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Disturbed - "Asylum" (CD)

Disturbed - "Asylum" CD cover image

"Asylum" track listing:

1. Remnants (2:43)
2. Asylum (4:36)
3. The Infection (4:08)
4. Warrior (3:24)
5. Another Way to Die (4:13)
6. Never Again (3:33)
7. The Animal (4:13)
8. Crucified (4:36)
9. Serpentine (4:09)
10. My Child (3:17)
11. Sacrifice (4:00)
12. Innocence (4:31)

Reviewed by on October 19, 2010

"A superb album that blends the relentless riffing of nu-metal with a classic metal sensibility, Disturbed's 'Asylum' is one of the best discs of 2010. "

Say what you want about nu-metal, with its lack of technicality and solos, but there was something admirable about the fright-masks-and-seven-string-guitars era's dedication to sheer heaviness. Sure, Limp Bizkit's "Break Stuff" was a celebration of juvenile rage and stupidity, but there was no denying that that simple, deep two-note riff was a punch right in the teeth.

Disturbed, which gained fame right at the height of the nu-metal movement, has often claimed to be more in line with classic metal along the lines of Pantera and Metallica, and certainly, there was 100 percent less rapping than you got with Fred Durst and the boys. Nonetheless, there was no doubt that Disturbed was much more about riffs and rhythms — with the occasional bit of electronica — than it was about fleet-fingered fretboard work on the part of guitarist Dan Donegan. Solos have made their way onto the last couple Disturbed discs, and on the most recent one, "Asylum," it's plainly obvious that Donegan is still more interested in rhythm than he is in showing off how many notes he can cram into a measure — and that's definitely a good thing.

Just as you're going to remember "Whole Lotta Love" for the amazing riff more than Jimmy Page's solo, so you'll be remembering "The Infection" on "Asylum" for its rolling opening and big chorus. When Donegan does solo, there's still a heavy sense of rhythm, rather than big show-off moments. In other words, the song keeps right on rolling like a freight train, keeping up a relentless mid-tempo momentum.

One thing that has definitely survived the nu-metal days is this band's dedication to creating aggressive sounds. "Another Way To Die" may be a lamentation of the way we're destroying the world through global warming and pollution, but rhythmically and in terms of the growly way David Draiman delivers the vocals, it's got the feeling that I can only quantify as that feeling you get right before the first punch is thrown in a fight.

I also have to give Draiman props for his skills as a lyricist. Tracks like "The Infection," which deals with the devastation of lost love, the aforementioned "Another Way To Die" and the Holocaust lament "Never Again," which also is a defiant celebration of his Jewish heritage, show an intelligence that definitely sets this band apart from most radio-bound hard rockers. And, if the sheer pain of "My Child" doesn't put a lump in your throat, you've got no heart.

Granted, there are some "typical metal" throwaway lyrics, like the werewolf-themed "The Animal" and the cold-hearted-woman lament "Serpentine." Still, when Draiman's lyrics are lacking, there are always those powerhouse riffs to fall back on.

Weirdly enough, Draiman's best performance on the disc is on its "hidden" 13th track, a cover of U2's "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," in which he does Bono proud, with vocals that show off an incredible range and precision. I've got to wonder if part of the reason the band covered up this incredible cover is that they didn't want pressure from the record company to release it as a single, a la their previous version of Genesis' "Land Of Confusion." It's that great. It's also got me wondering what other 1980s pop tracks they'll be tackling in the future — my personal pick would probably be for them to take on some Peter Gabriel ("In Your Eyes" maybe?).

A superb album that blends the relentless riffing of nu-metal with a classic metal sensibility, Disturbed's "Asylum" is one of the best discs of 2010.

Highs: "Another Way To Die," "The Infection," "My Child" and the hidden track "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For"

Lows: Some lyrical weakness on "Serpentine" and "The Animal."

Bottom line: A superb metal disc powered by driving riffs, powerful vocal delivery and thoughtful lyrics.

