DISTURBED – Evolution

After a four-year hiatus that started in 2011, American metal-heads Disturbed made a major comeback with the album Immortalized (2015). The hiatus was in order as the album Asylum (2010) sounded a bit tired and like the band was running on empty but back in 2011 no one knew if it was just a hiatus or if there would be a permanent split. Well, luckily enough it wasn’t a split and Immortalized proved that the time off had done the band good. Instead of keeping repeating themselves like they did on Asylum, the band broadened their sound and threw in both Pop and Melodic Rock influences into their sound without losing their brand at all. Disturbed has always been big doing covers mostly by non Metal or Hard Rock acts with a pretty good result but when I saw that the cover in question was Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Sound Of Silence”, I thought they were in over their heads – this was a tune they just couldn’t get away with doing.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. Against all odds, Disturbed did a phenomenal version of the song, a version so good that even the two creators of the song gave it their thumbs up. It also showed what a fantastic singer David Draiman actually is. I was totally floored by that version and apparently, so was the rest of the world as well – the song became a huge hit everywhere and made the album a big success, both sales wise and critically. Of course, there will come a time when that success have to be followed up, not the easiest task when you sit on such a global hit – especially when you didn’t write the song yourself. The best thing to do is to just let the juices flow and write what you like, don’t give a shit and don’t give in to powers that wants you to make your last album 2.0. But in many cases, that’s exactly what bands do – and it never works. So I was more than intrigued to find out which way Disturbed had chosen.

Disturbed kick off the album with the leading single “Are You Ready”, an upbeat, fat, big-grooved classic sounding Disturbed belter. But on top of the classic riffing lies a keyboard that gives the tune a twist of Melodic Rock and there’s also a Pop vibe on the chorus that gives the song a memorable and catchy punch. As a single-choice, it’s quite obvious and should bring on some big quantities of airplay. It’s a really good song and as an opener, it’s spot on. “No More” is an uptempo, heavy and rough Metal track. It’s quite in-your-face and ballsy with a refrain that holds a very poppy feel, not a far cry from the poppier moments on the last record. A great song with lots of hooks. Latest single “A Reason To Fight” is a slow, soft ballad that start acoustically but soon turns into a bona fide power ballad with a gorgeous arrangement and a pompous sound scape, clearly influenced by the success of “The Sound Of Silence”. It’s a killer tune with a huge hit-feel. Disturbed going for a power ballad! Who would have thought?

“In Another Time” comes with heaviness and an aggressive groove in the verses very much in the vein of the classic Disturbed sound but the chorus is a bit softer with a very radio-friendly hook and it sounds more like a band like Hinder than what we’re used from Disturbed. However, the contrasts marries fine and despite it’s quite easy to guess it’s a deliberate nod to Rock radio, I surrender to the tune’s catchiness. A very good song indeed. “Stronger On Your Own” is darker and heavier and holds a slower pace and even though it’s very melodic with a pop-laden refrain, it’s also distorted and quite punky and it’s equally as much about attitude as it is about melody – very good. “Hold On To Memories” is a slow tune, based on acoustic guitars and is a bit on the folky side, not unlike Heart in the 70’s. It speeds up some when the rest of the instruments comes in but it never gets fast. The main melody is memorable, the chorus catchy but it’s not written for radio airplay at all. Great!

“Saviour Of Nothing” is a mid-tempo hard rocker with big riffs, a big punch and a headbang-friendly beat. It do holds a decent melody but it’s also quite forgettable and saved by the instrumental passage mid-ways through. It’s ok but underwhelming. “Watch You Burn” is an uptempo, swinging, Classic Rock influenced half-ballad that holds a Led Zeppelin influenced string arrangement and a very catchy refrain and vocal melody. The vocal melody does sounds like Disturbed all the way but musically not so much. It’s a new approach from this gang and I think it works well, I really dig the tune. “The Best Ones Lie” is a heavy and aggressive Metal blaster and the song that’s the most classic Disturbed sounding on the record. The chorus is really distinct and punchy but still with lots of hooks – very good. They close the album with “Already Gone”, a slow, taciturn and delicate ballad. It’s quite soft, emotional and beautiful with a string arr. that makes the tune quite bombastic as well – a good tune, but not spectacular.

For the deluxe version we get a live version of “The Sound Of Silence” with Myles Kennedy (Alter Bridge, Slash) guesting on vocals. As Kennedy and Draiman got very different voices and styles of singing, there’s a contrast in there which brings on another kind of dynamics but they do it so well. A very good version. “The Venom” is a newie and it’s a quite aggressive, groove-laden Metal stomper with a dark and industrial vibe, very riff-happy and ballsy. It’s a classic sounding Disturbed tune with a beefy, catchy refrain. Good one. “Are You Ready (Sam de Jong remix)” is a mechanical, synthesized remix something I really can do without. Useless! “Uninvited Guest” is another new tune that starts out acoustically and stripped but beefs up and goes orchestrated with strings, keyboards and guitars, bass and drums. Big, pompous and bombastic with a memorable refrain. Very good. I’m still not sure if I think it’s worth the extra green though.

One thing that stands pretty clear here is that Disturbed has with the huge success of the last album got the taste of blood and they want more. While the album do sounds like Disturbed it also tries out new ways where Pop and Melodic Hard Rock have snuck its way into their sound – and lots of ballads. A complete sell-out? Not quite but it’s easy to hear that commercial thinking is present and many songs do come with a more rock-radio-friendly elements that goes for a more easy-listening outlook. And then there’s all the ballads and slow songs. This is a band that is known for being heavy and aggressive and ballads have never been part of their DNA. Well it is now. Sure, they’re good but it’s a bit too obvious. Producer Kevin Churko (Hinder, Ozzy, Five Finger Death Punch, Halestorm, Papa Roach – but also Britney Spears, Celine Dion and Shania Twain) was onboard for the last album which without a doubt helped them into more Pop territories and he’s clearly been an even bigger input here. I’m not gonna slam this album because I actually think it’s really good but I must admit I prefer the band that gave us Ten Thousand Fists, Indestructible and yes, Immortalized. A good album but a bit too mainstream American radio Rock!

6/10

Tracklist:

1. Are You Ready
2. No More
3. A Reason To Fight
4. In Another Time
5. Stronger On Your Own
6. Hold On To Memories
7. Saviour Of Nothing
8. Watch You Burn
9. The Best Ones Lie
10. Already Gone

Deluxe Edition
11. The Sound Of Silence (live, feat. Myles Kennedy)
12. This Venom
13. Are You Ready (Sam de Jong remix)
14. Uninvited Guest

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