“We realised we had the itch,” smiles Disturbed frontman David Draiman. “I think this band was feeling the withdrawal symptoms a little too hard!”
It’s been four years since the Chicago heavyweights announced their hiatus, during which Draiman got married, became a father, produced a Trivium record and launched new project Device. You could say he’s been fairly busy, but with Disturbed reuniting for sixth album, Immortalized, he’ll be jumping into the deep end once more. The batteries are charged. It’s time to crush arenas again.
“The only thing that wasn’t working before was that it had become predictable and monotonous… Sometimes you need to stoke those coals a bit, and the only way to do that to is give it more oxygen. Let things breathe for a while.
“This reunion started with a visit from Dan [Donegan, Disturbed guitarist] who came to see me and my family in Austin, he hadn’t seen my son yet. Then we all had dinner in Chicago, the ball continued to roll and a few weeks later, Dan sent over the first batch of ideas.”
The guitarist had, too, been enjoying the oxygen, trading the jetset rockstar life for something perhaps a bit more wholesome and well… normal. He would be at school meetings and coaching football, just a regular dad soaking up some much-needed time away from the rock ’n’ roll circus. Well, at least for a while…
“Once we got back in a room together and talked about it, we realised how much we missed Disturbed. I went back and watched our Decade Of Disturbed DVD to reflect on where we’d gotten to since starting out as a local band in the Chicago suburbs, playing to a handful of people and later headlining the biggest festivals in the world.
“It opened my eyes to what a ride it’s been for us, and I felt like I wanted to go back to that. This is our baby, and this record is what brought us together again. We realised we have an amazing songwriting partnership here.”
And it’s time to find out the influences behind that partnership, as David and Dan outline the 10 records that changed their lives…
1. Black Sabbath - We Sold Our Souls For Rock 'N' Roll (1976)
Dan: “My friend lived across the street, and his parents were the metalheads of the neighbourhood: 70s hippie generation parents. So I’d sneak over there during the day when everyone was at work and we’d listen to Rainbow, Led Zeppelin, etc.
“But Sabbath was just so dark. To hear riffs like Iron Man, NIB, Sweet Leaf for the first time… Tony Iommi’s riffs got me. That’s why I became a guitar player. Listen to Black Sabbath, the song, those three simple notes sound so dark. That did it for me!”
2. Metallica - Ride The Lightning (1984)
David: “It was the first time I was exposed to Metallica. Hearing something that aggressive and fast, it was almost shocking. Just so in your face; I’d never heard anything like it.
“Songs like Creeping Death, Trapped Under Ice and Fade To Black became the soundtrack to my life at that time. It opened the doors to so many possibilities stylistically for everyone. I didn’t even know what thrash was until I heard Metallica. It was that eye-opening and exciting.”
3. Led Zeppelin - II (1969)
Dan: “This was the first album I ever bought! I was always more of a classic metal fan, but I love the songwriting, playing and production skills of Jimmy Page. He just seems like an innovator… his ideas were way ahead of their time. And obviously he’s one of the greatest guitar legends out there.
“That was a great album for me and it had a lot of influence. They are who they are for a reason. I like it that they had great diversity over the years. John Paul Jones is like an unsung hero. I don’t know if he really gets enough credit for what he brought to the table… arranging skills, what he brought to the keyboards. Then there’s Robert Plant, one of the most iconic rock vocalists of all time. He’s gotta be in the top three for me.”
4. Iron Maiden - The Number Of The Beast (1982)
David: “I’ll never forget the first time I saw the cover. I thought, ‘This is something you’re not supposed to listen to!’ Just the title track alone, that opening guitar line, but the whole record… it’s so ridiculously epic. You can’t get more bombastic and grandiose as far as melodic metal goes.
“Bruce is probably the guy I look up to most as a frontman. He’s amazing; he’s bulletproof. I’ve watched Maiden 11 times and never seen a bad show. I saw him perform with a broken rib in LA and it didn’t even faze him – he was singing and running all over the place. Every goddamn note with a broken rib… how the fuck did he do that?
“I ran into Bruce the other night in Germany. I still geek out when we see these guys, even though we know each other as friends and, dare I say it, colleagues. That’s a weird thing to say; it’s a very surreal situation for a kid who grew up worshipping these guys and still does!”
5. Judas Priest - Screaming For Vengeance (1982)
David: “I think this is probably my favourite Judas Priest album. British Steel has a lot of the hits on it, but there’s so much greatness in Screaming For Vengeance. At school, you had to be either a Priest or a Maiden guy. You couldn’t be both, and I was both. I told everyone to go fuck themselves, ha ha!
