“If this disturbs you, then walk away…” warns singer DAVID DRAIMAN on the very first song of DISTURBED’s third studio album. The album’s title track, “Ten Thousand Fists,” is DISTURBED’s most rousing call-to-arms to date, with DAVID calling upon his band’s leagues of fans to show their strength and solidarity. DAVID, ever the eloquent spokesman for his comrades in this Chicago-based hard rock band, admits that this time, the gloves are coming off.
“There’s true substance, true passion, true emotion and relevancy to all of these songs,” explains DAVID. “And it’s an interesting record, in that it seems to really effectively fuse elements from our last two records, like the aggression and darkness of the first, with the more melodic and complex nature of the second.” True to his word, TEN THOUSAND FISTS (Reprise) is that rare hard rock album that exists purely in the now, with lyrics that are influenced by both the state of the world and by inter-personal relationships at the midpoint of the decade, and powered by riffs, beats and solos that sear with the fury of the best rock and roll.
Formed in 1996, having previously introduced the world to the concept of 2000’s The Sickness (3.4 million copies sold) and then proving to fans that they were here to stay with the Billboard No. 1-charting, Platinum-plus-selling Believe (2002)--with current sales of 1.6 million--DISTURBED made sure that when it came time to return to the studio with longtime associate, producer Johnny K., they would have the goods with them yet again. Guitarist DAN DONEGAN and drummer MIKE WENGREN began jamming together a mere month after the conclusion of the band’s triumphant Main Stage appearance on Ozzfest 2003. They ended up with 19 songs to present to lyricist DAVID, and 13 of them ended up on the new album (along with a strikingly hard-hitting cover of Genesis’s “Land of Confusion”).
TEN THOUSAND FISTS boasts a cover by wildly-popular comics artist Todd McFarlane (creator of Spawn), and is spearheaded by the radio tracks “Stricken” and “Guarded.”
DONEGAN’s willingness to stretch out and begin playing more solos was a revelation to the band. “DANNY has finally come out of his cage,” DAVID says admiringly. “He’s ripping solos on a bunch of the songs on this record. I couldn’t be more proud, I’m so glad that he’s decided to have the courage to show everyone what he can do, and it’s fantastic.”
Having been befriended years ago by Pantera’s Dimebag Darrell, DISTURBED took his shocking murder very hard. DAN, who had been playing Pantera’s songs in bands long before DISTURBED had even formed, allows that his spirit definitely had an impact on the album.
“Unfortunately,” DAN recalls,” the day we entered the studio will always stay with me, because we had all flown down to Texas for the funeral, and when we returned, the next day we were working.
“Part of me is still paying tribute to him,” he continues, “we need more lead guitar players out there, they’ve been away for too long.” DISTURBED would organize and perform a concert in Chicago that year to raise funds for Dimebag’s family.
There was another detour along the way. Before the band returned to the studio with Johnny K (who produced the two previous albums), the band experienced the departure of bassist Fuzz, who was excused from the group for “personal differences.” (On TEN THOUSAND FISTS, bass duties were handled by John Moyer, a former member of The Union Underground.)
In the meantime, the band approved the use of Richard Cheese’s comedic version of “Down With the Sickness” for a crucial scene in the successful remake of Dawn of the Dead, which DAVID says he found both amusing and appropriate for the film. “The filmmakers were very passionate about using that version of the song, and when they showed us the movie in a private screening, we thought it was just perfect.”
“Down With the Sickness” showcased DAVID’s animalistic approach to vocals to the hard rock audience, and he continues to use his impressive growl to counterpoint his soaring vocals on the new songs. “I only do what I feel, and it’s not a choice, really. The song dictates how I sing it. If there’s a part where the primal side of the vocals feels right coming out, I think that I have a responsibility to let it out.
“TEN THOUSAND FISTS is really more anger-oriented than Believe,” continues DAVID, “more about just lashing out at the state of things, at the situations that we’ve fallen into and the state of events of the world around us. It’s a rallying cry.”
“There’s definitely a myriad of subject matter being dealt with on this record,” begins DAVID DRAIMAN. “Some of them are relationship-oriented, some of them are life-experience-oriented, a lot of them are politically-motivated and -charged. I would say on this record that there is no specific unifying theme, necessarily, to all of the songs. They all have their own life and their own identity. There isn’t one cohesive, binding thing other than they’re all very passionate and very emotional.”
