The Mezunian

Die Positivität ist das Opium des Volkes, aber der Spott ist das Opium der Verrückten

Disturbed is finally in the house & we’re droppin’ plates – Nostalgic Novelty Noughties Nu-Metal

I know what you’re thinking: “Yawn, here we get to hear some hilarious memes ’bout being down with the sickness ¡OOO-WAH-AH-AH-AH!”. Well, I’m sorry to inform you that we will not be looking @ their 2000 debut, The Sickness, with such certified hood classics as “Droppin’ Plates” & the 1, the only, “Down with the Sickness” — a’least not now. No, we will be looking @ their much less funny & memetic 2002 sophomore “Believe”, an album heavily influenced by the death o’ lead singer David Draiman’s Orthodox Jewish father, with whom he had become estranged, & thus has heavy religious themes ( tho much, much less, um, sunday-school-like as Thousand Foot Krutch’s magnum opus we looked @ previously ) & an album that had largely become forgotten, I remember, e’en during part o’ the height o’ their popularity, when releasing their 3rd & 4th albums. This isn’t that uncommon in nu-metal: nobody remembers Papa Roach’s Lovehatetragedy, either. As early as 2002 many bands associated with nu-metal were already starting to realize ’twas a goofy fad & were trying to sneak out into mo’ respectable genres. If I actually took seriously “nu-metal” as a specific genre & didn’t just use it as “metal from the noughties”, which apparently includes Nickelback, for my own conveniences, I wouldn’t include this album.

¿Why did I choose this album, which is their least funny & memetic, & also the least representation o’ their sound? I promise it is not due to certain recent events that have reignited last October ( ¡I said no politics in October, world! ) & which shall go unnamed for now. I would actually say the answer is in the question: ¿wouldn’t a very unfunny album that sounds significantly different from their normal styles ( I would say their 3rd & 4th album have noticeable differences in style & they wouldn’t really solidify their style till their 4th album ) be very interesting to look @? ¿No? Well, tough shit, ’cause that’s what we’re doing. I’m driving the car round here.

1. Prayer

This was the 1st single on this album & very, very rarely played on the radio — a’least after their 3rd album came out & this song was no longer fresh.

I always assumed this song was ’bout Draiman’s father dying, with lines like, “another life that I’ve taken from you / a gift to add onto your pain and suffering”, but the elders o’ Genius strangely make no mention o’ this well-known background fact. Instead, they emphasize it being inspired by the Book of Job:

The theme in the song is inspired by the book of Job, in which God allows for Satan to test Job’s piety with multitudes of different curses. Instead of turning away from God, Job however is strengthened in his religious fervor, he refuses to turn away from God no matter what the trials.

&, yeah, a Biblically-inspired work ’bout one’s strained feelings ’bout God are inevitably going to reference that big Bible story ’bout humanity’s strained relations with God ( tho if one wanted to be exotic — or emo — one could reference “Ecclesiastes” ). Howe’er the way Genius says it makes it sound like a ✝-rock Sunday-school lesson, whereas if you listen to the lyrics, there is a clear sarcastic tone to it — which, to be fair, is mo’ in line with the real Job rather than the way Sunday schools have sanitized him. Like Job, Draiman sounds less “strengthened in his religious fervor”, as Christians interpret the story, &, mo’ in line with Jewish sentiments, resigned. Thus, if I may be so blasphemous, I must politely disagree with Genius’s interpretation. Also, Christians totally get the Book of Job wrong, as well as most o’ the ol’ testament — seriously, Isaiah was talking ’bout his wife, not some virgin giving birth.

Genius also claims that in the music video “the band members go through a modern interpretation of Job’s trials”. Unfortunately, the YouTube link they provide is gone now, but if you watch the music video I provide ’bove, you won’t really see much o’ Job’s trials, ’less you think Job seeing homeless men & prostitutes were his trials ( spoiler: they weren’t ). I certainly don’t remember any scene in Job where he & his useless idiot ”friends” who just shit-talk him thruout the story rock out o’er urban rubble. Admittedly, the story might’ve been improved if it did, but they didn’t have the technology back then.

Honestly, I think this album had better choices for a single, specially the 1st. I do like the melodic bridge & choruses ( well, ’cept when Draiman interrupts his soulful pleading with an abrupt, “¡ROCK!” ), & I do like the crunchy texture o’ the guitar riffs, which I’d know how to describe if I knew anything ’bout music; but the actual guitar composition feels plain, as do the verses.

Grade: B

2. Liberate

“Liberate” is a song about having an open mind, to liberate ones mind from conflict based on blind hatred and different beliefs. It’s calling for the day that every major religion has foretold; the coming of the messiah and the end of days.