“I’ve always loved the obscure tracks like Riding On The Wind – it’s fucking amazing. To me, that’s Halford at his best. Holding that note forever with the unbelievable vibrato he has. It’s guys like him, Bruce, Geoff Tate… they have such ridiculous voices and ranges. Which takes us nicely to our next record…”
6. Queensrÿche – Operation: Mindcrime (1988)
Dan: “I don’t know how many times I’ve just listened to this from start to finish. And I still do! David really reminds me of Geoff Tate sometimes; he has those moments that really stick out tonality-wise. Great musicianship in that band, too – another twin-guitar, great band.
“I really miss Chris DeGarmo being in the mix; I really wish he’d come back for some kinda reunion. Plus, the band split, with Geoff Tate doing his own thing now, so that’s probably unlikely to happen. But Breaking The Silence, Spreading The Disease, Sweet Sister Mary… it was just so haunting, with all the spoken stuff and voices.
“I love a lot of the early stuff, too, but when this came out… it floored me. They were actually the first band I went to meet. I stood in line all excited at Rolling Stone Records in Chicago. I was so excited to shake their hands and get an autograph; it was a cool moment!”
7. Pantera - Vulgar Display Of Power (1992)
David: “What would you have called Pantera back then? Groove metal? I’d only heard a little bit of them. I went to the video shoot for Walk at the Riviera Theater in Chicago and I’ll never forget that for as long as I live.
“I couldn’t believe how Philip was able to command the audience. He was so brutal in his vocal delivery but also fused elements of melody in there from time to time. It was so rhythmic, they honoured the groove instead of just speed. The breakdown was the entire fuckin’ song and that was genius to me.”
Dan: “For Phil to sing like that but still be audible and understandable, that’s what I love. I never got into the heavier, thrashier bands where you couldn’t figure out what they were saying and you had to read the liner notes! With Phil you could hear the message sung with conviction.
“And Dimebag was by far the best metal guitar player ever. His riffs were just insane. We used to cover Walk and 5 Minutes Alone, such killer songs. We were fortunate to have them join us on stage and play Walk. I was like, ‘Is this really happening right now?!’ It was unbelievable and easily one of the highlights of our career.”
8. Korn - Korn (1994)
Dan: “Korn pioneered the seven-string for a lot of metal bands, because I thought those guitars were more for the virtuoso guys like Steve Vai. I never imagined it coming into the heavy metal world.
“Plus, how do you be in a band as heavy as that and think, ‘Let’s bring some bagpipes into this as well!’ They pull it off and it’s as cool as hell. That takes courage and it’s brilliant. They sing nursery rhymes and make it sound killer. It’s so uplifting, the crowds go crazy.
“Years back, we played a show with them on Halloween and it was a rare occasion to do something funny. So we dressed up as them, dreadlock wigs… it was classic. If social media existed at the time it would have gone viral, ha ha! The audience didn’t know and we came out and played Blind. It was just awesome. It was pretty funny.”
David: “We stopped by their dressing room on our way to the stage so they could see what we looked like – we didn’t wanna do it and them not know!
“When Disturbed first began, we obviously talked about what bands we were listening to, and I’d just been exposed to this record. Jonathan Davis’ style: that delivery, depth, emotion, variety… it wouldn’t surprise me if they still had their best record left in them.”
9. Deftones - Adrenaline (1995)
David: “The first Deftones album came out around the same time as that first Korn album. This was very eye-opening and life-changing for me. Because, before I heard these two albums, I’d kinda stepped away from metal for a while.
“I was still into the classic metal bands and a bit of hair-metal, too – I’m still a huge Whitesnake and Mötley Crüe fan to this day. I couldn’t necessarily invest myself in all of it as a rabid fan, but certainly appreciated the musicianship of it. But hearing Adrenaline was very inspirational, especially as we were just starting out as Disturbed. It was like something none of us had heard before – a total game-changer.”
10. Soundgarden - Badmotorfinger (1991)
David: “Chris Cornell, even though he’s not metal per se, is definitely a huge vocal inspiration. The songs on this album: Jesus Christ Pose, Rusty Cage, Outshined… all amazing.
“One of the things Soundgarden taught me was how many different ways rhythm could be manipulated. There are so many rhythms in this record, so many different directions and so unique.
“It’s impossible for most human beings to sing as well as Chris, he’s not a normal person… he’s ridiculously gifted. I just saw them not too long ago – fucking amazeballs, dude. They were opening for Nine Inch Nails… it was like, ‘Good God, this is ridiculous!’”