Being an opening act is a miserable existence. They aren't permitted to play as long or loud as the headliner. The vast majority of the audience came to see the top billed act which means the opener is regularly on the receiving end of catcalls or worse. Often the biggest applause or cheer they get is when they thank the headliner for bringing them on the tour. Even so, being an opening act is still the best way to get in front of people.
For the headliner, opening acts are often looked at with suspicion. Rock is filled with stories of how an unknown group blew the star attraction off the stage. So Disturbed's sharing a live album, "Music As A Weapon II" documenting their '03 tour, with their opening acts, Chevelle, Taproot and Unloco, was a major act of generosity from a group that had been there.
Disturbed's vocalist David Draiman, born to a deeply religious family, rebelled. Gentle, and even some harsh attempts to straighten little David out, failed. So off to boarding school he went. That'll get him on the right path! But it didn't. Draiman's behavior got him expelled. Off to another school, only to be expelled again. This cycled repeated itself a total of six times. Six times! Rebelled and expelled - talk about your perfect Metal credentials! By the end of the experience Draiman had collected a disturbingly vast reservoir of angst, anger and frustration waiting to be unleashed.
Meanwhile, three Chicago friends Dan Donegan (guitar), Fuzz (bass) and Mike Wengren (drums) were thrashing about looking for the right combination. They hooked up with Draiman in '97 and began working the South Side club circuit. A demo tape sent to Giant Records did the trick with the group inking a deal and releasing their debut "The Sickness" containing "Down With The Sickness." '02 saw the arrival of "Believe."
"Personal differences" caused Fuzz to depart in '03. He was initially replaced by Matt Konopinski. But he turned out to be a short-timer so John Moyer entered the picture. Disturbed's live "Music As A Weapon II" with the aforementioned tracks from their opening acts hit in '04.
A year later, the group unleashed their third studio album, "Ten Thousand Fists." According to Draiman, "it seems to fuse the brutality and darkness of "The Sickness" with the melodic nature and complexity of "Believe." The combination struck a chord with the public. "Ten Thousand Fists" topped the Billboard 200 chart after selling 238,000 copies during its first week of release.
Disturbed completed the first leg of their '06 "Music As A Weapon Tour" but decided not to embark on a second leg choosing to return the studio to work on their fourth album, "Indestructible."
Just prior to the album's release Disturbed played "Into the Fire," the lead single, at Spike TV's Guys Choice awards in Culver City, CA.
"Indestructible" arrived in June, '08. "I don't think I've seen a reaction . . . like we've had to this record since ('00's debut) 'The Sickness'," said Draiman. "I think that people are in for one hell of a wild ride." Draiman hit the mark. "Indestructible" made its debut at #1 on the Billboard 200 chart. Selling 252,000 copies in its first week, the album marked the third straight time the group had topped the survey.
Disturbed began work on "Asylum," their fifth album in early '10. As with "Indestructible," the set, released later in the year, was self-produced. 'This record shows a certain degree of maturation and enhanced complexity," claimed Draiman. "It preserves the elements of what we do but at a more advanced level."
"Asylum" made its debut #1 on the Billboard 200 chart. Selling 179,000 copies in its first week it became the band's fourth consecutive chart topper. Disturbed was only the third group, following Metallica and the Dave Matthews Band, to achieve that feat.
Each CD included a card for online access to the documentary 'Decade Of Disturbed.' Nice way to promote CD sales - like it needed it.
Amid reports that Disturbed wouldn't tour for personal reasons in the coming year, they released a b-side compilation album titled "The Lost Children." The '11 set made its debut at #13 on the Billboard chart. Despite this relative success, Draiman announced that the band was on 'hiatus' until further notice.
Just months later, Device, a group consisting of Draiman and former Filter guitarist Geno Lenardo, was formed.
Disturbed Sidebar I: There's an old joke about a kid who's always getting into trouble and doing lousy in school. His parents try private school after private school but to no avail. Finally, in desperation they send their prodigy to a Catholic school, even though they're not of that faith. Immediately, the kid's grades improve and so does his attitude. Stunned, the kid's parents ask what's up. Their offspring answers, "Man, when I walked into that classroom and I saw that guy hanging from the cross I knew they meant business!" Maybe Draiman's parents should have taken that route.
