For a lot of musicians, the idea of genre labels seems fairly limiting. As much as a word like rock might suit your music very well, it can also get pretty confining when you're expected to write the same style of song from one album to the next. You tend to feel a bit restless, and these artists were more than willing to buck their own trends.
Risking career suicide in the process, these albums marked a sea change for the bands that made them, either being a completely different shift into a new sound or trying out a new experiment that they weren't even sure would work. Oftentimes, these kind of things fall on their face and get laughed at when end of the year lists come around, and yet these turned into the weird second wind that these artists needed.
As much as this was a new look for each of these bands, they still look amazing doing these different stripes of genres as well, proving that there was a lot more at work than just the gimmicks that made them popular in the first place. Then again, sometimes you need a shakeup to prove to yourself that you're more than just a flash in the pan.
10. The Nightwatchman
If you looked at a gig done by someone called the Nightwatchman, you're probably not expecting something like Cannibal Corpse or anything. When you have a band name like that, people normally expect that kind of tried and true folksy sound that becomes popular in the odd coffeehouse every now and again. That's pretty much what we have on our hands...except it's one of the greatest guitarists of the modern age.
Aside from his stints in Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave, the Nightwatchman is a folksy side project for Tom Morello, which ends up going over a lot smoother than you'd probably expect. Though the mind bending tone effects of something like Rage is virtually rendered obsolete with an acoustic guitar, the pointed lyrical subject matter hasn't changed all that much, with Morello having as much venom for injustice as he did in the early days.
Even his delivery seems to be less like a proper singer and more like an activist, as if these songs are meant to be chanted by millions of fans during a political rally of some sort. It actually makes a lot more sense than you realize. Long before we even had stuff like hard rock, artists like Woody Guthrie were using their acoustics to speak out, so why not have the new generation throw their hat into the ring?