‘Evolution’ album review
By Caroline Ho, Assistant Editor
Despite its ambitious and promising title, Disturbed’s newest album Evolution conveys less of a ground-breaking, style-redefining transformation and more of a phase that is a little awkward to witness.
The hard rock/metal band’s seventh studio album, released on October 19, follows on the heels of 2015’s Immortalized. While Disturbed’s sound has deepened and thematically intensified since their signature “Down with the Sickness” hit airwaves in 2000, Evolution marks a significant and not wholly effective tonal departure.
Admittedly, their aggressive, hard-hitting sound had grown a little too consistent over six previous albums—and I say this as a completely shameless fan of Disturbed in all their early-2000s nu metal derivativeness. Evolution still carries plenty of this familiar forceful energy, but the band’s commercially successful cover of “The Sound of Silence” on Immortalized has also given them license on this new record to try out some softer, more melodic songs.
The opening track and lead single, “Are You Ready,” starts the album off strongly and rousingly. With its invigorating pace, pulsing drums and riffs, and a chorus that calls its listeners to action, this one’s a solidly heavy track that lines up right with any of the band’s older material. It’s followed up by “No More,” another familiar-sounding but true-to-form addition to Disturbed’s repertoire. Frontman David Draiman delivers the vocals with his usual ruthless vivacity as he rails against a mindlessly greedy political system.
Evolution changes gears with “A Reason to Fight,” the second single, which is one of this album’s better attempts at exploring a more tender side. The track starts off with a simple acoustic guitar and builds in strength as the lyrics sing of conquering inner demons together. As far as rock ballads go, it’s a decent and genuinely passionate song. Lyrically and thematically this track isn’t the most innovative, but it is catchy enough for lines like “When the demon that’s inside you is ready to begin / And it feels like a battle that you will never win” to resonate.
Unfortunately, the album’s other more ballad-esque offerings fall far shorter. “Hold On to Memories” sounds about as generic as you can get for an acoustic, triple metre tune—not terrible, but nothing that you wouldn’t hear plopped in the middle of any other rock album for a token stab at variety. The same goes for “Uninvited Guest,” only available on the deluxe edition. In addition to featuring some dubious harmonies in the vocals, “Uninvited Guest” also contains verses and a chorus laden with unambiguously bland lyrics.
These softer experiments are woven between heavier, standard Disturbed fare, such as with the swift, gritty delivery of verses in the track “In Another Time.” Resentfulness and retaliation abound in “Saviour of Nothing.” The song echoes a familiar theme in Disturbed’s songs of being beaten down by a cold world, sung with a bracing level of simmering resilience.
“The Best Ones Lie” brings the best the band has to offer: solid nu metal groove, societally disenchanted lyrics delivered with cutting staccato intensity, and an infectious chorus melody that already sounds like it deserves radio overplay. Once again, the group’s made similar hits previously, but they consistently make them well and this track sounds to be an even stronger, more assertive, and more mature development of their style.
The regular, non-deluxe edition of Evolution ends on the disappointing note of “Already Gone.” This slow serenade drips with overwrought melodrama, aiming for deeply emotional but overshooting into painful sappiness. Draiman’s powerful baritone sounds wholly unused to this level of melancholy—yet instead of sounding poignantly raw, as one might hope, it comes across as simply uncomfortable and fades to a mediocre finish.
Evolution does merit mandatory kudos for trying to branch out of the band’s tried and true material. Some of those brownie points are lost because their attempts aren’t all successful. The album certainly contains a few excellent songs, but none of those winners mark a significant artistic reinvention so much as a revitalization of their signature sound.