Disturbed Sidebar II: Draiman's experience raises an interesting question: Are Rockers born or are they created? Are some people natural outsiders, with a mean streak and a chip on their shoulder or do the compound effects of life's cruel circumstances drive them to wail at the top of their lungs? Ponder that one.
Disturbed Sidebar III: In '05 both Disturbed and Trapt released albums. Here's a fun game you can play with friends. Go on CD Universe (www.cduniverse.com) and listen to samples of Disturbed's "Ten Thousand Fists" and Trapt's "Someone In Control." Then the next day try to tag the following songs with the correct group.
5. I'm Alive
6. Skin Deep
8. Use Me To Use You
For the record the odd numbered titles are Disturbed and the even ones are Trapt.
2000 The Sickness
2005 Ten Thousand Fists
2011 The Lost Children
"The Sickness" is a Rock solid debut. The outstanding tracks are the haunting "Down With The Sickness," Draiman's speed vocals on "Voices" and the sizzling guitar work propelling "The Game."
On "Believe" Disturbed maintains their Metal trajectory - a sharp downward spiral that connects mightily with their angst ridden audience. Relying heavily on a machine-gun guitar attack "Prayer," "Intoxication" and the demonic "Awaken" ("awaken yeah, with a little evil inside") stand out but Disturbed comes off as one-dimensional. Rock is more than anguished/angry lyrics lashed to a bone-rattling guitar. But that's Disturbed's world.
The highly anticipated "10,000 Fists" comes off as more of the same. Hard core fans may grouse that the album is not as highly charged as previous efforts but that's not necessarily a bad thing. The title track is a typical dark Rocker but the more melodic "Just Stop" and "Deify" are the songs that connect. "I'm Alive" and "Guarded" a pure Disturbed. The only real question is whose idea was it to cover Genesis' "Land Of Confusion." The song was hardly one of the one of the best from the Phil Collins iteration of the group. Surprisingly though, Disturbed bear down on the song and actually turn it into something. Now that's impressive. Of course, it reached #1 hit on Billboard's Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart in November of '06. But that was not enough for Draiman. "To be honest with you, I expected it to [do] better," said the singer. "I had hopes for it -- multi-format, not simply at the active (Rock) format, especially with the rotation of (the) video."
Disturbed come out of the gate with a doomed intensity on "Indestructible" and never let up. They inhabit a world where even the "meds don't help" ("Haunted"). Following the title track is the driven single "Inside The Fire" but it's outdone by "Perfect Insanity," a smack down shot of suicide Rock.
The song titles, "Criminal," "Deceiver" and "Torn" exhibit no change in the group's perspective and Draiman's vocals are drenched in violent authenticity. But as potent as Draiman is, especially on "The Curse," this album lives by Donegan's take-no-prisoners guitar. While usually favoring a high-energy churn, spitting out staccato riffs, he takes a classic guitar line on the closing track, "Fašade," and rolls through it with searing perfection.
"Asylum's" title track reinforces Disturbed's reputation for scorching the earth, but they also show their diversity on "Another Way To Die." It starts as a dark, moody ballad that explodes into a vicious Rocker complete with an Eddie Van Halen-type guitar interlude. To close out the set Disturbed uncork a molten cover of U2's "Joshua Tree" classic "ISHFWILF" ("I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For").
Commercial success should never be the sole measure of an album or group. Though Disturbed have established a powerful connection with their audience "Asylum" illustrates, once again, that the music comes first.
The one twist on "The Lost Children" is the closing track, "Living After Midnight," which could have been a '80's Hair Metal song. Other than that though, the set is full of the torment fans expect from Disturbed.
It made perfect sense to have Disturbed tour with Taproot, Chevelle and Unloco. The groups share a common instrumentation and viewpoint. Nor should it be a surprise that Disturbed sounds the best on "Music As A Weapon II." They have seven songs including a new track, "Dehumanize," with its razor sharp guitar. Chevelle scores points with the sparse "Forfeit" and Taproot's three songs come off well with "Sumtimes" being the best.