Holy shit, these Genius annotations are by someone who thinks Disturbed is a Christian rock band. I ne’er thought Disturbed lyrics would be o’er the head o’ Genius, but that is the world we live in. As anyone who knows any religion but Christianity knows, “the coming of the messiah and the end of days” is most definitely not a part o’ e’ery major religion. This annotation misses the sarcasm ’hind the line “waiting for your modern messiah”. This song was released a year after 9/11 & when war was being stoked by the religious right with heavy Islamophobic sentiments. The meaning ’hind the sick reference to Isaiah in the bridge “nation shall not raise sword gainst nation / & they shall not learn war anymore” could not be clearer. It is, in fact, an expression o’ an ol’ tradition o’ religious criticism: pointing out hypocrisy.

This song, the 2nd single & the 1 that was played way more oft, is the most nu-metal-sounding on this album, & the only time Draiman does his patented scatsinging. Since Draiman clearly was mo’ concerned with having words that fit well with the meter than the profoundest words, the verses & pre-choruses ( which are just repeated the 2nd time ) are rather vague & basic… But damn are they catchy & fun to sing ’long to — & let’s face it: in music, that’s what matters most. This song is very cheesy, specially with the liberal uses o’ “motherfucker” in the verses contrasted gainst the sorrowful pleading chorus & the dignified scripture verse in the bridge, but that kind o’ weird mixture is what I like most o’ nu-metal. Certified nu-metal expert J. J. W. Mezun proclaims this to be a banger. Amen.

Grade: A

3. Awaken

This is, in my opinion, the most underrated Disturbed song o’ all time. I don’t mean due to memes or any extreme cheesiness ( tho the parrotlike “¡ACK!”s & “SHUAH!”s strewn thru the chorus would be a candidate if Draiman didn’t make much weirder sounds on other songs, as well as the repeated line ’talking ’bout how the narrator wants to “play with your evil side” 😉 ). I just think this is his best singing with the most range, alternating ’tween the menacingly quiet & tepid verses & angry choruses, specially the bridge, which goes e’en further with the menacing quietude. I e’en like the very noisy guitarwork, which I’m usually not crazy ’bout from Disturbed, specially the way it transitions the 1st chorus & the 1st verses & the stringlike sound o’ the guitar & baseline under the bridge.

Genius clearly doesn’t agree with me, as they ain’t said shit ’bout this song. To be honest, I have no idea what this song is ’bout & ne’er felt burdened by that lack o’ knowledge. I think I always assumed ’twas ’bout the temptation o’ sin, which, now that I think ’bout it, is what later songs on this album will be ’bout, too.

Grade: S

4. Believe

This feels like a better “Prayer”, laying on e’en thicker the cynicism on religious belief, specially with the quiet, sing-songy verses ( matched with a sing-songy main riff that goes DUM-DUM, DUH DUM-DUM, DUM-DUM, DUH DUM-DUM ), only to build-up to louder chants for a chorus telling the reader that their beliefs are useless, they’re still rotten, sinful creatures, only to become an intense thumping rhythm during the bridge, only to end with the very soft line, “burn your lie”.

Genius has this to say ’bout this song:

“Believe when you lie, teaching the art of deception. It is the teacher speaking to the student. The theologians continuing their legacy of lies. For the perpetuation of such false beliefs, penance cannot absolve your sin.”

I don’t know if this is a quote from Draiman explaining the song’s meaning or the anonymous author wanted to rant their sick philosophical beliefs & decided the annotation for a Disturbed song was the best place. Sadly, the YouTube link is as lost as the Annals o’ Solomon. ( The Anals o’ Solomon, howe’er, can still be found on RedTube ).

Grade: A

5. Remember

When I 1st heard this album, I wasn’t in love with this song, but my opinion on this song has probably risen mo’ than any other song on this album. While the singing lacks the variety that “Awaken” has, it is, specially the choruses, hands-down Draiman’s best singing. The music, while certainly not terrible, is kind o’ basic, tho.

The music video, which I’d ne’er seen — probably ’cause MTV was probably playing their 100th reality TV show @ the time instead — doesn’t do the drama o’ the song justice, howe’er, as it seems to be the band jamming out while watching Phantom of the Opera porn — probably with a name like “Phantom of the Cock” or “Phallus of the Opera”.

Grade: A

6. Intoxication

This song’s a fine ’nough banger, & I like how the fast-paced, shouting verses make way for the erratic pre-chorus rhythm, both o’ which fit well for a song ’bout intoxication, & then the slower, mo’ soulful chorus as the singer laments said intoxication. I do think the verses could’ve been mo’ fast-paced. I mean, “Liberate” was mo’ fast-paced, & that was just ’bout liberating your mind, man, which, I guess, some people would say is a better drug. ( “¡you’re better than drugs!”. ¡No! ¡We’re not s’posed to talk ’bout Skillet yet! ).