An unusual candidate for a singer in a heavy metal band, the articulate DAVID speaks about his songs and passions intelligently, and writes lyrics that don’t preach to the lowest common denominator. (Not for nothing was he a two-time panelist on ABC’s Politically Incorrect program.) He expects DISTURBED fans to engage their minds and open their consciousnesses to question the world, their beliefs, and themselves.
Quite rightly, there will be some controversy with some songs, and DAVID hopes to be debated about his views on government, war, and our country’s current divisiveness. But unlike the songs on Believe, which often found the singer sounding as if he was on some moral crusade to expose hypocrisy in all its forms, this time out DAVID has written lyrics that are more introspective and self-questioning.
“A lot of them deal with that,” he says, “particularly the relationship-oriented songs, in terms of the choices made, in terms of the paths that we walk down.”
“Stricken,” the first single, is among the more personal of the new tracks, allows DAVID. “It’s about those moments when someone comes into your life and it’s almost as if you’ve been afflicted with a disease you can’t get rid of. Devastating and debilitating.” Needless to say, this all-encompassing relationship gave birth to an eviscerating song of infernal love, complete with an explosive lead guitar burst from DAN.
The passionate lyrics of “Ten Thousand Fists,” which opens the album like a battering ram, DAVID says are “meant to signify unity and strength, the kind of elation and power” that can be felt at a momentous rock show. “It’s speaking to the nonbelievers: ‘You will remember the night you were struck by the sight of/Ten thousand fists in the air’.”
“Deify” challenges society’s tendency to elevate their leaders to God-like status, with a chorus that rallies: “You’re no immortal, I won’t let them/Deify you.” To illustrate this, a sample of George Bush’s 9/11 speech is used at the beginning of the song. “George W. Bush is who he is,” states DAVID. “Agree with him or not, you cannot disagree with the fact that the entire portion of the country that was colored red during the election attributed godlike powers to this man.”
But it is the Iraq occupation that clearly raises the singer’s ire. A staunch advocate for peace, DAVID’s songs “Sacred Lie,” “Forgiven,” and “Overburdened” all deal with the horrors of the mutilation and damnation of war, the terrible cost paid in flesh, blood, and souls. It’s a familiar topic to hard rock—see Metallica’s “One” or Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs”--and DISTURBED’s take is equally savage and heartfelt.
Says DAVID, “I write songs like these from the perspective of trying to portray the futility of conflict and the futility of lives being lost for no good goddamn reason. On face value, some of the songs may seem anti-military, but there’s a very big difference between being anti-military and antiwar. I am flagrantly antiwar, but am passionately pro-military.” “In fact, many soldiers have told me they listen to Disturbed while marching into conflict. If our music can bring fearlessness and strength to soldiers, I can’t be more proud,” says DAVID.
“Land of Confusion” is a cover of the 1986 Genesis hit, but its socially-conscious lyrics fit the second half of TEN THOUSAND FISTS well, so with DAN’s prodding, the band arrived at an aggressive version of the song, despite DAVID’s concern at recording another cover song so soon after The Sickness’ “Shout 2000” (an update of the Tears for Fears hit). “I think [‘Land of Confusion’] is certainly better than what we did with ‘Shout,’” DAVID says, “I hope that people will be able to hear it and take away a positive message.”
“Sons of Plunder” finds the singer tackling the current state of modern pop radio. “Every A&R guy and their mother is trying to jump on what they think is the next band to break, and flood the airwaves with the same bands that sound exactly the same as every other band in that respective genre. If ‘Sons of Plunder’ ends up offending some of the sheep out there, oh, well. I don’t care!”
After an extended break, DISTURBED are more than ready to bring the sounds of the new album to the fans. The intention is to reintroduce themselves with appearances in small clubs (500 fists!); then to make the leap to bigger (1,000 fists!) and bigger venues along the way. By the time they hope to see ten thousand fists punching the air in time to their new songs, DISTURBED will be well on their way to proving how dynamic their lean-and-mean hard rock stage show really is.
So don’t walk away…
DISTURBED ANNOUNCE SECOND LEG OF ‘JAGERMEISTER MUSIC TOUR’ ; NEW SINGLE ‘JUST STOP’