Rated 4.0 out of 5 skulls
4.0 out of 5 skulls


Reviewed by on September 21, 2010

"I was waiting for a song to prove my theory about the singles not bringing out the true colors of the album, but unfortunately, I was left hanging in utter disappointment. "

“Asylum” is Disturbed's fifth studio album in a career that was launched in early 2000 in the heyday of the nu metal fever. However, many fans are in disagreement over the exact sub-genre that they should be categorized. Some fans have debated and classified Disturbed as nu metal and/or a combination of hard rock. In 2006, Disturbed successfully implemented their first guitar solo ever on the track “Stricken.” It seemed like Disturbed had moved away from the earlier fads of the decade and showed more maturation and progression.

With 2008’s "Indestructible," which was arguably their best album since their debut album “The Sickness,” Disturbed had perfected their new sound with the strong vocals of David Draiman and the incredibly catchy solos on “Perfect Insanity” and “Inside the Fire” from Dan Donegan. The “synth pop” progressions had all but faded and Disturbed had reinvented their image, proving their prowess as a top band in the tiers of hard rock. When listening to “Asylum,” I must admit that I had high hopes for another critically-acclaimed winner. Disturbed had finally found their niche in hard rock with “Ten Thousand Fists,” but “Asylum” digresses with the over-use of electronic synths and fillers that are more apparent than any other Disturbed album.

The album starts off with one of the most bizarre tracks that Disturbed has ever planned. Normally, they write songs that can individually stand alone, but Draiman broke the second track “Asylum” as a continuance of “Remnants,” which is an instrumental. You can tell right away that this album has some elements from back in 2000, where Disturbed introduced electronics and other synth material in “The Sickness.” However, having songs that possess this attribute and solos at the same time makes the sound more suspect, since “Asylum” combines the old days of Disturbed with their new style; this is anti-synergistic and makes for an odd concoction.

The next lead single, “Another Way to Die,” was the first single from the album on the radio. It is no coincidence that Disturbed chose “Another Way to Die” as the single because the whole Gulf Coast oil spill tragedy coincided with their overall lyrical message. Many people would call Disturbed “opportunists” by choosing to have a track that would fit perfectly with the zeitgeist of these past months. The riff is a very simple down-tuned guitar with a few strums, and their last single “Inside The Fire” completely overshadows this track by actually having a catchy chorus, riff, lyrics, and, surprisingly, an outstanding solo performance. Here, the lyrics are too overly cliché, something that any high school kid can formulate, and a riff too simple to awe the listeners as a preview for their new album. The worst part is this song is not that bad compared to the rest of the album.

I must admit, I thought the album’s singles were not representative of the whole album. Maybe Disturbed wanted to save the best for when it was released and gave the lower end songs to preview as singles. Many mainstream bands chose the wrong tracks for singles, like Iron Maiden, Metallica, and Avenged Sevenfold. To my dismay, when listening to “Asylum,” the only tracks that come close are “Warrior” and “Never Again.” I can say that Disturbed has never been a band that masks their filler tracks well. In other words, when you hear filler tracks, it is so blatantly obvious and not as subtle as some other bands have going for them. Make no mistake, after “Never Again,” you can tell right away that these tracks are incredibly on the spot, almost improvisational-like, so to speak. I was waiting for a song to prove my theory about the singles not bringing out the true colors of the album, but unfortunately, I was left hanging in utter disappointment. The songs do not get much better than the singles already previewed, which makes for a grim outlook on the overall quality of the album.

“Asylum” can be equated as follows: you take the first style that is much more nu-metal fixated on “The Sickness” and “Believe” and blend it with the more rock-oriented “Ten Thousand Fists” and “Indestructible.” You would think there would be some uniqueness with these combinations, but that is not the case. Disturbed needs to choose one style and stick with it. They perfected it on “Indestructible,” and “Asylum” is definitely a step in the wrong direction.

Highs: The first six tracks are average. "Never Again" is the best track.

Lows: After track six, pretty much everything is unequivocally filler.

Bottom line: Disturbed should have omitted the six filler tracks and made an EP instead.

Rated 2.0 out of 5 skulls
2.0 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)