Photo Credit: Travis Shinn
Chicago’s Disturbed is already one of the most successful heavy metal bands to debut (on record) in the twenty-first century, boasting among other accomplishments four consecutive studio albums going to number one in the U.S. since Believe in 2002 (even Immortalized topped the charts in 2015, despite the band taking an extended official hiatus). The band’s commercial success will most likely continue unabated with their new release Divisive which, despite its title, will probably appeal to all fans of not just the band, but also most fans of heavy metal or even rock music in general.
The band opens the album with the track “Hey You.” An exclamation point is surprisingly absent from the title, but once heard it’s obvious that it doesn’t need it. The song comes in swinging with an attention-grabbing stomping beat before more than delivering on what comes after, with both a strong verse and catchy borderline-emo chorus. The listener might assume any potential surprises in the song have been exhausted before hearing the bridge, which features a killer rapid-fire vocal by lead singer David Draiman.
Basically, every aspect of the track works, and over the course of the next thirty-eight minutes, we discover that it was no fluke. While there’s not much variety in terms of musical style on the album, nearly every track successfully discovers its own distinction. While the tone of heavy metal on the whole has traditionally been dark and negative, Divisive contains a few uplifting messages, as titles like “Take Back Your Life” and “Won’t Back Down” would imply. “Love to Hate” from the title would probably imply some form of characteristically metal anger until the lyrics in context produce what’s almost a ’60s peacenik vibe: “I keep hope alive and tell me, where do we begin? // ‘Cause everybody just loves to hate // Why do we love to hate? // Such depravity in humanity is common // Why do we love to hate?
// This insanity, now embedded in our hearts.”
Still, most of the lyrics on the album are subjective. “Bad Man” is a scathing attack on a figure who’s never identified (“No, I will never understand // Why these cowards bow to your demand // We’re all at the mercy of… another bad man”). The track also opens with the same “bad man/sad man” rhyme used on the Who’s classic “Behind Blue Eyes,” and the underlying message might even remind some of that band’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” On the subject of classic rock, “Feeding the Fire” is another scorcher, this one which includes a hook that would be right at home on ’70s or ‘Eighties ’80s AOR.
On that tip, the promise of a guest vocal from Ann Wilson – longtime frontwoman of Heart – and even the title “Don’t Tell Me” make it easy to guess that this is going to be an attempt at a male/female duet. Hard rock has never really managed to successfully master this formula (Ozzy Osbourne and Lita Ford’s “If I Close My Eyes Forever” is the closest we’ve gotten). Although Wilson in the past has proven to be a fitting duet partner for Mike Reno (Loverboy) and Robin Zander (Cheap Trick), here her presence comes off more like stunt casting than a suitable fit for the song or the band. “Don’t Tell Me” is virtually the album’s only misstep (and even it’s salvaged by an innovative solo courtesy of lead guitarist Don Donegan). Draiman really has no real need for another voice, as his own vocals more than adequately get every message across. And as with the music, virtually everything on Divisive is worth hearing.