Sometimes it’s what you don’t say that reveals everything. The press release for the third studio album by Chicagan metallers Disturbed mentions the “3.4-million selling debut The Sickness” and their “second album, the Billboard #1 Believe”. Spot the missing sales figure…
Not that Believe was a failure – it still went platinum. However, for all frontman David Draiman’s bizarre on-stage assertions that the band and their audience are “brothers and sisters” because they like heavy metal, it turned out that his so-called siblings felt more of a kinship with the higher standard of songwriting on The Sickness.
Which brings us to Ten Thousand Fists, an album that the band claim “fuses the brutality and darkness of The Sickness with the added melodic nature and complexity of Believe”. At this point, it’s time to consult the Lexicon Of Band Hype to translate this sentence. Ah, there it is: “It sounds the same as our first two albums”. We’re also told that “each time we [Disturbed] come out we definitely surpass what we’ve done before”. The Lexicon says: “Wishful thinking”.
Band’s over-inflated promises and reviewer’s unhealthy cynicism aside, Ten Thousand Fists is a good album. Not a great one, like The Sickness stakes a claim for, but certainly better than a lot of what is peddled to us as aggressive music with melody.
Whether it can broaden Disturbed’s appeal beyond their current fan base is moot, but admirers of Dan Donegan’s slick and sometimes brutal guitar riffs and Draiman’s idiosyncratic vocal “ah-ah-ah-ahs” will rightly lap up the rabble-rousing title track; the heavy-but-hooky Just Stop, Stricken, Decadence and Sacred Life; the menacing, inspired cover of Genesis‘ Land Of Confusion; and the fast and furious finale, Avarice.
Elsewhere, I’m Alive and Overburdened hold back on the testosterone in the interests of creating moodier atmospheres – something that works due to a combination of strong tunes and Draiman being accomplished enough a vocalist to lead the line with sparser instrumentation.
There is some filler here with the likes of Forgiven (notable mainly for – shock, horror – a guitar solo) and Pain Redefined clocking in as fairly anonymous slabs of not-so-nu-any-more metal and begging the question: why do bands nowadays insist on 14 tracks an album when 10 or 11 of more consistent quality would suffice?
Still, there’s enough to enjoy here for Disturbed to get their wish (at least in the States) of having “ten thousand fists in the air” as they play live. The only cautionary note is that with Draiman proclaiming in I’m Alive that “to change myself, I’d rather die”, it’s unlikely Disturbed will be straying too far from their template in the near future – something they may have to do if they are to gain substantially more “brothers and sisters”.