If a band such as Disturbed — who have recently shared bills with Machine Head and Megadeth, not to mention the ten years of vast success in their own right — are concerned about the stability of the music industry, we know we must have a sector in trouble. But this was one of the reasons given by frontman David Draiman for the group’s current hiatus, after last year’s release of the platinum-selling Asylum.
Things were a lot different in 2000, when Disturbed released their debut The Sickness — yep, the one with the monkey noises. Since then their style has found its groove, with songs built around big, bombastic riffs. Last month’s The Lost Children is their first release since Asylum, put out despite (or, more likely, because of) the hiatus. A ‘B-sides and rarities’ compilation, it takes in material from all of Disturbed’s ten years so far. The 18 tracks on this album have mostly been released as B-sides on singles, Japanese editions and on film soundtracks, such as the outstanding ‘This Moment’ from Transformers. But they turn out every bit as solid as any ‘proper’ Disturbed tune.
This is only to be expected — guitarist Dan Donegan talked in an interview in the summer about the passion the band have for every one of their songs, or ‘children’ as they like to call them. This sort of self love often puts people off Disturbed, but it does mean every release of theirs is polished to perfection. Donegan highlighted ‘A Welcome Burden’ and ‘God of the Mind’ as the most meaningful memories for him; both were recorded in the late 90s, before the band released their breakthrough Sickness album and while they were mostly playing bars and intimate venues in their home state of Illinois. I’m inclined to agree, having always been a fan of Disturbed’s early alt-metal experimental material. Between ‘A Welcome Burden’’s stunningly delivered “Race/Rape/Face of the mother culture” lines and the plain weird intro and bass breakdowns in ‘God of the Mind’, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were hearing a Rage Against the Machine or System of a Down track.
It’s a shame that Disturbed lost this element as time went on: though 2010’s ‘Mine’ is something of a throwback, lots of the other tracks seem like more of the same, particularly ‘Leave It Alone’, ‘Sickened’ and ‘Dehumanised’ from the middle part of the record, when it’s beginning to flag. However, there are hints of experimental electronica in ‘Old Friend’, a song about Dexter from the TV show and his emotionless nature. As ever, when Disturbed sound confident in their own sound, their capacity to produce earthquakingly great tunes is astounding — any one of ‘Monster’, ‘Leave It Alone’, ‘3’, ‘Hell’ and especially ‘Two Worlds’ could have been hit singles in their own right from any album since Ten Thousand Fists in 2005. The only album era receiving no love is 2002’s Believe. Its general airbrushing from Disturbed history is a real shame in my eyes, as it marks an interesting transition period and experimentation with slow-paced ballads.
The stories behind certain tracks are worth mention: aside from those already covered, the band’s brilliant covers of Faith No More and Judas Priest tracks close out the album deftly. Just before them, ‘3’ is a tribute to the Memphis Three, teenagers imprisoned for supposed Satan worship in 1994. Disturbed included the song at the last moment due to their surprise release from jail earlier this year — and it’s one of the best songs on the album, too.
The Lost Children is a must for serious Disturbed fans, even if in this age of digital downloads the hardcore will probably have heard most of these ‘rarities’ long ago; ‘Mine’ is the only track not previously released (though it’s excellent, by the way!). Disturbed have been releasing old tracks on their studio albums for a long time (see Indestructible’s ‘Perfect Insanity’ from 2000). They clearly have a huge level of self-respect or -indulgence, depending on how you look at it, but whichever way you see them it must be said it makes for some really polished tracks. Despite being a seemingly lazy ‘rarity’ release, just as much love has gone into every track on The Lost Children as on any of Disturbed’s five studio releases — and that’s surely something to be respected.