Follow TV Tropes


Darker And Edgier / Music

Go To

  • Heavy Metal, with its distinctive association with controversy and Rule of Brutal-based everything, has several entirely darker-and-edgier subgenres. First of all, Black Sabbath were intended as Darker and Edgier rock. About a decade later, Thrash Metal came along and was the new Darker and Edgier. Then Death Metal, Black Metal and Grindcore came along. No genre has topped them yet.
  • Advertisement:
  • Any cover by Marilyn Manson. Impressive when it's an already dark/creepy song. He satirized this trope itself in "This Is the New Shit".
  • Green Day's Insomniac is lyrically darker than Dookie (or, for that matter, 39/Smooth and Kerplunk), and the music has sometimes been perceived as heavier and more abrasive.
  • The whole genre of Hip-Hop owes its current existence to this trope. Until the late 1980s, it was dismissed as a passing fad by most music critics, due to its generally shallow, goofy lyrics and repetitive beats. But in 1988, two albums were released that would go on to legitimize hip hop and make it a relevant form of music: Straight Outta Compton by N.W.A and It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back by Public Enemy. The latter featured biting political commentary, centered around the oppression of black culture in mainstream America, while the former contained some of the most genuinely scathing lyrics ever heard in popular music up to that point (it was, in fact, one of the first albums to earn a "Parental Advisory" sticker). In the wake of those two albums, Hip-Hop took on a much more serious and socially conscious tone, much to the delight of both critics and fans. A few years later, the genre of Gangsta Rap showed the world just how dark and edgy hip hop could be, culminating in the real life deaths of rappers Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G.. Then came the sub-genre known as Horrorcore. Gangsta Rap turned Up to Eleven, with lyrics worthy of Death Metal. Then there's industrial hip-hop, typified by acts like Dälek, Death Grips, and clipping., which is simply way more abrasive than anything that had qualified as hip-hop before the 2000s.
  • Advertisement:
  • For A Tribe Called Quest, the change was very gradual, starting from The Low End Theory's more laid-back tone, more earthy soundscape, and slightly more realistic lyrics to the more confrontational and serious tones of Midnight Maurader. Beats, Rhymes, and Life finally topped this off with plenty of swearing, dark beats, and realistic situations. It also watered-down its playful, surreal sound. De La Soul also went through this, except its transition was much more sudden.
  • Gob went from bright, energetic punk with the occasional hardcore influence, to a more serious Alternative Rock sound by the late 2000s. Such a Genre Shift, in fact, that their most recent album Apt. 13 is a long way from the NOFX-lite that made up their early material.
  • Beyoncé:
    • Her 2013 Self-Titled Album is this and Hotter and Sexier. In the latter case, it connects to the feminist theme of the album, focusing on the sexual liberation of women, and contains lines like "Can you lick my Skittles?" and "He Monica Lewinsky'd all over my gown". In the former case, aside from containing more profanity, it also concerns darker themes previously unexplored in her work, such as bulimia, post-natal depression, the fears and insecurities of marriage and motherhood.
    • Advertisement:
    • Lemonade is her darkest work yet. The album is entirely based around Adult Fear: what to do when your partner cheats on you, how to move on and the lasting effects it can have in a marriage. The songs go further and show this is a problem to have also happened to her mother and grandmother. The album has also been praised for its exploration of black feminism and womanhood.
  • Blind Melon followed up their very successful self-titled debut album with the much darker Soup, which dealt with subject matter of murder, suicide and serial killers. It didn't sit well with some — especially those who used the first album to only put "No Rain" on repeat. Even among fans, the shift from the more light, almost hippieish jam band feel of the first album to the darker and heavier feel of the second took some getting used to. The shift in tone is not only for creative reasons, but the increasingly erratic behavior, near constant drug use of primary songwriter Shannon Hoon. The album was also recorded in New Orleans, and the influence of the music and culture of that city on the album is salient.
  • Rappers who were actual criminals fit this trope to a T. They will scare you straight outta crime. Not just those who are flashy and claim to be criminals, but real criminals who still killed while they made music — Schoolly D and Eazy-E are the best examples. Because of their past, the subject matter of their works are very dark and serious compared to most other rappers. As if "bro"-hating wasn't already a part of the black culture (as it is white culture, though with white racists out of bigotry).
  • Third by Big Star was recorded at a time when Alex Chilton was tired of getting fucked around by various record companies. It shows. It carries on the messy sonic sprawl of Radio City, but with bleaker lyrics.
  • Lana Del Rey's album Ultraviolence was particularly well-received because of its darker and edgier themes and more personal content. Among other things, the album deals with abusive relationships, drug use, and prostitution.
