One of the sillier debates in rock music involves pointless arguments about whether certain bands should be classified as “hard rock” or “metal,” as if a group must swear allegiance to only one musical subgenre and thereafter never mix styles. Disturbed are one such band that fall into the grey area between the two genres, and on their new album Indestructible, they demonstrate that whether you want to label them as rock or hard rock or metal, the only thing that matters is that the music they make is compelling. And in this regard, there can be no argument.
The Kings of Alternative Metal
Moving away from the more head-banging tendencies of their earlier albums, such as 2000’s The Sickness
, Disturbed play up their interest in melody and experimentation on Indestructible
, crafting song after song of rhythmically heavy rock. There’s no question that the band’s sound doesn’t make for easy categorization: It’s too propulsive and angry to fit alongside the mid-tempo introspection of rock but too multidimensional in its approach to be confused with metal’s demanding strictures. If ever a group deserved to be called alternative metal
, it’s Disturbed, and with Indestructible
, the quartet’s take on familiar topics, such as hypocrisy and suicide, is as fresh and innovative as their musical playbook.
Frontman David Draiman Leads the Charge
Although the band’s tight, assaultive style shines on Indestructible – particularly Dan Donegan’s switchblade guitars – the album’s MVP is frontman David Draiman. Indeed, his fluid singing style highlights how original Disturbed are in their approach. Rather than relying on fire-and-brimstone bellowing or indecipherable shrieks, Draiman is unafraid to simply sing. Even when the lyrics sometimes lapse into petty diatribes, his phrasing adds a soulfulness to the proceedings. A superb example of this is “Haunted,” which begins with John Moyer’s creepy bass riffs but then opens up to allow for Draiman’s pained cries of disillusionment and broken faith. Too often, hard rock fans measure lead singers’ effectiveness solely by how enraged they sound, but Draiman proves throughout Indestructible that a frontman doesn’t need to constantly shred his vocal cords to express his fury.
Pushing Boundaries Never Sounded So Good
Just as Draiman rethinks the frontman role, so too does his band transcend genre clichés. Most groups would probably handle “Inside the Fire,” a tale of a woman who has killed herself, as a slick, stripped-down ballad, but Disturbed turn the lament into a rocking discussion of what drives people to suicide. Though not going so far as to condone suicide, Draiman seeks to express the divided mindset of those at the end of their rope.
Sadly, the band do still use the occasional heavy metal gimmick – like including demonic laughing at the conclusion of “Inside the Fire” – which are sophomoric, self-conscious attempts at being “dark.” With that said, though, Indestructible largely succeeds in evoking an atmosphere of dread and hopelessness. Most bands worry about staying within one genre so as not to alienate their fans. But with Disturbed, the more they push their audience and themselves, the more rewarding their music becomes.
Release date – June 3, 2008