Disturbed Galvanize Their Sound For Indestructible

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

While it's inevitable for everyone, age is almost invariably least kind to metal bands. Because the music is so (some would say proudly) aggressive and the players that make it undergo such spectacular exertions making it, it shouldn't be surprising that the shelf life of the average group that indulges in the kamikaze sound of screaming youth and/or screaming out their demons night after night and record after record is significantly limited. The truth is that, after a while, metal and hard rock bands need to change their sound – even if ever so slightly – to survive. Don't think it's true? There is no shortage of examples – Limp Bizkit burned out when the band proved it couldn't sustain itself, Monster Magnet has been in limbo for years as have The Deftones and Powerman 5000. Korn has attempted to alter their sound in order to remain vital with limited results, but the enduring rulers of the metal roost (acts like Ozzy Osbourne, Rob Zombie and Mike Patton) have enjoyed celebrated careers that have been marked by sound renovation; in order to remain on top, they don't cling to old glories, they endeavor to make new ones and don't necessarily rely upon sounds that will show their age. When they entered the studio to record their fourth studio album in 2008, Disturbed found themselves in a similar situation to those aforementioned bands; the band had made its mark with such new rock radio staples as “Down With The Sickness,” “Stupify,” “Prayer” and “Land Of Confusion,” had been featured in films including Queen Of The Damned, had a mascot designed by Spawn creator Todd McFarlane and won a legion of devoted fans (paraphrased in the title of their third long-player, Ten Thousand Fists) on their marathon touring regimen. Even with all of those hard-won victories on the books, as time neared to record their fourth record, Disturbed knew they needed a change, and they knew that in order to pull it off, they'd have to do it with a delicacy most fans wouldn't necessarily equate with their music. “When we came off the road in early 2007, we started writing almost immediately because, at the time, my wife was having our second child and Mike [Wengren –ed], our drummer, was getting married right around the same time as my wife’s due date around June 2007,” explains guitarist Dan Donegan as he lays out the route that Disturbed took for Indestructible. “We really wanted to get a lot of the music written before that point so that was the plan.

“We did take a lot of time with these songs, but we've always worked in a similar fashion to what we did for Indestructible,” continues the guitarist. “We have to get in a room and when we’re coming up with the ideas, it has to be something that moves the four of us – something that we all feel good about – and there isn’t any consideration regarding whether or not it’ll be a success at radio or successful with fans or the label, we just do what feels natural to us. The only ones that we’re really trying to impress is ourselves, so we’re always trying to up our game and out-do ourselves and we push each other to make sure that each guy steps up his performance each time.

“We try to do that with every song we write – not just album-by-album, but song-by-song – we are always looking to get a different vibe into it or something we haven’t done.”

While it's unmistakable that Indestructible is still the work of the band that once gazed upon its own image and noted how violently it had changed [check the lyric sheet to “Down With The Sickness” for that story –ed], that perceived difference is nothing compared to the one that listeners will find in Indestructible's dozen tracks. First (and most significantly as it proves to be the counterbalance that weighs the instrumental parts) is the difference in singer David Draiman's lyric sheets and the delivery of them; where once Draiman would regularly begin a song already in the throes of anger and progress until he'd be literally ranting and railing at his subjects, this time his meter and delivery are more tempered; his vocals on tracks like “Enough,” “Criminal” and “Façade” are still very muscular and imposing in their delivery, but there is a firm base in them that doesn't allow the singer to fly off the handle or apart at the seams. Likewise, the rest of the band follows suit and churns out rough and ready backdrops for the singer but, unlike on albums (and singles) previous, there is no ebb and flow to the album – they simply bring their best, hardest riffs every time with no runaway tracks, just all killer and no filler. With that sort of galvanized execution, a case could be made for this album being the best-rounded that the band has released to date as they've figured out a way to evolve without losing the core elements of their sound. Without meaning to sound trite, this album is absolutely deserving of the title Indestructible; this sound is sustainable and will keep Disturbed's core audience not just satiated but clamoring for more.

But does that mean the band has closed the book on those songs and albums that caused so many fans to flock to their banner in the first place? According to Donegan, there is still a place in Disturbed's set lists for a little “Sickness” and stupification, and there always will be. “We understand that, when we’re on stage, there are going to be some songs that our fans expect us to play and there’s older stuff that we like to play because it’s still a highlight for us,” says Donegan, even-toned. “They’re still going to hear “Down With The Sickness” and “Stupify” and some earlier material from us and surprisingly, those songs are still exciting for me to play personally after all these years. A lot of that has to do with the way that the crowd reacts when they hear them and so I haven’t gotten sick of them; I always sort of dreaded the idea that, someday, we’d reach a point where I’d be sick and tired of playing “Down With The Sickness” or some of those other earlier songs , but I don’t – they always  get a big crowd reaction and that’s what makes them still fun to play.

“That’s what keeps it exciting,” continues the guitarist, ruminating, “and, why wouldn’t we play what they want to hear? They’re coming out to the show, paying money for a ticket wanting to hear some of those highlights that they expect and we like giving that to them.

“It has gotten easier to mix it up a little more now too; between the four albums, we pick and choose – we do pick some of the obvious ones, but then we throw in the odd one or two that no one would expect every now and then – to put together a really solid set and it’s really great that we’ve got enough out there now that we’re able to do that.” 

Judging by the band's confirmed itinerary, Disturbed will be doing “that” for the better part of the rest of the year too. Shortly after the new year, the band once again hit to the road in support of Indestructible and, outside of the odd two-week reprieve, they'll be out on a globe-trotting tour until early July which, according to Donegan, is just how Disturbed likes it. “Once we’re out touring and supporting a new CD, we like to stay out,” explains the guitarist with iron resolve. “We like being on the road and, when we’re home for too long, all of us start to really miss it. So we’re trying to avoid that; we come home for a couple of weeks periodically, but now we’re excited to be back out and playing again. This time out behind Indestructible has been really, really good too; the first single we put out, “Inside The Fire,” took off in a really big way – it broke the Active Rock chart for the most weeks at number one – and the fans seem to be really excited about it. We did get some feedback and the people we heard from were really excited and waiting for new material and, when it did come out, it ended up being our third number one album in a row in the States.

“It’s really good to know that we’ve built that fan base up over the years and they always keep an eye to see what’s going on with us; they know when we’ve got new material out and they’re out there buying it the week it comes out. It’s nice to see too that when we come out on the  road and we start playing the new material that I can see  the fans in the crowd already familiar with the new stuff – singing some of the lyrics back to us and things like that. That shows that they’re connecting with the new material and that’s good to know.”


Indestructible[Buy it on]

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