  • Linkin Park started out with Hybrid Theory, which, aside from "One Step Closer" and "A Place for My Head", have no real screaming, though they did have angsty lyrics, and had no swearing. Meteora had angst, but no hard screaming or swearing. Then came Minutes to Midnight, when lead singer Chester Bennington and lead rapper Mike Shinoda swore like sailors, with several uses of the word "fuck", and had "Given Up", one of their darkest songs to date, with suicide references. After that was A Thousand Suns, a concept album about nuclear destruction, along with several more uses of "fuck" and "shit". Then the band became Lighter and Softer with Living Things, with only one "angry" song, "Lies Greed Misery", and no profanity.
  • Suede's sophomore effort Dog Man Star saw them moving away from Britpop to a more art-rock, drug-influenced sound. The record got mixed reactions upon release and was fairly commercially unsuccessful, but is nowadays regarded as their best album.
  • Believe it or not, Pantera started out as a Glam Rock act, with their debut Metal Magic not quite living up to its title and a vocalist that sounded straight out of Foreigner or Loverboy, along with family-friendly lyrics that sounded straight out of a 1950s teenager's locker. Their following records Projects in the Jungle and I Am the Night, however, were each progressively more Heavy Metal influenced, and their once-squeaky clean singer had gotten noticeably harsher and started showing impressive falsettos, while the lyrics began delving into Hotter and Sexier Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll territory, Fantasy themes, horror and Angsty subject matter (one song even deals with suicide).
    • Power Metal marked a change in the band's overall focus, with a new vocalist named Phil Anselmo adding an element of grit and aggression to the band's lyrics and image. The main crossover point was Cowboys from Hell, where the band dumped the '80s glam fashion for a more adequate "street thug" look, and adopted a contemporary Thrash Metal sound combining the vocals and guitar sound of fellow Southerners Exhorder.
    • Then they managed to go from Darker and Edgier after three albums, to even more, MUCH MORE, with the release of their eighth album The Great Southern Trendkill, which dealt with the aforementioned subject matter relating to suicide, drugs, the end of the world by a massive flood, the media and many more topics along with Anselmo AND Seth Putnam from Anal Cunt himself sounding like both are ready to go "fucking hostile"
  • Judas Priest went here by releasing Painkiller, an album full of hard-hitting power and speed metal, with none of the happy-go-lucky synthesizers and lyrics of their previous album Turbo (they kept the synths only to evoke dark atmospheres). Subsequent albums (the Ripper Owens period especially) continued the trend, although most fans dismiss these albums (which seems to happen with more Ripper-sung albums; see Iced Earth's albums The Glorious Burden and, less often, Framing Armageddon.)
  • Sonata Arctica's music has been progressing from the standard cheesy excesses endemic to power metal to more grim lyrics and darker sounds. It seems to be working, though one wonders how far they can stretch it...
    • Their music has always been a bit dark thematically, though, even if they did used to sound like an explosion in a Skittles factory. Their latest album however, is all over the place.
  • The cover of "Imagine" by A Perfect Circle is downright depressing. With a simple shift to a minor chord, the song switches from hopeful and uplifting to cynical and depressing. "Imagine all the people sharing all the world! ...yeah, like that'll ever happen..." The change has been likened to going from a friendly, smiling hippie offering you peace and love and flowers, to a grim suicide bomber outlining his manifesto to a huddled, frightened crowd.
  • Type O Negative make a Running Gag of doing this to hippie anthems: Seals & Croft's "Summer Breeze", Neil Young's "Cinnamon Girl", several Beatles songs...
  • Dope's cover of Dead or Alive's "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)".
    • As well as Ten Masked Men's cover of the same song, and others.
  • Progressive metal band Dream Theater subtly evolved in this direction; in terms of lyrics, the band started to explore slightly darker themes over time, and the occasional curse word started popping up, but this change has been mostly for the better, as their softer songs don't really portray the technical brilliance of the instrumentalists: vocals such as "The smile of dawn/Arrived early May/She carried a gift from her home/The night shed a tear/To tell her of fear and of sorrow and pain, she'll never outgrow" (from 1992's Images and Words) stand in stark contrast to guitar riffs and drumming that wouldn't be out of place in a Metallica song. The vocals also got darker over time, due to James' vocal injury and an increasing presence of Mike Portnoy's backing vocals. As well, their music has gotten heavier over time, with an increased use of 7-string guitars. Awake, their third album, was easily their heaviest for some time, standing out especially well in contrast to Images and Words. Then came Train of Thought, their seventh album, which was extremely heavy and included about 80% of the swear words used in the band's career.
