Disturbed are one of those bands. You’re not exactly cutting edge for liking them, but you know you could like far worse. Don’t get me started on that though. The thing is, they have a fan base, and a loyal fan base at that. There’s no doubt that Disturbed‘s albums, ‘Asylum’ being their fifth in ten years, please that very loyal fan base. What the band lack though, despite their survival of the late 90s/early 00s nu-metal scene is a sense of progress and development. They might not do that weird vocal thing from ‘Down With The Sickness’ and other ‘hits’ as much now, but they haven’t added a whole lot of anything to their repertoire. Unfortunately, while being as serviceable and consistent as Disturbed have been over the course of this first decade of the 21st century, ‘Asylum’ does nothing to change this.
At track one you’d be forgiven for thinking it did though. It opens with a swirling, broody instrumental titled ‘Remants’, apparently initially beginning of the title track, which it precedes, for the very metal reason of, uh, potential radio play. Before the album’s release, vocalist David Draiman said that while the album hits some familiar notes, it demonstrates some maturity. And fans of the band would likely point to ‘Asylum’ (consequences of the death of a loved one), first single ‘Another Way To Die’ (global warming, three years too late, but thanks for trying boys) and ‘Never Again’ (the holocaust) as examples of this. While conceptually they are writing about more stimulating topics than they were on the incredibly popular debut ‘The Sickness’, the problem is they are still not expressed especially subtly. It probably doesn’t help that they share a disc with the likes of ‘Serpentine’ (a demon woman using sex to prey on men) and ‘The Animal’ (WEREWOLVES!). This is admittedly a problem for many bands in mainstream metal, but that doesn’t make it a free pass for elder statesmen of the genre who are in a financial position to try something different.
However, Disturbed aren’t especially known for their verbose poetry, and many of their fans are not known for their appreciation of verbose poetry. They do meet their target market’s desire for pounding drums, chugging riffs, melodic choruses and momentary breakdowns. Draiman‘s trademark rhythmic singing style is as memorable as ever too. That’s the thing though, it’s musically sound. It’s not even what you’d call bad, in fact it’s quite good, and if you’re a fan you might even call it great. If you strip away the context discussed at the beginning of this review, ‘Asylum’ is a perfectly good and straight-forward nearly-metal album. It’s just when you’re a popular band releasing an album pretty much every other year, it’s not okay to just do the same thing over and over. The big names like Metallica at least have changed it up over the years. They have had some clangers (ahem ‘St. Anger’), but it’s a much more admirable approach to a music career.
Overall then, ‘Asylum’ may well hit the spot, that is if you have a spot that is hit by Disturbed‘s usual form of melodic hard rock adorned with metal riffs. If however from your bands you want more of the same with something extra; a hint of progress, something new that potentially makes your adored music even better, this is probably not for you. I’m sure Disturbed could make the same album another five times and do just fine, and financially this might be enough, but this sound, especially as we go into another decade is starting to go from overdone to plain stagnant, and Disturbed should aim to expand creatively to ensure they remain relevant come 2011 and beyond.
Written by Paul Smith