Robert Rich has terrible taste.
David Draiman is the softest metalhead in the game. If that name doesn’t have any significance to you, let me say one thing: “Ooh AH AH AH AH!” Perhaps it doesn’t translate in print, but that’s obviously the guttural noisemaking vocal at the beginning of “Down With The Sickness,” the song that made me think I finally knew what heavy metal was all about (shhh, nobody tell Andy O’Connor, he’d kill me.) And the song that made me think, damn, this vocalist is a monster.
Spoiler alert: He’s not really a monster. In fact, he’s pretty tame. Like, suburban dad tame. Like, mowing-the-lawn-on-a-Saturday-before-heading-in-to-drink-a-beer-and-catch-up-on-his-reading-of-old-military-non-fiction-books tame.
Well shit, that escalated quickly. But we’re not here to talk about Draiman, we’re here to talk about his band Disturbed. I suppose you can’t have one without the other, but let’s move away from Draiman for a moment. 1 Disturbed is one of the groups, like Mudvayne, that rocketed to popularity right around 2000 on the strength of an album laced with nu-metal similarities, but a tendency toward slightly more straightforward metal tropes. But, after the tragedy of 9/11, whereas Mudvayne “evolved” by staying the same and falling into obscurity, Disturbed hitched their wagon firmly to the mostly reprehensible, Bush era soldier rock side of things and strode up the hill with the blind defiance of a preemptive strike.
But fuck that noise, we’ll talk about their later work briefly at the end of this. The Sickness is good enough of an album to land Disturbed a spot on The Apologist even if that’s the only thing they ever released. It’s gloomy, it blends electronic tones with warped guitars, and Draiman’s unique brand of growling. 2 The band even began concerts on the tour for this album with Draiman being wheeled out on stage in a straitjacket and muzzle like a madman. That’s just sharp marketing.
The opening four tracks of The Sickness constitute one of the best opening segments in nu-metal history, from “Voices,” wherein Draiman screams, “Insane, you’re gonna die when you listen to me,” 3 to “The Game,” a lovely industrial metal joint with enough electronics to assume it could have inspired Skrillex; to “Stupify,” where Draiman screams the word “fuck” multiple times but it’s so muddled that it’s indistinguishable enough to actually let the track play as is on the radio; and to “Down With The Sickness,” a track you know from the opening drums. The four-part crescendo in its entirety:
This is Disturbed at its most disturbing. When they had no popularity, no fan base expecting anything, when they were simply a band ballsy enough to be so heavy-handed. It’s an album that still rocks hard, before Draiman was forced to change his vocal style because his screams were causing bile to force its way into his throat and destroy his vocal cords.
Now, Disturbed–currently on hiatus–plays the aforementioned “soldier rock,” tunes designed to use enough vague war and fighting imagery to make them a hit with the armed forces. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing–music that helps our troops stay sane and amped enough to protect this country is fine with me. And it’s even better because Disturbed plays straightforward, ass-kicking music. There are no overt attempts at patriotism, no awful puns traipsing around while a steel guitar makes a song sound “American” like in the work of that hero of douchebags, Toby Keith. 4
No, Disturbed’s recent catalog consists of stuff you want to play before your company softball game. It gets you competitive. And it’s pretty great.
But, Draiman is still soft. His rapport with a crowd is stilted and awkward. His voice is shockingly mild and soft-spoken considering his growling isn’t half bad. Like I said, he has that suburban dad feel. But, he’s still responsible for one of the most influential nu-metal bands in the genre’s history. He’s still working, releasing an album this week with his new band Device, which sounds, believe it or not, just like Disturbed.
But I’m sure the troops will love it.
- Like I’m sure every woman moves away from him after getting to know him, because he’s so soft. ↩
- Probably like dogs growl at him if they come across him on the sidewalk, because they can tell he’s so soft. ↩
- For the longest time I thought the lyric was, “’N SYNC, you’re gonna die when you listen to me.” I was severely disappointed to learn the truth. ↩
- Shock and Y’all, ya’ll. ↩