  • Neil Young: The "Ditch Trilogy" – Time Fades Away (1973), On the Beach (1974), and Tonight's the Night (1975) – is his first example of this. They are the product of Young struggling to deal with the pressures of fame as well as the recent deaths of two close friends, Crazy Horse guitarist Danny Whitten and roadie Bruce Berry. Whitten was so addicted to heroin it rendered him unable to play and resulted in Neil firing him; on November 18, 1972, Neil gave Whitten $50 and a plane ticket to Los Angeles in an attempt to help him get back on track. On the same day, a combination of Valium and alcohol resulted in his death. Just 6½ months later on June 4, 1973, Berry fatally overdosed on heroin and cocaine. Time Fades Away was recorded live from February 11 – April 1, 1973 (except "Love in Mind", which was recorded on January 30, 1971), and is generally a hard rock album; but it feels unpolished and abrasive even by Young's standards, and deals implicitly with themes of loneliness and loss. Tonight's the Night, which was recorded from August–September 1973, but not released until 1975, bears every indication that it was written and performed by someone in the process of grieving - Young even sounds like he's on the verge of breaking down in some of the album's tracks. Reprise Records was initially hesitant to release Tonight's the Night because of its harsher tone, and is still widely considered the darkest record in Neil's catalogue. Although On the Beach was released almost 11 months before Tonight's the Night, it was recorded about half a year after it (February 5 – April 7, 1974).note  While not quite as acerbic as either of the other two albums in the Ditch Trilogy, On the Beach is still an all-around despondent collection of songs. Neil's 1979 album Rust Never Sleeps counts as well, as he responded to the death of Elvis Presley, the rise of Punk Rock, and his own fears of becoming culturally irrelevant by turning his soft-ish folk rock into nihilist hard rock with heavy, distorted guitars, in a post-modern stage show with giant amps, roadies dressed like Jawas, and decaying film footage from Woodstock. It worked; the album received widespread popular and critical acclaim, and has been cited as one of the earliest examples of what became grunge music.
  • Much, though not all, of John Lennon's songwriting took this direction in the late sixties due to a combination of drug use (especially heroin), the influence of Yoko Ono, and a growing disillusionment with his role as a Beatle. This culminated in three experimental Avant-garde Music albums, Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins, Unfinished Music No. 2: Life with the Lions and Wedding Album, which are all basically a combination between Noise Rock and Leave the Recorder Running. His 1970 solo album John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band in which, under the influence of primal scream therapy, he expressed his childhood traumas and adult pain starkly and directly in a way that he couldn't do with the Beatles, but this time far more accessible. While Lennon continued to write hard-edged songs afterward, most of his subsequent work was more pleasant and hopeful in tone.
  • George Harrison's songwriting got especially dark in his 1975 album Extra Texture (Read All About), in which most of the songs take a noticeably dark turn.
  • The Beatles went this direction with The White Album. Though light, silly songs remained ("Back in the U.S.S.R", "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da", "Birthday") many songs on the album were quite dark, such as "Julia", about the death of John Lennon's mother, "Blackbird", about racism, and especially "Revolution 9", a nightmarish sound collage. Similarly, many other '60s bands, including The Beach Boys, The Rolling Stones and The Who, became Darker and Edgier during/after the peak of psychedelia.
  • The musical history of Pink Floyd seems to have been a long slide from the spacey, exploratory psychedelia of Syd Barrett, down into Roger Waters' descent into dark cynicism with The Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, Animals and The Wall. Waters' solo work after leaving Pink Floyd continues the trend.
  • Compare the album The Cheerful Insanity of Giles, Giles and Fripp to anything that King Crimson's done, ever. The first King Crimson lineup was Giles, Giles and Fripp, plus Greg Lake and Ian McDonald. Also, compare the album From Genesis to Revelation by Genesis to the song "The Knife" from the very next album, Trespass.
  • Porcupine Tree have been doing this since 2003 or so. While they never made the most upbeat or happy music out there, there's a definite change between psychedelic, Pink Floyd-influenced rock like The Sky Moves Sideways, and the metal Fear of a Blank Planet, which has ends with "Sleep Together", about the album's 'narrator' trying to convince another teenager to commit suicide with him.
  • Crystal Castles' second album is more abrasive and darker compared to their more accessible debut.
  • Van Halen's fourth album, Fair Warning. Most of the band's silly, hard-partying atmosphere (which made them famous) from the previous albums disappears and a heavier, more serious sound is heard. This is mostly attributed to the tensions between lead guitarist Eddie Van Halen and lead singer David Lee Roth at the time. The album features "Mean Street" and a foggy synthesized instrumental "Sunday Afternoon in the Park" that is full of terror, and it would get even darker musically and lyrically with 1995's Balance.
  • Winger was originally known for being a standard glam act with a pretty-boy front-man and musicians that were far above the rest of the pack, but their overly poppy leanings made them among the most frequent targets of ire from the anti-glam crowd, which wasn't helped by the relentless mockery they received on Beavis and Butt-Head. 1993's Pull answered these criticisms with a shockingly dark, mature album that emphasized their technical ability while completely eliminating the poppiness of their earlier material. Unfortunately, it was too little, too late, and the album went unnoticed until the mid-00s glam revival.