Grade: B

7. Rise

I’ve ne’er been crazy ’bout this song. It’s a bit schmaltzy. I mean, the verses & main chorus with its generic lyrics telling you to rise up ( gamers ) in such an “inspiring” voice is the only time this album begins to sound like ✝-rock. If it sounded less generic, I’d buy it. & while it doesn’t sound bad, I don’t know how I feel ’bout the cheesy line in the pre-chorus, “¿do you really think i covet like you do?”. I mean, ¿maybe? You are the guy who sang “Meaning of Life”’s “give in, give in, decide”.

That said I do like the downtuned guitars in the post-chorus where he asks, “¿am I precious to you now?” & the very quiet quaking sounds after the 2nd post-chorus. & believe it or not, I don’t mind the ending with the cheesy lyrics o’ “pure emotion falling from my eyes”, which a’least don’t sound smug like the “covet like you do” line, but its mood is ruined by the return o’ the generic chorus. ’Gain, if the chrous were really good, I’d appreciate it, but there are much better songs that do what this song does.

Grade: C

8. Mistress

I’m not the biggest fan o’ Disturbed’s instrumentation, but I will say that I think this song’s opening riffs are ’mong their best. In contrast, I’m not wild ’bout Draiman’s singing here, which is way too high-pitched.

I’m not sure what this song has to do with this album’s general theme o’ spiritual inner conflict, & like many o’ the nu-metal bands we’ve looked @, the lyrics seem hopelessly vague & abstract:

to stand on the edge of the knife
cutting through the nightmare from which
I just cannot awaken
stand on the edge of the night
living inside a moment
from which I will never awaken

That’s deep, bro.

fallen again for another
mistress of burden to idolize
hoping that 1 of them will decide
to let me in

look at what you’ve done to me
you’ve become my enemy
poisoning the world for me

This is disturbingly starting to sound like an incel anthem. Let’s move on.

Grade: B

9. Breathe

Ne’er been a big fan o’ this song, either, from the weird DUH-DUH-DUH DUH-DUH-DUH squeaky guitar riffs, bizarrely mixed with the stilted, slow singing, specially since the lyrics are specially vague & uninspired here, with generic lines ’bout “releasing your life” repeated in the verses, choruses, & e’en the bridge. It’s very repetitive, & without the fun o’ “Liberate”’s internal-rhyme-filled scatting.

& then you have the chorus with its awkward “DAMNS” that sound like Shadow the Hedgehog is singing this song:

you’ll never leave alive
now, do you think you’re too DAMN good
for the killing kind

This just reminds me o’ that Nickelback song, “Feeling Too Damn Good”, or whate’er ’twas called. I’m pretty certain only dads use the phrase “damn good”; the hip kids o’ today say, “pibbfizzing”. If Mr. John Disturbed had said that, this song would be good.

Grade: C

10. Bound

Genius returns to annotating to tell us this is a breakup song, which doesn’t fit with this album’s otherwise mo’ serious religious themes, & makes the mo’ somber music & singing that are still on this song seem o’erwrought. I mean, this song starts by shouting, “¡darkness cover me!”. & yet the lyrics don’t sound anywhere near upset, but mo’ just annoyed:

o, I’m not ready to die, girl
because of what you don’t tell me
i’m not willing to compromise the man I want to be

think you’re a little bit closer
to changing me
you’re never winning me over
you’re wasting time

Honestly, e’erything ’bout this song — the guitar riffs & drums, the singing, the lyrics — sound like generic filler. The tempo & tone o’ singing changes rapidly & jerkily, but not in a way that’s interesting. ¿What is the tone o’ this song s’posed to be? It sounds like the singer’s s’posed to be going thru a comic mental breakdown, specially when he shouts, “¡ready!” & “¡darkness cover me!” out o’ nowhere.

Grade: D

11. Devour

Mo’ squeaky guitarwork. Still, the menacingly slow verses & melodious chrous are better than the past few songs, tho not as good as songs in the 1st half o’ this album. Plus, it’s funny to imagine Draiman singing ’bout wanting to eat the listener, especially with how serious the singing is. This song should’ve gotten a music video instead o’ those other songs.

Grade: C

12. Darkness

You would think Disturbed doing an acoustic ballad would be a terrible idea, — certainly their infamous cover o’ “The Sound of Silence” would lead one to expect such — but I actually think this was well-done & makes a perfect album ender. The lyrics feel mo’ broad than generic, which is helped by the slowness o’ this song providing few words. & the singing has just ’nough variation in tone to keep it from sounding monotonous, which is the common flaw o’ boring slow songs.

If anything, it’s too bad this song is preceded by all the weak songs that come before it. Hearing Draiman sing ’bout wanting to eat the listener leading directly to this is quite a whiplash.

Grade: A

All right, next month I’ll review an actually funny album.

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Posted in Nostalgic Novelty Noughties Nu-Metal