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Disturbed - 'Asylum' Review

Disturbed Deliver Solid, Predictable Fifth Album

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Disturbed - 'Asylum'

Photo courtesy Reprise.
Disturbed’s fifth studio effort, Asylum, finds the Chicago group flexing their muscles, producing another collection of easily digestible alt-metal songs. But a sense of familiarity hangs heavy over these 12 tracks, keeping the album from feeling truly groundbreaking. Disturbed’s fans probably won’t care that Asylum doesn’t deviate significantly from the sound of the band’s earlier records, but it results in an album that’s more of a holding action than a bold step forward.

'Indestructible Part II'

As with the band’s last record, 2008’s platinum-selling Indestructible, Disturbed guitarist Dan Donegan produced Asylum. And like the previous record, Asylum concentrates its firepower on radio-ready tunes that expertly balance melody and metal riffs, creating compact, muscular songs that are all about their slick, accessible aggression. In this way, Disturbed recall Metallica’s tuneful 1990s when that Bay Area band toned down the musical complexity for straight-ahead rock songs. But for such a strategy to work, Asylum needs to be an unrelenting arsenal of undeniable hits, and that’s where the trouble starts.

Social Ills and Broken Hearts

Two major lyrical tenets inform Asylum: an attack on political/social ills and an investigation of lead singer David Draiman’s relationship problems. So it’s fitting that the album’s first two singles touch upon those topics. “Another Way to Die” starts with a slow melodic burn before eventually exploding into a cacophony of guitar fury, while Draiman decries environmental destruction. As for the title track, it strongly resembles Indestructible’s big hit, “Inside the Fire,” with its fierce, head-banging attack, opening the door for Draiman to lay bare his broken heart. Both singles have clear hooks and an ear-pleasing sheen, but as with Asylum overall, you can’t escape the nagging realization that these songs’ tactics have been incorporated before, and better, on earlier Disturbed songs. (Depressingly, Draiman still hasn’t let go of his shtick where he laughs like a demented sociopath, which gets progressively less convincing as he gets older.) Younger fans may dig these Asylum tracks because they’re not familiar with the Disturbed canon, but diehard supporters may be struck by a sense of déjà vu.

Going for the Melodramatic

At Asylum’s weakest, Disturbed resort to melodramatic tricks for emotional effects. Opening with the sounds of a crying baby, “My Child” barrels headlong into a story about the narrator’s anguish over the death of his unborn child. Undoubtedly it’s a heartfelt tale, but Draiman so overdoes the angst in his bellowed vocals that it comes across as exploitative rather than devastating. And on tracks like “Sacrifice” and “Crucified,” the band pull out musty old metaphors to describe the dissolution of a love affair. A lot of metal bands can be accused of being humorless, but Disturbed undercut that criticism when they whip out melodically assured hits. But on Asylum’s filler tracks, they get mired in generic “darkness.”

Strong Songs in Need of Reinforcements

Still, Asylum brings the goods consistently enough to keep you engaged. “Never Again” is a forthright attack on the Holocaust, but it also takes aim at Holocaust deniers and those who refuse to believe such bigotry still exists. And “The Infection” is solid mainstream metal, merging angry guitars and Draiman’s soulful vocals for a tale of bad love that’s compared to a debilitating disease. As for “The Animal,” Disturbed again take a page from Metallica, writing their own song about a werewolf, and while the subject matter is more than a bit dopey, the quartet’s taut musicianship plows over any such caveats. Despite one’s reservations about Asylum’s lack of stunning moments, there’s no question Disturbed still know how to deliver propulsive, catchy rock songs. If only there were more on this record.

'Asylum' - Best Tracks:

“Asylum” (Purchase/Download)
“Another Way to Die” (Purchase/Download)
“Never Again” (Purchase/Download)
“The Infection” (Purchase/Download)
“The Animal” (Purchase/Download)

Release date – August 31, 2010
Reprise Records

Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publicist. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.

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