  • Counting Crows' debut album, August and Everything After, was a sweetly melodic, very subdued folk album. Their second, Recovering the Satellites, added distortion guitar, angry lyrics, and several swear words. Eventually they found a middle ground which worked quite well.
  • Eminem's discography has been a sine-wave of Lighter and Softer and Darker and Edgier. His 1996 debut Infinite was the former, though a series of life events caused him to take the darker content to the nth degree with The Slim Shady LP and The Marshall Mathers LP; both were critically acclaimed and commercially successful. His subsequent two albums were somewhat Lighter and Softer; Relapse is both the most dark album he's yet done (seeking to be genuinely frightening in parts) and is about him rapping absurd comedy rhyme schemes in a silly accent; Recovery is a straight pop-rap album and The Marshall Mathers LP 2 a comedic pop-rap album which captures the playfulness of his early music but not the violence. After this, he largely went into Mood Whiplash within albums, veering between sincere pop-rap with Skylar Gray and violent raps about mass shooters.
  • Massive Attack. While Blue Lines and Protection weren't entirely sunny, Mezzanine had a sonic background so dark, it absorbed light. Trip-Hop as a whole moved in this direction; it originated as a soothing, acid jazz-inspired blend of hip-hop and dub; in the mid-90s, the post-punk influences turned into angry distorted riffs, the trippiness became heavy psychedelia, and the retraux atmosphere traded nostalgia for old horror movie creepiness.
  • Jazz musicians will occasionally take songs from seemingly light repertoire and turn the intensity up. Sonny Rollins took the corniest show tunes (such as "There's No Business Like Show Business") and turned them into positively hip (for the time) jazz tunes. John Coltrane famously turned the light-hearted, optimistic "My Favorite Things" into what one critic described as a "hypnotic eastern devish dance", one that lasted an impressive 13:42. Coltrane is a truly great example himself. Starting with light-hearted, simplistic albums like Blue Train before becoming gradually more complex with Giant Steps and My Favorite Things, then culminating with A Love Supreme, Ascension, and Meditations. And it's not just Coltrane, jazz musicians do this constantly. Most of the standard repertoire that is required knowledge for jazz musicians is songs lifted from Broadway musicals of the '20s, '30s, and '40s. For example, of the six songs on Miles Davis's 1956 Relaxin' with the Miles Davis Quintet, four are from musical theater or film ("If I Were a Bell", "You're My Everything", "I Could Write a Book", "It Could Happen to You").
  • Billie Holiday had a tragic life where she was the victim of rape at age 11, teenage prostitution, abusive partners and severe alcohol, morphine and heroin addiction. All it culminated in her world-weary Lady in Satin, where she sings about break-ups, unrequited love and all hardships of relationships in her drug ravaged voice. At the time this was quite unprecedented in the happy, carefree atmosphere of most popular music in the day. She died from liver cirrhosis only a year after recording it.
  • Happened naturally to Michael Jackson in the mid-90s. His 1991 album Dangerous was, like his previous albums, a mix of standard pop and uplifting songs. His next album, HIStory: Past, Present And Future, Book I (1995), came out following his 1993 child molestation allegations and it shows. The album is filled with dark songs that exude paranoia and anger, dealing with topics like betrayal, media scrutiny, loneliness, and a song about a child dying from neglect. It also has more swearing than any other Michael Jackson album, including the only instance of the word "fuck". Even the sole love song on the album, the R. Kelly-penned "You Are Not Alone", is a little bit of a downer because it is about separated lovers. Jackson's 2001 album Invincible would retain some of the darker influences from this period though it would also be a bit of a return to form, with more upbeat, love/life-affirming songs compared to HIStory.
  • Depeche Mode. First album: pure synth-pop, mostly Silly Love Songs, marketed as a Boy Band for some reason. Fourth album: Industrial-pop/Dark Wave, subject matter including BDSM, a girl dying in a car accident and Obsession Songs. And then two albums after that, the songs started being about drugs.
  • PSY's earlier singles when he debuted in 2001 (Bird and The End for example) were full of Sarcasm Mode against cynical social phenomenon spewing with some Korean cuss words and sarcastic sentence, but at least it is somewhat colorful despite its cynical tone. Then come to his 2005 single, Urbanite, which deals with one of the most-cynical phenomena, Workaholic stress and city life issues. This single was rendered in monochromatic effects complete with Ridiculously Human Robots or Artificial Humans replacing natural workforces.
    • PSY's version of "Urbanite" itself is a Darker and Edgier remake of Korean rock band N.Ex.T's 1992 song of the same name, with faster pace and stronger tones. Nevertheless, it's the darkest song PSY has ever made.
