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One of a plethora of post-millennium heavy rap-metal outfits to emerge from the pack, Chicago’s DISTURBED are as hostile and menacing as their manic moniker would suggest. A five-fingered full-hand of albums behind them, four of them consecutive chart-toppers, the rebellious quartet are now in hiatus. Enter chief barker David Draiman’s equally confrontational, DEVICE.
Formed in Illinois’ highly populated windy city in the early 90s, long-standing buddies Dan Donegan (guitar), Fuzz/Steve Kmak (bass) and Mike Wengren (drums), were going nowhere fast until the addition of rebellious and multiple boarding school expellee, David Draiman. In a short space of time, from 1997 onwards, DISTURBED’s bandwagon began rolling with a vengeance, as they built up a grassroots following from their home town’s South Side mean streets.
Subsequently signed to Giant Records on the strength of a demo tape, the 4-piece joined the nu-metal melee with their debut album, THE SICKNESS (2000) {*6}. Equal parts big rock chorus and itchy, rap-metal chops, naggingly addictive opening track `Voices’ was as good a place as any to enter the unforgiving world of DISTURBED. The track was subsequently released as a UK single, while the album itself climbed the US Top 30; a highlight being a re-vamped version of TEARS FOR FEARS’ `Shout’ – but “these are the things I could do without” as the lyrics professed.
While few would’ve predicted a No.1 placing for the group’s sophomore album, that’s exactly what those DISTURBED boys enjoyed with BELIEVE (2002) {*7}. It might’ve been graced with a sleeve which wouldn’t have looked out of place on a VENOM album back in the 80s, but its epic, much developed metal chops were tailor-made for a market that couldn’t seem to get enough heavy music. A bit of SOUNDGARDEN (their heroes), METALLICA and PANTERA, Draiman excelled on his torturous tongue-twisting lyrical abandon on the likes of `Liberate’, although it’d be `Prayer’ and the incendiary `Remember’, that set them apart from their many spiritual cousins.
Although there was a shared live album, “Music As A Weapon II” (2004), to disturb the silence between releases, metallers were really waiting for long-in-the-can third set, TEN THOUSAND FISTS (2005) {*7}, by which time Fuzz had been replaced by John Moyer. Once again it punched its way to the top of the charts, even if there was another baffling 80s cover among the chest-thumping riffs; it’s highly likely that many of their fans were probably still in short trousers when GENESIS’ `Land Of Confusion’ first did the rounds two decades back. Still, squeezed in between the urgent and intense, `Forgiven’ and `Sacred Life’, one could almost, yes almost, overlook this ill-advised indiscretion; `Stricken’ and `Deify’ also helped to re-activate the gloom and doom.
INDESTRUCTIBLE (2008) {*6} and the audacious ASYLUM (2010) {*7}, continued to spout their visceral venom and holocaustic heavy metal and, while these homeland chart-toppers (with Britain in the ascendancy), shot down their critical detractors with a formulaic foundation of textbook rock, DISTURBED were hardly innovators. Although there were snippets of diversions and detours in between classy pieces such as `Another Way To Die’ and `Never Again’ (the instrumental `Remnants’ opened the latter set), “Indestructible” was littered with metal by-numbers skull-busters recalling sounds from a decade (or two) ago.
Draiman’s answer to DISTURBED’s dirge-driven end-of-days (a long hiatus looks likely), was in industrial-metal saviours, DEVICE. Taking his cue from NINE INCH NAILS, et al, the singer and guitarist Geno Lenardo (ex-FILTER) and a stellar cast of motley metallers, including SERJ TANKIAN (with BLACK SABBATH’s Geezer Butler in tow), GLENN HUGHES, TOM MORELLO, AVENGED SEVENFOLD’s M. Shadows and Halestrom’s Lizzy Hale (on a duet of LITA FORD & Ozzy’s `Close My Eyes Forever’), all marked their spot on the eponymous DEVICE (2013) {*6}. Not exactly a fun collection of electro-metal, Draiman took another cathartic and introspective look into the human psyche; `You Think You Know’, `Penance’ and `Vilify’, no doubt pacifying the “disturbed”.
Back from the dead so to speak (Moyer had meanwhile side-lined with ADRENALINE MOB), DISTURBED secured their fifth consecutive number one album with the Kevin Churko-produced IMMORTALIZED (2015) {*6}. Draiman, Donegan and Wengren opted for the conventional rather than the experimental, sticking like glue to heavy riffs, piston-packing percussion and arena-rock-friendly soaring vocals. All but a sombre-note cover of SIMON & GARFUNKEL’s `Sound Of Silence’, the confrontational and cathartic DISTURBED wreaked havoc on their formulaic metal-topia, as performed on stellar tracks, `The Vengeful One’, `The Light’ and the title track.

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