FEATURE: Evolution Of The Album

Early projects need to test the waters and garner attention from labels to get to the point of producing a full-length album, hence why EPs exist to give bands a cost-effective way of giving us a sneak peek of what they are capable of.

On the other side, we expect big legendary bands to give us a full-on experience laced with themes and concepts that we will never forget, from dramatic stories to unenviable progression.

This has somewhat been flipped on its head recently, as artists are getting creative with the format of albums and potentially stopping them all together.

There are now bands taking on a contrary approach to the traditional order of releasing a single to promote an upcoming album, alongside a music video and posters to entice fans to buy the full release, or tickets for the live tour. We are now seeing a variety of ways that bands are approaching this conundrum and it’s not only newcomers that are trying to navigate these treacherous waters.

Sleep Token stand out the most and definitely took a unique approach with their debut album, ‘Sundowning’. Giving each track its own attention and focus, they dropped them one by one over the course of nearly a year until the full record was out there. Along with this, for each of these “singles” they released a unique t-shirt, with an accompanying video for each featuring the individual symbolic design for that track, plus a landscape or visual that was designed to accompany it so it wasn’t just a stale frame. Whether this as a framework for every band is a big risk as it comes with a lot of investment in merchandise but it is easily a standout example of how creative you can be with it.

Taking on a different approach, Orbit Culture released a single 9 months before the actual release of their album, which would make most labels go “WTF?!” as many people will switch off or even forget that this band has an album coming out at some point. In order to keep the attention focused on them but not barrage fans with a constant blast of incoming material, they chose to release a series of videos that told a narrative of emotional torment that encapsulated four tracks from their album. These spanned those nine months and the band has reaped the rewards selling out merchandise and physical copies of the album itself.

Now most people would consider these underground or at least (and more accurately) up-and-coming bands, but now Bring Me The Horizon have joined this pattern to announce that they are developing several EPs themed around different topics. Now, though we now have one of these planned four conceptual pieces, not many details are known about how this will all come to fruition, but rest assured we shouldn’t expect it be a traditional format or pop-up in your normal viewing. Even recent collaborations have shown that they’re willing to just throw about anything into the mix, from Power Rangers style robots to disease ridden themed costumes about the current pandemic crisis.

Reaching beyond that there are musicians that want to re-invent themselves but don’t want to ride in on the heights of their former successes and build a new concentrated fan following. Spiritbox are comprised of two former members of iwrestledabearonce, who had a very random set of genres in their music that garnered them fandom from every sector of metal to become a well known name in that world. Rather than riding the coat tails of this success and launching into a full release, they chose instead to release singles as a considered, cautious, and wise approach when launching a new project. Thankfully, everything paid off with their style of unique metalcore that contains both interesting content, brutality, and clean euphoria. Since then, they’ve stuck to releasing purely singles that are then released as a collection down the line, rather than binding themselves around a central theme.

The band have now pushed their endeavours even further by joining up with Patreon to offer fans unique insights, early releases, experiences such as one and one chats with band members, and how they go about their writing process. This could be the next step in terms of band interaction ,especially as everything is restricted to an online presence rather than the traditional touring gig methods which aren’t available right now, plus it cuts out the middle man to enable artists to earn directly from the money given to them from the service.

Recently, While She Sleeps revealed that they’re following in suit with ‘Sleeps Society’, which was released with a dramatic video of them rebelling against the media and references the numbers that musicians earn from their online streaming royalties. According to figures, this can range from £6.00 to less than 5 pence depending on the popularity of the video, so it’s no wonder artists are seeking alternative means when movement is currently so restricted and audiences purses are similarly strained.

Is the future of the album itself dead? Only time will tell. Is the concept album gone? It may be shorter. Will we get more music more frequently? Definitely. Just don’t give up hope.