    This is the CITY LIFE!
  • The Protomen do this to Mega Man, turning the video game setting into an urban police state dystopia where Dr. Wily is Big Brother, and the Blue Bomber himself is an angst-ridden Replacement Goldfish.
  • Miley Cyrus is going this way with her music, and she's combined this with Hotter and Sexier in her overall career choices, likewise debated.
    • Downplayed in that most of the songs on Can't Be Tamed are about empowerment, or about Miley missing her boyfriend on the road. But the media's focus on the mild Three Minutes of Writhing and (relatively) saltier language (she uses "hell" in a song) and revealing clothing in her music videos has overshadowed the empowerment themes.
    • Her 2013 album Bangerz was her first album released in separate explicit-lyrics and edited editions.
  • Disturbed's discography, over time: the first album was mainly about anger and the world being a horrible, horrible place, all inspired by lead singer David Draiman's past experiences (which later evolved into retrospective navel gazing then to themes of empowerment and victory). Then he started getting some new experiences to work off of, creating Indestructible, then Asylum after that (that band's darkest, most serious records yet). Time will tell if the lyrics ever get back to the "a bit of humor through pain" theme.
  • A lot of Dubstep remixes tend to go down this path while still using the same lyrics as the original song. This is easily accomplished with the thunderous basslines associated with the genre. For comparison: Example - Kickstarts versus the Bar 9 remix, the former sounding much more hopeful and cheery than the latter, made even more evident with the corresponding official videos.
  • Manic Street Preachers started off with a double album, Generation Terrorists, which had a political glam-punk sound inspired by Guns N' Roses. Their second album, Gold Against the Soul, was more introspective compared to the first, while retaining the glam of their debut. Richey Edwards, one of the band's songwriters, began to lose control and go on a downward spiral, resulting in the increasingly dark nature of his lyrics. This culminated with the grim, pessimistic atmosphere in their third album, The Holy Bible. Just as the band was about to tour stateside to promote their third album, Richey disappeared (he would later be presumed dead). The band, reforming as a trio, recorded music that was Lighter and Softer, even though the band would occasionally release darker albums such as Know Your Enemy and Journal for Plague Lovers (which contained the last of Richey's lyrics).
  • David Bowie albums, or stretches of such, tend to alternate between this and Lighter and Softer (owing to his penchant for the New Sound Album trope), but an even clearer example of this can be seen with his stage personas in The '70s. After the flamboyant tragic rock messiah of Ziggy Stardust and the variants of Aladdin Sane, et. al., with 1976's Station to Station came The Thin White Duke — a heartless Fascist. This persona owed a lot to a Creator Breakdown and his heavy drug abuse at the time (including cocaine addiction), and Bowie's decision to pull himself up from it all was accompanied by a choice to not only dump the persona, but to only be himself on stage afterwards.
  • Lady Gaga released The Fame, her first label-sponsored LP. The album had a very upbeat, joyful theme, centered mainly around party life, along with love, along with the idealist's view of fame and tributes to her favourite artists. Her follow-up EP, The Fame Monster, is it's "hangover". The cover, monochrome with the Gaga veiled up to the nose by a cape; combined with music centered around love evoking a bad, sexy romance novel; romantic anxiety ("Dance in the Dark"); and sex; the music took a more dark, perverse, challenging, and personal route. Born This Way got eclectic, with dance-pop ("The Edge of Glory"), house ("Marry the Night"), techno ("Judas"), New Wave ("Government Hooker"), and rock ("You and I"). It's no Station to Station or Ray of Light but it's a shift. Could be more upbeat at times than The Fame Monster, though. Many hold that if you compare her to other teen pop stars, she's dark and edgy. Others contend that, in comparison to many other genres and groups, she's not that much different from any other pop star despite a different packaging.
  • Gorillaz pulls a not-so-subtle variation in their story canon, which started out as a zany and darkly humorous setup but got noticeably darker in the second and third phases. Party animal Murdoc shifted sharply into a violent psychopath with the Plastic Beach arc, (though this may be justified as an already twisted man being driven to desperate measures by greed.) In accordance, his relationship with 2D has changed in portrayal from comedic bullying to pretty abusive, though it could always have come off this way if you thought about it. Ironically, their musical style has become brighter and more polished, though certainly no softer in theme.
  • Ice Nine Kills started out as a ska-punk band, then made a shift to metalcore. Tellingly, their early Lighter and Softer music is no longer available on streaming platforms.
  • Weezer's release after their self titled debut, Pinkerton, had a more abrasive, darker sound than their previous album. But then again, Rivers was pretty beat up after having multiple surgeries to correct a minor bone deformity that he wrote the entire album with a bitter disposition. The whole album is themed around breaking up; it's hard to write upbeat songs about breakups.
