American rock band Disturbed just released its new album Evolution on Thursday. Comprised of vocalist David Draiman, guitarist Dan Donegan, drummer Mike Wengren and bassist John Moyer, they are a band that popularized the nu metal sound in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. and This is the band’s second album since coming back from their hiatus in 2015.
Much like the previous album, Immortalized, this album marks an even more pronounced stylistic shift. This is an album that is poised to be commercially successful and accessible. Draiman has said that this is the band’s “Black Album,” in reference to Metallica’s legendary 1991 self-titled release.
In an interview with Metal Hammer he said, “We’ve always used that as a goal — the record that literally every single track on it could be a hit. A record that breaks doors down, that opens up new opportunities to us, that helps you achieve true immortality as an artist.”
This is a lofty statement that has been met with criticism, but the parallels make sense. In the album right before the Black Album, the single “One” became one of Metallica’s most popular songs. With Disturbed, their cover of “The Sound of Silence” on Immortalized became one of their most popular songs. Both were softer songs compared to the majority of the rest of their material.
The Black Album marked Metallica’s shift from thrash metal into hard rock in the mid 1990’s. Evolution, much like the Black Album, is marking a shift in Disturbed’s sound from heavy metal into a softer shade of mainstream rock.
Evolution is the tale of two albums. Half of the songs on the album are ballads, likely due to the success of “The Sound of Silence.” While the other half is heavier, it is marred by a slick, squeaky-clean production. This is the result of the producer, Kevin Churko, who also produced albums ranging from Britney Spears, Celine Dion, Five Finger Death Punch and Papa Roach.
That being said, there is a lot to like about this album. Draiman’s voice is as powerful and dynamic as ever, and Donegan has very tasty guitar leads on tracks like “Saviour of Nothing” and “No More.” A lot of the best lyrics come on the ballads, with tracks like “Hold On to Memories” and “Already Gone” both being about reminiscing on those who have passed.
However there is a lot to dislike about the album too. While the ballads are competently done, they are quite jarring for a Disturbed record and mess with the flow of the album. The drums do not sound natural and sound far beyond processed. There is no punch or depth in the sound and it’s very poppy.
For a band who has said that the inspiration for their name was that they found conformity disturbing, it is disappointing to see them release a record that seems destined to be swallowed into the void of standard-fare commercialized hard rock albums. The ballads feel incredibly out of place on a Disturbed album, and while experimentation should be praised, the album as a whole sounds watered down.
If the band’s goal was to release their most commercially accessible album ever, one that almost anyone can listen to and will spawn numerous arena staples for live performances, then this is Disturbed’s Black Album. But for Disturbed diehards this is a slap in the face, and a complete antithesis to the band’s message in the 2000’s.
Parker’s Picks: “Saviour of Nothing,” “In Another Time,” “No More”