Disturbed has never quite fit in.
When the Chicago alt-metal foursome broke onto the headbanging scene in 2000 with its debut LP, The Sickness, it was lumped in with the day’s prevailing nu-metal movement, despite the fact that blistering vocalist David Draiman didn’t rap, the band bore no discernible hip-hop influence and other than guitarist Dan Donegan’s drop tuning, Disturbed’s music shared few aesthetic similarities with leading nu-metal outfits Korn, Limp Bizkit and Slipknot.
And for nearly two decades since “Down With The Sickness” launched the band’s career as a hard-rock stalwart, Disturbed has existed as a group too saw-toothed and doomsaying for the average rock listener, yet too melodic for true thrashers who might worship its predecessors Metallica or Pantera.
Still, droves of fans have embraced the band’s outlier status, boosting the last five Disturbed records to No. 1 on the Billboard 200, and helped the group notch eight No. 1 singles on the Mainstream Rock Songs chart. They are the same supporters who will scoop up the band’s upcoming album, Evolution, when it drops Friday, Oct. 19.
As the band prepares for its next album cycle, kicked off by the pounding lead single “Are You Ready” in August, we have chosen Disturbed’s 10 best songs: monstrous modern metal jams that compel you stand up and scream, as Draiman does at the conclusion of all live performances: “We all are DISTURBED!”
10. “The Sound Of Silence,” Immortalized, 2015
You better believe we’re opening this ranking with a cover! Disturbed has a history of killer tributes to non-metal songs, from Tears For Fears’ “Shout” in 2000 to Genesis’ “Land Of Confusion” in 2005, the latter of which notched them a No. 1 Mainstream Rock winner. Yet 2015 saw the best revamp to date: a triumphant, orchestral and mesmerizing treatment of Simon and Garfunkel’s 1964 dirge “The Sound Of Silence.” Not only is it a window into Draiman’s clean baritone vocal ability — some of his patented serration comes later in the tune — but it unexpectedly earned Disturbed its highest Billboard Hot 100 chart position ever (No. 42 in 2016).
9. “Stricken,” Ten Thousand Fists, 2005
If you were swept up by the Guitar Hero video game wave of the late ‘00s, you may still suffer stress dreams where you’re trying to perfectly nail the distorted licks and searing solo of “Stricken” on Expert mode. But if you can manage to leave those anxieties behind with your XBox 360, you’ll recognize this single off Ten Thousand Fists as a well-measured cut that signified what was likely Disturbed’s most accessible album. This was a formulaic jam that received plenty of MTV play in ‘05 and might have been the tune to bring your little brother aboard the S.S. Labret Piercing. “Stricken” was the only Ten Thousand Fists track to crack Hot 100 (No. 95).
8. “Inside The Fire,” Indestructible, 2008
While much of the Disturbed catalog is anchored by vaguely apocalyptic or violent motifs, the lead single off 2008’s Indestructible is autobiographical, inspired by the real-life suicide of Draiman’s teenage girlfriend. It’s an exceedingly dark and aggressive track that bounds with both fists thrusting forward, told from the perspective of Satan, speaking to Draiman about his deceased love, “Devon,” and how he himself should join her in hell. Draiman’s shouting is boosted by Donegan’s stellar fretwork, which ultimately defined Disturbed’s first album produced solely by Donegan, and scored “Inside The Fire” a Grammy nomination for best hard rock song in 2009.
7. “The Game,” The Sickness, 2000
Sure, other tracks from The Sickness have developed more speakable legacies over the last 18 years, but no tune from the band’s seminal debut is quite as free-swinging a wrecking ball as “The Game.” It’s an angry, electro-infused thumper that portrays Draiman as a scorned lover, wailing at his ex for her apparent dishonesty. This might be Disturbed’s most nu-metal jam, with its bits of digital programming and staggered, mega-distorted riffing. The mania within Draiman boils hot in the verse and explodes in the syncopated chorus. Go to a Disturbed concert and wait for the band to slip in “The Game” — old-school fans will lose their freaking minds.
6. “Voices,” The Sickness, 2000
The song that technically started it all for Disturbed, 2000’s propulsive opening track “Voices,” remains a fan and band favorite for good reason: it rips through your speakers like a grizzly bear. Talk about a song that never lets off the gas, from Draiman’s primal growls and shouts to the sludgy breakdown that doubles down on the song’s themes of insanity: “Can’t you imagine how good going through this will make you feel?” Draiman speaks under the melody, an evil mantra willing someone to violence. Oh, the good old days (about 10 years ago) of Draiman being wheeled out on stage in a straitjacket Hannibal Lecter-style and then breaking free to sing this song before arena-sized crowds.
5. “Liberate,” Believe, 2002
Not a tune for the prim and proper — Draiman drops no less than 17 “motherfucker” bombs in this jam off Believe — but a colossal cut nonetheless. The staccato verse, which completely cuts out all sound for a few jarring moments, is a sonic bulldozer giving way to one of the band’s most anthemic choruses. If you wore JNCO jeans and went to Ozzfest in the early ‘00s, don’t act like you didn’t scream the hook “waiting for your modern messiah!” while driving around town, shunning those who Draiman had deemed “so narrow-minded.”
4. “Ten Thousand Fists,” Ten Thousand Fists, 2005
Disturbed often preaches unity — before the “we are disturbed!” chant at the end of every Disturbed concert, Draiman refers to the audience as “my brothers, my sisters, my blood.” The band’s belief in conviction and community is encapsulated here in “Ten Thousand Fists,” the titanic title track from an album that saw the band loosen its sound a bit to allow more styles — and even a few guitar solos — while still harnessing its booming drums and crunchy guitar shreds. This track performed live is something to witness: thousands of fists thrust skyward, mimicking Draiman. Epic for sure.
3. “Stupify,” The Sickness, 2000
Oh, “Stupify,” the industrial funk-inspired hellraiser that was, as some have surely forgotten, Disturbed’s very first single. This song gave headbangers a new band, a new groove that to this day Disturbed has never really bested, and for those without a reliable internet connection in 2000, a world of wonder surrounding the non-English word Draiman hauntingly sings in the song’s bridge (it was “tefached,” Hebrew for “be afraid,” by the way). “Stupify” remains one of the band’s loosest jams and a staple of the early ‘00s hard-rock sound, loaded with experimentation and ferocity.
2. “Remember,” Believe, 2002
Any diehard knows there’s more to Disturbed than just its razored yells and gloom, and my god, the sheer force behind “Remember” — the group’s greatest ballad by any stretch — is a beaming highlight. Draiman has previously anointed “Remember” as his favorite song from the band’s first two albums (quite the proclamation) in terms of melody and power, and it’s certainly up there, particularly in the way the initial chorus unfurls into a second, even grander section midway through. On tour, when the band strips this number down to a lone acoustic guitar, it’ll blow your hair back.
1. “Down With The Sickness,” The Sickness, 2000
Ooh, wah-ah-ah-ah! Was there ever any doubt? “Down With The Sickness” is, of course, the quintessential Disturbed song, harnessing all the band’s seethe and its now-famous tribal beat and guitar chug into three and a half minutes of alt-metal mayhem. It’s menacing, it’s rhythmic, it’s rebellious — as Draiman has explained, the spoken “abuse” section in the extended bridge isn’t meant to be literal mother-on-son domestic violence, but society’s assault on individual freedom. It was the band’s first platinum-selling single, and for most fans, the psychodramatic harbinger of all that was to come for a band that thrived in the nu-metal craze but could ultimately could not be contained there.