  • The first album by Skid Row was a pretty typical Hair Metal album, containing popular rock anthems such as "18 And Life" and "Youth Gone Wild" as well as the Power Ballad "I Remember You". The band's second album, Slave to the Grind, was darker, edgier, and less mainstream than the first with many songs adopting a Thrash Metal sound and lyrics about drugs, politics, and criticism of religion.
  • All of the Strapping Young Lad albums are this to Devin Townsend's solo work. Although some of Devin's solo albums can be considered dark based on their lyrical content and heaviness. Physicist and Deconstruction are heavier compared to others and their lyrics are darker. Ocean Machine's lyrical themes revolve around Life, Death, Isolation, etc. Ki for it's moody atmosphere. And Ghost 2 will appear to have more in common with Ki in terms of atmosphere rather than the original Ghost, which was Devin's attempt at Lighter and Softer.
  • Within Temptation is fairly dark itself, but eventually parodied the trend in "Gothic Christmas" — complete with The Evil Reindeer Overlord, because everything should be Grim and Nordic. For a less meta example in the Within Temptation camp, 2011's The Unforgiving is far-and-away the most intense and darkest album they've put out, lyrically and musically.
  • The '80s albums from British band Madness progressively got more serious as time went on. Their first album, One Step Beyond, featured reggae covers and songs about singing and dancing, any potentially serious subject matters (such as the chorus in "Mummy's Boy" that reveals the song's main character to be a pedophile) sung purely tongue-in-cheek. By their sixth album (the tellingly titled "Mad Not Mad"), they were singing critiques of the modern song industry itself, cynical parodies of Americanism and a surprising number of completely serious songs about child abuse. Their post-90's comeback albums have largely subverted this trend though.
  • Metallica's sophomore album Ride the Lightning is quite a bit darker than their debut Kill 'Em All, shedding most of the youthfulness and camp of its predecessor in favor of songs centering around death and fate. ...And Justice for All is arguably the darkest and most serious album they ever made, shedding all of the youthful rebellion of their first three records in favor of songs addressing serious topics like The Cold War ("Blackened"), spousal abuse ("Harvester of Sorrow" - which is probably the darkest song the band has ever written), dementia ("Frayed Ends of Sanity"), and the death of bassist Cliff Burton ("To Live Is to Die"). While they certainly went in a Lighter and Softer direction with their music during the 1990s, ReLoad was decidedly darker and more sinister-sounding than the comparably upbeat Metallica and Load. In the 2000s, the band returned to the darkness of their 1980s material with St. Anger and Death Magnetic.
  • Megadeth's return to thrash metal from The System Has Failed onwards has been this, with Mustaine revamping his singing style into a snarling, spitting style, and going for heavier, less speed-oriented metal. His lyrics are almost exclusively political now. Th1rt3en took them back in a more radio-friendly direction, which was further expanded on with Super Collider.
  • Anthrax on Persistence of Time. They continued with Sound of White Noise, then gradually declined with the remaining three John Bush albums. 'Worship Music'' is an almost complete return to the campiness of the band's eighties albums.
  • Iced Earth played this trope straight with Burnt Offerings, which band leader Jon Schaffer admits was due in no small part to his growing frustration with label Century Media.
  • A Romantic era example: compare Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's somewhat syrupy Romeo and Juliet ballet suite to Sergei Prokofiev's rather darker take on the story.
  • Skillet's Alien Youth and Collide albums marked a shift from their initial Alternative Rock/Electronica sound to a more Heavy Metal-oriented one.
  • Delta Goodrem: Went from dealing with some hopeful innocent themes and young love dilemma's (Not Me Not I), kissing the wrong guy (My Big Mistake), and wanting to be free (Predictable) in Innocent Eyes, with a soft fresh piano focused sound to dealing with issues within her friendships/close circle (Nobody Listened), issues with her own mortality (Extraordinary Day), issues with being a celebrity (Electric Storm), issues with being The Insomniac (The Analyst) and having a general crisis of identity in (Mistaken Identity), with a jazz-rock-classical piano-based contemporary songwriter pop soundtrack, and occasional screaming, ranting, random phrases and the such.
  • Power metal band Kamelot took this tack with their 2010 release, "Poetry for the Poisoned." The band has been tactfully reticent about details but there are hints, readable between the lines, that this is the reason for their former vocalist Roy Khan's departure.
  • Epica zigzagged this trope a bit with 2 straight albums. Their 2009 release "Design Your Universe" was, musically speaking, the darkest, heaviest, and most intense of their works as of 2012, but had arguably the most optimistic and uplifting lyrical message. Their 2012 release "Requiem for the Indifferent," by contrast, lightened up the compositions and went in a more prog-metal direction but took on a condemning, accusatory lyrical tone that decried the injustices of modern society and the inaction of those who could make a difference.
