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Artist: Disturbed
Label: Reprise Records
Length: 12 Tracks, 47:22 minutes

The first thing that hit me with this album was the striking cover image  a metallic collage of a Jewish Star of David, a Christian cross, and the Islamic Star and Crescent. Coupled with the title, Believe, it is a confronting and, appropriately, disturbing image. Is the implication that all religious beliefs are the same, despite their conflicting views? Does it mean, “believe everything”? Or simply that everything is believable? Or, “believe whatever you want”? I was understandably curious as to what they were getting at, so flipped on the music and whipped out the lyric sheet hoping to draw out some clues to the enigma. 

Musically, Disturbed is straight, driving, crunchy modern rock/metal from Chicago  occasionally reminiscent of Tool, though nowhere near as subtle or complex. (It’s almost all power chords, barely any solos or more intricate guitar work.) The songs are all around the same length (about four minutes each) and it has a telling effect. It’s a little over-processed, a little plastic  which dulls the blade of the anger expressed in lyrics that are often accusatory and somewhat pretentious. 

Vocalist David Draiman comes across as a bit of a James Maynard Keenan wannabe in several songs, especially the title track. He does actually sing and hits some great notes, accompanied by the occasional grunts and growls common to the nu-metal genre. However, I find I’m a little bored by the middle of the album; a little more variation and experimentation with sounds, rhythms and atmosphere would have livened it up. 

The first track “Prayer” (also the first single), is a very radio friendly song with a great hook, which also introduces us to the first of eight songs that draw heavily on religious / philosophical imagery. (The rest are basically bitching about an ex-girlfriend.) God is clearly on the agenda, and Draiman is a passionate conversant. A little Web research reveals that Draiman is in fact of Orthodox Jewish heritage. His rediscovery of this faith, following the recent death of his grandfather (a Holocaust survivor) and the events of 9/11, have fueled the lyrical content of this album. The enhanced CD version of _Believe_  Disturbed’s second album following 1999’s _The Sickness_  shows part of an interview with Draiman describing “Prayer” as a modern day depiction of the biblical story of Job. He is candid about his thoughts on religion and matters spiritual, particularly regarding much publicized comments made by some American religious leaders and televangelists after 9/11. 

That’s all fine and good. Such honest spiritual reflection is uncommon in modern rock. But does the band have anything of merit to say about belief on the whole? What do they believe? A message in the liner notes, presumably from Draiman, sums it up:

In an age of nothing, at a time when we stand at the brink of our own destruction  strengthen your belief in yourself, in the future, in the things of this world which cannot easily be perceived. Awaken that which lies dormant now within your soul. Re-ignite the flame of your consciousness and measure the strength of your conviction. Reveal the lie. Renounce your hatred. Seek, find and embrace the truths you are fortunate enough to discover. Cherish them. Use them to anchor you in the sea of chaos that is the world we live in. When twilight draws near, when you are pushed to the very limits of your soul, when it seems that all you have left are the dead remnants of the fabric of your life believe.
… which says to me that he wants to believe in something, but isn’t sure what exactly. He certainly doesn’t subscribe to any particular faith, but rather seems to reject them all for a philosophical path that walks between the cracks of each. 

Still, there is the occasional ring of Judeo-Christian truth. In “Liberate,” Draiman paraphrases Micah 4:v2-4 to make a point against war. Also, the much-repeated chorus of “Believe” screams, “All your belief cannot absolve your sin”. True enough, but the following verse muddies the water with this:

To renew your faith in God / you must believe in your lie 
The redemption is complete when you conceive / and decline 
To release your lives / sacrificed to me … Burn your lie into me
Such contradictions are rife on this album (ie. truth = lies, life = death, salvation = damnation) making for a somewhat garbled “message”, if you can even call it that. In this vein, the album closer, “Darkness,” is a stark contrast to the rest of the album. The distortion onslaught makes way for the piano, strings and acoustic guitar of a classic metal ballad, but with plaintive lyrics and a haunting melody that’s almost Jars of Clay (I kid you not.) 
Don’t turn away / I pray that you have heard the words I’ve spoken 
Dare to believe for one last time / And then I’ll let the darkness cover me 
Deny everything / Slowly walk away to breathe again on my own 
Carry me away / I need your strength to get me through this
If this album grew out of the pain of losing a loved one and the tragedy of 9/11, then it is as relevant a discourse as any sermon on the question of the problem of evil. A warning to the squeamish; there are a couple of f-words, but that’s all. On the whole, it’s encouraging that a band that names itself “Disturbed” can actually produce such a positive, reasonably coherent and intelligent statement on belief and faith. Mixing it with some pretty cool music only makes it easier to grapple with their thoughts. 

Brendan Boughen 11/7/2002



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