Album Review: Disturbed – Evolution

The one thing that is common among hard rock / heavy metal acts throughout the genre’s evolution is just how devoted their fans are. It doesn’t matter if you have followed Led Zeppelin since the late 60s, or were a denim and leather clad Iron Maiden fan of the 80s, or a Nine Inch Nails fan from the 90s, chances are, if you were a fan back then, chances are you’re a fan now. Heavy Metal is just one of those music genres that people just don’t grow out of. True, your tastes may diversify as you mature and get older, but there will always be a place in your heart for those heavy metal acts. It’s interesting then that the nu-metal sub-genre, although briefly big at the turn of the millennium, has since been showered with scorn, including by some of its fans. True, there are some fans which remain utterly loyal to the last, but on the whole, it is one of the few times where an off-shoot of heavy metal has lost fans en-masse over time, although some of the bands that were lumped-in with the movement actually put out some more than respectable material out (primarily Deftones).

Quite where Disturbed fit in with all of this is anyone’s guess. Contemporary with nu-metal, but seemingly minimising the rap elements that basically equated to its less talented acts engaging in some particularly clumsy cultural appropriation, Disturbed have been around for a while now, pretty much flying under the radar here in the UK until the last ten years, and since then they have established themselves as an arena-filling act with the type of loyal fan base which will seem oddly familiar to fans of 70s and 80s heavy metal. In fact Disturbed are the type of modern metal act that older fans may find themselves quite enjoying if they gave them a chance. Vocalist David Draiman has an arresting quality to his voice, and the band know their way around a tune, and on the evidence of their latest album, 2018’s Evolution, are as equally adept with softer and more considered tunes, as they are with the crunching riff-heavy numbers, and have a good feeling for when to include one in the running order of an album.

Is Evolution one of Disturbed’s better albums? Given it’s the only album I have heard by them, I simply cannot say, but what I can say is that there are enough elements in Evolution that will appeal to those old-school metal fans that might give it a chance, and the fact that it charted in the top 10 here in the UK, indicates that it’s been something of a hit with their existing fan base as well, even if it might be re-exploring ground which the band have covered previously. While there’s nothing on Evolution that I can hand-on-heart say is a game-changer for hard rock / heavy metal, there’s nothing to be particularly ashamed of either. The riffs crunch, Draiman sings well, the tunes occasionally wander into more complex arrangements yet manage to find their way back to the original groove, and the band sound interested and engaged in what they are doing. Ultimately Evolution is a solid contemporary heavy metal album, and one which has potential cross-generational appeal for those older heavy metal fans who are willing to give it a chance.

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