  • Lamb of God had always been known to deliver some already dark, heavy and intense albums, like "Ashes In The Wake" and "Wrath", but then they managed to one-up themselves with 2012's "Resolution", which resulted in both some of their darkest songs ever, (Such as "King Me", "Ghost Walking", "Insurrection" and the bonus track "Bury Me Under The Sun") and some of Randy Blythe's most insane and intense vocals (Most notably "King Me", which featured different styles of singing, such as spoken word, the basic grows and Randy's screams of insanity and rage towards the end.) Basically, they did what Pantera did with The Great Southern Trendkill.
  • Metal band Ill Nino's fifth album Dead New World featured a much more aggressive sound than their previous works, with more frequent and angry harsh vocals (with the exception of a couple songs), louder production, heavier riffs, darker subject matter, and less Latin influence. And this is from the same band who put out an album 7 years earlier that was basically a slightly harder version of early Linkin Park.
  • Kelly Clarkson may have gone in a decidedly harder and more rock-oriented direction on Breakaway, but her follow-up My December played this trope completely straight. It had a crunchier guitar sound, Clarkson's angriest vocal performance to date and some truly scathing lyrics in certain songs. Enough that many pop radio stations pulled lead single "Never Again" from rotation just a couple weeks after release. The decision to make such an album stemmed from Clarkson's exhaustion from constantly touring, several bad relationships, and her growing frustration with her manager. After many fans and critics complained about this change in tone, Clarkson for the most part returned to lighter and more upbeat pop music on her next two albums.
  • The "Outlaw Country" subgenre of Country Music that was popular from the 1960s to the early 1980s was darker and edgier than the more clean-cut and family friendly "Nashville sound" mainstream country music. Outlaw country musicians such as David Allan Coe, Merle Haggard, and Waylon Jennings had long hair, beards, and dressed in denim jeans and work shirts rather than rhinestone-covered stage outfits that mainstream country artists were fond of. Outlaw country songs frequently dealt with subjects like alcoholism, failed relationships, poverty, and other subjects that many blue-collar Americans could identify with. Outlaw country was sometimes called "Texas country" because many outlaw country musicians came from Texas instead of Tennessee.
  • The Band Perry's second album has a much harder rock edge than their first. "Better Dig Two" is a definitely darker song than almost anything on their first album, and "DONE." is by far their hardest song yet.
  • Gary Numan tried real hard to make it big in the pop music sphere during the 80s and early 90s, which didn't really pan out. After the failure of 1992's Machine+Soul, he turned to a darker, heavier sound with 1994's Sacrifice and has continued in that direction since then.
  • Def Leppard's 1996 album Slang showcased a more organic, darker musical style and subject matter, fueled by personal turmoil in the band members' lives, express themselves more honestly and by their willingness to experiment with new sounds and acknowledge the 1990's Alternative Rock movement. It was their first album since their debut On Through the Night not to be produced by Robert John "Mutt" Lange.
  • When Faith No More were quoted as saying "People are going to hate our new album" prior to the release of Angel Dust in 1992, they were not mincing words. Fans of the upbeat Funk Metal sound of The Real Thing were in for a shock to discover their much-anticipated follow-up to be filled with minor chords, Doom Metal riffs, circus and funeral organs, subject matter even more disturbing than before (third world starvation, explicit gay sex, drug-induced psychopathy, and what reads like a deranged man's suicide note), and Mike Patton exchanging his nerdy Alternative Rock vocals for a combination of gothic crooning and over-the-top screams. Also greeted with images of a slaughterhouse upon opening the album packaging.
  • Tlot Tlot are kind of a reversal of this trope: they started out as a post-punk band called Man in the Wood in 1986 and changed their name and style in 1991.
  • Future Perfect's third album, After the Fall, took a darker turn from their first two albums, both instrumentally and lyrically; e.g. "Protect and Survive" is about an impending nuclear strike on Britain.
  • With her second album, Siberia, the once cheerful Lights has taken a noticeably angstier turn. The album after, Little Machines went back in a lighter direction.
  • Vincent Price's 1977 cover of the light-hearted novelty song "The Monster Mash", which had a more sinister melody and also had the sound of a woman screaming near the end.
  • Aqua's reunion album Megalomania has a much more serious tone than the bubblegum Europop their earlier work was defined by.
  • Tom Shear's Surveillance side project is this to his Assemblage 23 material.
  • Information Society's Don't Be Afraid, which dabbled in Dark Wave and EBM sounds, was considerably darker than any material that came before or after.
  • Synthwave master Lazerhawk has shifted to a more gothic mood on his third album, Skull and Shark. The cover art is the first giveaway at this, depicting a hawk/eagle with a human skull for a head and an inverted cross on its breast.
