Friday, 2 October 2015

Disturbed's 'Immortalized' - Album Review

After the four year hiatus that started after the completion of the Asylum touring cycle in 2011 came to an end earlier this year, modern metal pioneers Disturbed are back with their sixth album Immortalized. For the last few years, the members of Disturbed have been working on other projects with varying levels of success. Frontman David Draiman formed the industrial project Device which saw short-lived success, and the duo of guitarist Dan Donegan and drummer Mike Wengren formed the band Fight or Flight which came and went without making a ripple. Bassist John Moyer was the busiest, spending time in metal supergroup Adrenaline Mob and Geoff Tate's version of Queensr├┐che (since rebranded Operation: Mindcrime). For all concerned though, the draw of Disturbed was just too great. I, for one, am glad of this as Immortalized but just be the band's best album yet. I have always been a casual fan of the band, but their early nu metal sound turned me off somewhat. Slowly however, the band has drifted away from this sound and it is now mostly absent from their sound. Disturbed are now a great, polished modern metal band that rely on massive hooks, solid riffs, and a big production job that really gets the best out of their songs. Industrial and electronic elements are still present, but they mostly sit in the background to add colour to the songs, rather than dominate the riffs. Donegan's guitar is always the lead instrument, and is never overshadowed. Draiman's unique voice is in full flow here too. No-one out there quite sounds like him, and he has always been Disturbed's secret weapon. I would say that his performance on Immortalized is possibly his best ever committed to record. The range he displays throughout is very impressive, and he always manages to inject a tonne of emotion into his voice. The album's production is also very good, and Kevin Churko has done a good job. I am not usually a fan of his production style - I find it very murky - but his work here is very good. The guitars sound big and clean throughout, and the album has a very polish feel that suits the band's style well. A murky production would take the edge out of the band's powerful melodies, so I am glad Immortalized does not have that 'traditional' Churko sound. It is also worth noting that Moyer did not actually contribute to this album (he was presumably busy with his other projects). Donegan instead played all the album's bass guitar. Moyer is still a member of Disturbed however, and has played live with them since the hiatus.

After the understated but melodic intro track The Eye of the Storm, the album proper gets underway with the storming title track. From the outset, it is clear to see that Donegan has really upped his game when it has come to riff writing, and the guitar work throughout this album is excellent.  Immortalized is a great mid-paced rocker with classic staccato vocals from Draiman and a great drum groove from Wengren. Draiman's chorus barks are infectious, and really raises the song to the next level. It is a song that proclaims that Disturbed are back, and it does this with aplomb. Lead single The Vengeful One follows, and continues the good work the previous track started. This song is similar to Disturbed singles of the past, and relies on Draiman's strong voice to drive the song. The verses are full of the rhythmic vocals he is most known for, but it is a the pre-chorus that really showcases his skills. It is dramatic yet low-key at the same time, and leads into the fist-pumping chorus really well. The cartoonish video that accompanies also seems to be paying tribute to their past style. Open Your Eyes follows, and it is one of my favourite tracks from the album. The song is packed with classic rock swagger, and carries a great groove throughout the verses that is backed up by some excellent electronics. The trademark of strong choruses continues, with an anthemic offering that makes great use melodic backing vocals and a catchy refrain that makes it hard to get out of your head. I imagine this song will become a live staple for years to come. After three excellent tracks, The Light sees a slight slump in quality. It is a more restrained song that, despite not being as good as what has come before, is still enjoyable. It features a slightly different side of Draiman's voice in the verses, which shows that he is more than a one trick pony. The quality picks up again with What are You Waiting For, which is a fast metal song that is sure to get the blood pumping. The mixture of slower, crunching verses; with a speedy chorus really works - and ensures this song will not be forgotten quickly. Draiman is extremely expressive here, and his verse vocals showcase his unique skills. Donegan's riffs are also excellent, especially the snaking effort during the chorus that sounds a little like something out of Lamb of God's catalogue. He also lays down a great solo that is one of the real guitar highlights of the album. You're Mine is an interesting tune. It has a slight Rob Zombie feel in places, with big dance rhythms and prominent synths. The chorus is pure Disturbed and features some classic melodramatic singing and big guitar sounds. What makes this song great though are the industrial rhythms and synths. It makes it stand out from the raging metal found elsewhere, and shows the band are willing to branch out sometimes and do something a little different.

After a really excellent first half of the album, the second half takes a dip somewhat. Never fear though, there are at least a couple of stonking tracks still to come however! Who is not one of them though. It is a rather nondescript song, that really sounds like Disturbed-by-numbers. The chorus is rather lacklustre, and lacks the power the band are known for. It chugs along without ever taking hold, and is rather one dimensional all round. Save Our Last Goodbye is an improvement. The slightly odd spoken word intro is interesting, and the song contains some rather good riffs. I like the chorus here too. It is less in-your-face than the band usually are, but it still works because of the strong melodies. It gets quite heavy towards the end too, with Draiman almost unleashing some harsh vocals to great effect. This part then segues into a haunting piano-led sections which is direct contrast to what came before. This a very enjoyable section, and makes the song stand out. Fire it Up is another weak one in my opinion. The sound of the bong being lit up at the beginning is rather juvenile, and the song's subject matter (smoking weed) is equally so. I like Draiman's strange verse delivery however, which sounds different to what he usually does; and Donegan unleashes some great pinch harmonic riffing in certain sections. The song just annoys me a bit though, which makes is probably my least favourite on the album overall. Luckily, one of the album's best follows. Simon & Garfunkel's The Sound of Silence seems to be a favourite for metal bands to cover (Nevermore recorded an almost extreme metal version on their 2000 album Dead Heart in a Dead World), and Disturbed have done a superb job with it. Based around piano, acoustic guitar, and strings; the song is hauntingly beautiful with Draiman really shining. This is possibly his best vocal performance ever, and showcases his immense talent. Paul Simon is probably one of the most revered songwriters of all time, and it is great to see his songs living on through modern bands. I hope he would be proud of Disturbed's version, as it is truly fantastic, and very moving. Never Wrong, despite being a decent song, just seems a little flat after the majesty that has just passed by. Again, it is another song that has a Disturbed-by-numbers feel to it somewhat. I do really like the guitar solo however, which is really drenched in crazy effects that give it a unique feel. The album's final song Who Taught You How to Hate is another really strong one, that ensures the album ends on a high. The powerful mid-paced verses have a driving riff behind them, and the soaring chorus has a really strong groove. Donegan seems to be employing an e-bow for some guitar parts throughout this song, and it sounds really good. Overall, Immortalized is a great comeback album from Disturbed after a four year break. It contains some of the band's best songs yet, and one that is contender for 'Cover of the Year'! I hope they tour the UK with some new material soon!

The album was released on 21st August 2015 via Reprise Records. Below is the band's promotional video for The Vengeful One.

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