October 15, 2018 Disturbed – Evolution (Album Review)
On 2015’s Immortalized, the headbangers in Disturbed made an impressive crossover bid with their stunningly evocative cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence.” So, pray tell, what will they do next? On Friday, October 19, 2018, they will deliver their latest chapter, Evolution, via Reprise Records, and all of our weighty questions shall be answered.
You cannot be a Hard Rock/Heavy Metal fan today and not know the name Disturbed! One of the top-billed acts in the genre, Disturbed began their musical journey back in 2000 with their superb (stupefying?) debut, The Sickness, and we all immediately got down. Then, 2002’s Believe cemented the band’s status, allowing them to release four more albums – from 2005’s Ten Thousand Fists to 2015’s Immortalized – over the next thirteen lucky years, despite a four-year hiatus. Impressively, Disturbed has released five consecutive albums that debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, including them among the diverse and distinguished likes of Metallica and Dave Matthews Band. A band with endless accolades and experiences under their collective belt, they have co-headlined with KoRn, performed on Ozzfest, and shared stages with nearly every other Hard Rock/Heavy Metal band on today’s scene.
Placing their indelible mark on 2018, Disturbed – Vocalist David Draiman, Guitarist/Keyboardist Dan Donegan, Bassist John Moyer, and Drummer Mike Wengren – are ready to return with their seventh studio offering, Evolution. Produced by Kevin Churko (Five Finger Death Punch, In This Moment), the 10-track album – which also comes in a 14-track Deluxe Edition – splits itself between largely generic, rocking anthems and acoustic-driven songs to appeal to your softer side.
Evolution opens with synths that start the pulse into straightforward rocker “Are You Ready,” where Draiman begins the party with an invitation to remove your mental shackles, toss them aside. Clearly designed to appeal to Mainstream/Active Rock fans, “Are You Ready” holds something back, and ultimately lacks in grit so as to feel polished to a flat sheen.
Next, Disturbed go political with the anti-war anthem, “No More.” Here, Draiman sings: “No more defending the lies behind never-ending war / It’s time to make them realize we will no longer be their whore.” The sentiment is great and getting fans on-board with opening their eyes to the government’s hidden-agendas is wonderful, as well. However, the song feels a bit dumb in its overly-simplistic approach, and, at times, the band seem to be racing ahead of and performing circles around Draiman, whose vocals can barely keep pace.
On the inspiring “A Reason to Fight,” they go (mostly) acoustic to place the spotlight onto one of the band’s clear stand-outs: Draiman’s flawless, immensely powerful vocals. However, Moyer’s bass lines are allowed to truly shine here, as well. They crank it back up to edgy for “In Another Time,” a rocker that is exactly what one would expect from Disturbed and yet it still feels like the band are holding something back and not rocking to their full capacity. The dirty groove of “Stronger on Your Own” begins with an evil laugh before going sludgy, then opening into anthemic, inspiring choruses.
Conversely, they go full-on acoustics for the uplifting sway of “Hold on to Memories,” a shoe-in for a graduation anthem, before they amp it back up for “Saviour of Nothing,” a finger wagged in the face of hypocrites who become everything they claim to stand against. Meanwhile, a steady beat and glittering acoustics hold down the fort of “Watch You Burn,” an edgy reminder that this world is dog eat dog and we practice routine Schadenfreude. Disturbed’s ability to inject a dose of hard rocking into the acoustic format is refreshing and provides a definite stand-out on the collection – and a reminder of their genius.
“The Best Ones Lie” goes back to rocking out, this time with a generic reminder that everyone is full of it and relishing in their own drama. There are some political notes here, if you wish to apply them, and if not, that’s okay too. Ultimately, they end with “Already Gone,” where they mourn with an acoustic-driven ode to those gone too soon. It’s not exactly forced, but not entirely moving, either.
However, Evolution does not end here: its Deluxe Edition continues with four bonus tracks and they are definitely worthwhile! There’s a flawless live recording of Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence,” which features Myles Kennedy of Alter Bridge playing the Art Garfunkel to Draiman’s Paul Simon. Draiman introduces the song while inviting the crowd to fire up their lighters and cellphones, and what follows is a must for any Disturbed fan and pure perfection.
With a full-bodied Rock sound that harkens back to the band’s 2000 debut, “This Venom” goes gritty and is hands-down the best rocker on the album – making it fully worth the purchase of the Deluxe Edition. It’s followed by a Sam de Jong remix of “Are You Ready,” which almost entirely removes the band and uses Draiman’s vocals as the center of its electronic, flowy atmospherics. This time around, they end with the acoustic, emotional love lament, “Uninvited Guest,” a more intelligent and poetic offering with a sweeping, cinematic feel that is more beautifully sincere than some of the acoustic offerings in the album’s 10 base tracks.
Evolution is split down the middle: half acoustic tracks that appeal to the band’s new legion of fans thanks to their chart-topping Simon & Garfunkel cover, and half straightforward rockers. While the album is fairly consistent in alternating acoustics and rockers, last we checked, Disturbed were supposed to be a Hard Rock/Heavy Metal band, and it’s the Rock tracks that are the weakest in this collection. Here’s the problem: Disturbed are trying so hard to polish their sound and “evolve” that they are entirely losing any of the ballsy grit that was what propelled them up the charts and into hearts in the first place. Rockers like “Are You Ready,” “Saviour of Nothing,” and “The Best Ones Lie,” just feel scripted and so over-produced as to be flat and entirely lacking in character. Which is not the case on the bonus track “This Venom,” so clearly the band are still fully-capable of rocking out with sharp, dangerously delicious edges.
Considering that David Draiman has one of the most powerful sets of pipes in Hard Rock/Heavy Metal, it’s completely understandable that the band would wish to showcase this fact in their acoustic numbers. Fine. But, no matter the format – acoustic or rocker – the lyrics throughout Evolution are generally so vapid as to deplete that power somehow; as even the most stellar voice in the world loses some of its might when it is singing recycled clichés and generalized fluff. If you place tracks such as “Hold on to Memories” side-by-side with the bonus track “Uninvited Guest,” it’s pretty clear that, again, the band have the ability to be intelligent and poetic. So, why would go the opposite route?
The bottom line? Evolution is not a bad collection by any means, but it certainly fails to grasp the massive potential of Disturbed and their myriad talents; it’s more of a side-step than a true sonic evolution. For these reasons, CrypticRock give Disturbed’s Evolution 3.5 of 5 stars.