  • "Dio vi salvi Regina", Corsica's national anthem, is considered one of the saddest national anthems due to its tone and the lyrics. The one of the lines (In un mar di dolore, E d'amarezza) describes Corsica being surrounded by a "sea of pain and bitterness" which refers to the troubled past of the island.
  • Of all the Seattle grunge-era bands, Alice in Chains were this compared to the other three bands from the "Big 4", with a lot of their music arguably qualifying as Doom Metal. But this trope even applies to the band's discography, as they got much heavier with each release; their predecessors Alice 'n' Chainz were pure Glam Rock in the vein of Poison. The first incarnation of the current Alice in Chains was Glam Metal in the vein of Guns N' Roses, and their debut album Facelift took it even further, with a much heavier sound clearly in Heavy Metal territory, but still very glam. The album that followed, 1992's Dirt, was a far bigger transition, with the music being their first attempts at doom metal and the lyrics focused on war, death, depression, and especially heroin addiction. Their 1995 self titled album took this trope Up to Eleven, being easily one of the darkest, most depressing albums ever released into mainstream. The band's latest material, with Wiliam DuVall having replaced the late Layne Staley on vocals, has still kept the tradition going.
  • The Jonas Brothers, who were sponsored by The Disney Channel, made their career singing clean and chaste love songs aimed at young girls. After they faded into obscurity, Nick Jonas and Joe Jonas started careers of their own. Nick became an R&B star and Joe formed DNCE, a disco-funk-pop band. While not really darker sonically, lyrically they're much more explicit. With obvious sexual themes and swearing throughout, they've separated themselves from the Jonas Brothers in more ways than one since splitting from Disney.
  • If a boy band lasts more than a few years, they generally become frustrated with the limited Tastes Like Diabetes material they are spoon-fed in their early career and want to pursue a more grown up sound with darker and more introspective lyrics and more aggressive instrumentation, sometimes played by themselves as they strive to prove they have genuine talent.
  • Erasure went in this direction with World Be Gone (2017), which has a harder, angstier, almost Depeche Mode-esque vibe.
  • Necronomidol is an idol group whose imagery and sounds are influenced by Black Metal, occultism, horror manga and H. P. Lovecraft's books. Their lyrics are mostly about despair, sacrifices, terror, eldritch abominations etc. like any respectable dark metal band. It doesn't get much darker than this in idol-land!
  • DragonForce: The album Ultra Beatdown was the turning point. The music was pretty much the same upbeat power-metal as always, but the lyrics veered away from the usual themes of blood, fire, steel, honor and dragons, to focus on things like suicide, separation, mid-life crisis and death angst.
  • Psytrance and tech trance are darker subgenres under the trance umbrella, with the former combining Mind Screw with dance music and the latter utilizing its techno influences by way of using harder, dirtier and more synthesized sounds than other trance subgenres, especially compared to the much Lighter and Softer uplifting.
  • British dance rock quintet EMF hit the mainstream with their 1991 single Unbelievable, and had more hits domestically as part of the Madchester/baggy scene, but when the grunge wave reshaped the alternative rock charts in the early 1990s, EMF attempted to keep up with a sample-free, darker sophomore album (1993's "Stigma") that went nowhere. YouTube music reviewer Todd in the Shadows invoked this trope in his One Hit Wonderland episode on EMF, noting that on Behind the Music, a darker, more adult album from an "allegedly lightweight act" is "generally the 2/3rds mark of the episode when things start going bad, and EMF was no exception, because who the hell wanted a darker EMF?"
  • VNV Nation, following the Lighter and Softer Automatic and Transnational, swung back in the dark direction with the aptly named Noire.
  • Synthwave artist FM Attack strongly exhibits this trope with New World, especially the three collaborations with Vandal Moon that edge towards Dark Wave territory.
  • On her 2019 tour, Amanda Palmer went to some fairly dark places in her speeches to the audience — par for the course for her. But then, at the end of the show, she performed a cover of "Let It Go" that was completely unexpected and made perfect sense in context, and managed to be dark and heartbreaking while also being heartwarming and uplifting.
  • Although The Caretaker was quite dark and horror-inspired when it started, it became much bleaker after Kirby decided to incorporate ideas about amnesia and dementia, culminating into the literal aural equivalent of losing one's mind.
  • While not too dark and edgy and still light-hearted, the Jason Donovan album "All Around the World" is more serious and mature than his previous three albums.
    • His rendition of the song "Close Every Door" is darker than his other songs he performed.
    • The music video of the song "RSVP" has a darker and mature feel, but the song itself has the same clean-cut tone.
  • Boards of Canada's second album, Geogaddi, compared to the debut, Music Has The Right To Children. Also, Tomorrow's Harvest compared to The Campfire Headphase.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: