.
Straight Outta Compton – N.W.A
F*ck the Police – what more needs to be said? Before ‘hip-hop’s most dangerous group’ released their debut album in 1989, the rap that the average white American heard was fun and tame. Whether it be the Sugarhill Gang, Grandmaster Flash, or even the Beastie Boys, the hip-hop making the charts was – for the most part – pretty inoffensive. N.W.A changed all that.
Ice Cube, Dr Dre, Eazy-E and co. burst onto the scene in the late 80s with an album that had its sights aimed squarely at the establishment. For the first time, a group had made it into the mainstream music consciousness with a violent call for social action. While Ice-T and Public Enemy had expressed similar sentiments, N.W.A’s aggression and popularity had a huge influence on subsequent hip-hop sensations like Biggie and 2Pac.
Ending up on FBI watch lists was just the start of the group’s notoriety. The controversy created around Straight Outta Compton directly contributed to the introduction of the ‘Parental Advisory: Explicit Content’ music warning labels. Without N.W.A’s boundary-pushing debut album, it’s very possible that we’d have no abrasive mainstream hip-hop at all.
808s & Heartbreak – Kanye West
Kanye West is, to say the least, a divisive figure. Despite the near-universal critical acclaim for albums like The College Dropout, Late Registration and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, his brash self-centred personality puts off a lot of people. As such a divisive figure, it was only a matter of time before Kanye released a truly opinion-splitting album.
2008’s 808s & Heartbreak was that inevitable controversial record. Remembered by audiences for its tragically romantic lyrics, stripped-back production, heavy use of autotune and chart hits Heartless and Love Lockdown, the album has perhaps shaped the future of rap music more than any of his others. The hip-hop of the 2010s is defined by trap beats, whether it’s Future, Gucci Mane or Migos and it’s hard to see a more high-profile progenitor of the sound than Mr West himself.
It’s undeniable that Kanye’s influence on today’s hip-hop sound is one of the largest. 808s was a truly innovative album that was about six years ahead of its time. There’s little wonder that it has such mixed reviews. The world of hip-hop moves fast, so we’d challenge anyone to find a popular rap album released in 2008 that feels as contemporary as 808s does today.
Are you a musician looking to start a movement or change the culture? We’re here to help. Book a session with Kore Studios’ experienced production team today and create the album you’ve always wanted to.