This month we celebrate the 10th birthday of what many fans now see as Low's defining statement, The Great Destroyer. It's rare that a single album signals a big shift in sound for any band, and it takes a pretty brave artist to turn their backs on a signature sound, especially one as distinctive as Low's. Luckily, they are a band with seemingly endless reserves of courage.

Low's career can be loosely divided into two halves: pre- and post-The Great Destroyer. It's the album on which they shed their slowcore credentials in favour of an often raucous full-band sound, produced by the legendary Dave Fridmann (of Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev and The Delgados fame), presumably with everything turned up to at least 11. Yes, Low's previous albums had contained energetic moments - in particular 'Canada' and 'The Last Snowstorm of the Year' from the under-appreciated Trust (2002). And the albums that followed it have seen a partial return to their trademark mix of delicacy and menace (see 'Murderer' from 2007's Drums and Guns). But The Great Destroyer marks a point where, after the slow build of tension that so defined their earlier records, they finally let loose, and executed one of the most radical sound-changes of recent times. It is a cathartic, exuberant and often brutal record, which proved both divisive and decisive to their fans.

This catharsis is palpable on rockers like 'Monkey' and the barely-restrained 'Everybody's Song', perhaps the strongest and certainly the most primal outbursts on the record. The latter is where Fridmann stamps his mark, with that thunderous drum sound (as previously heard on The Flaming Lips' 'Race for the Prize') coming to the fore. But what really intrigues about The Great Destroyer are the unexpected moments of sonic dissonance. Where previously you could expect a Low song to play out like a lullaby (albeit a creepy one), this album is mainly comprised of shattering wake-up calls. 'Step' sees a funky chorus swiftly engulfed by thundering distortion, and 'When I Go Deaf's ruminations on aging are indexed by a gatecrashing guitar solo of gargantuan proportions. That's not to say there aren't gorgeous moments on The Great Destroyer, because there are many, including the sweet harmonies that permeate 'California's stop-start pop nous, and the stately brush-strokes of melody winding through the comparatively sedate 'Silver Rider'.

There were changes lyrically too: a preoccupation with time and ageing is established and sustained, with time frequently referred to as the titular 'Great Destroyer', which "leaves every child a bastard." "When it finally takes us over / I hope we float away together" is a key line from closer 'Walk Into The Sea'. But there is more at work here than worry or fear; there is humour, acceptance (see 'When I Go Deaf') and courage. There's a sense that Low have come to terms with what time has in store for them: that they are ready to face the changes that come with age. On 'In Metal' (from 2001's Things We Lost in the Fire), Mimi Sparhawk sings of her daughter Hollis Mae, "wish I could keep your little body in metal." On The Great Destroyer, Hollis lends her own vocals to the verses of 'Step'. It's a small appearance, but a significant one; it suggests that preservation - of a time, and indeed of their signature sound - is no longer so important to Low. It is a bold step forward, and one they haven't really looked back from since.

The Great Destroyer divided critics at the time: The Sunday Times gave it 5 stars and called it 'their best album'; Pitchfork called it 'a misstep' and awarded it a paltry 5.5/10. With the benefit of hindsight, it's easy to call this a watershed moment for Low. It is easily one of their best collections, and should stand as an example to other bands of how to change your sound without having to change your principles.


Five More Bands That Changed It Up:

Radiohead
Kid A's unsettling downtempo electronica was a conscious step away from OK Computer's skyscraping guitars; Amnesiac confirmed that there would be no going back. The irresistible 'Like Spinning Plates' was typical of this woozy, anxious period. Live album I Might Be Wrong re-interpreted songs from both albums to thrillingly chaotic effect, uncovering a pop sensibility that has never truly disappeared.

Blur
Having painted themselves into a Barratt Homes corner with the ironically-titled The Great Escape, Blur's next, self-titled album demonstrated a new love of distortion. 'Song 2' was the obvious standout; 'You're So Great' was a lo-fi gem; 'Essex Dogs' was the mumbling, dissonant coda. 13 continued down the same road with arguably even more potent results.

The White Stripes
Elephant was as big as its title suggested, and remains one the most lovable rock albums of this generation. Get Behind Me Satan was a creepy, marimba-infused slow burner which seems destined to slip through the cracks, though it did contain the incandescent 'Blue Orchid'. There was a partial return to the old ways on Icky Thump, which proved their final studio album.

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
With The Birthday Party and the Bad Seeds, Cave established a reputation as a hell-fire toting potential danger to society. The Boatman's Call, then, was something of a surprise, albeit an extremely pleasant one: a graceful suite of tender piano ballads, featuring the astonishing 'People Ain't No Good' (memorably put to later use in Shrek). 'Brompton Oratory' is a strong contender for his most devastating lyric.

The Beach Boys
How does a band get from Surfin' Safari to Pet Sounds in just four years? God Only Knows.