I am a survivor of three separate Disturbed concerts. The first – comically – was on Valentine’s Day. I met Katy after work and told her to come to the show with me. I pointed out it wouldn’t be her cup of tea, there’s a clue when you say the band’s name is “Disturbed”. We got dinner and a drink then joined the queue to go into the gig. We stood in the line for about 20 minutes, slowly shuffling forward in a funk of weed and billows of other smoke/s. We got about 10m from the door and Katy said, “take me home”. Silently we walked to the car, I dropped her to our flat out in Berhampore and then drove back in to see the show. I remember going home after and watching Fight Club while knocking out this review and hoping to never see them again. It was 2003.
w/ 8 Foot Sativa
@ The Starlight Ballroom
Friday, February 14
Auckland’s 8 Foot Sativa is loud and tasteless. The music offered seems void of any purpose or merit. It is quite possible, however, that I am the only person in attendance that thinks this. Machine gun double bass drumming propels monotonous guitar riffs, doubled by the bass guitar; neither of which show any originality whatsoever. The singer does a decent turn at being faux-angry and manages to convince the majority of the crowd to growl along with him in chanting the band’s name – which also happens to be the chorus of their last song. I am stumped as to what I can say, other than noting it as a perfect introduction to a night of blunt music. 8 Foot Sativa, I am told, have a faithful – and growing – fan base. The fact that I will not be next in line is, I am sure, the least of their concerns.
Disturbed is a heavy metal band from Chicago. This punchy 4-piece unit offers a tight set, mixing their heavier, earlier death metal from their debut album (The Sickness) with the more melodic, slightly softer offerings from their recent follow-up (Believe). Musically, these guys offer nothing new or exciting. They are performing generic hard rock, which is neither heavy, nor metal. That may be my opinion alone, but it is true enough from what I can see. The role of a reviewer though, is to comment less on what they think than on what they witness; and as a non-fan it is obvious that this gig means very little to me. The crowd in attendance seems mostly thrilled – many hands pumping the air, heads nodding; this sea of black T-shirts knows what they like. (Needless to say no doubt, but I like what I know).
Disturbed keep the energy up for the entirety of the set, switching effortlessly from crunching screamers to unauthorised Faith No More and Iron Maiden derivations. For fans, these are screams come true.
In 2008 Disturbed returned. And so did I. That’s what happens when you’re a newspaper critic. Some people don’t seem to understand that. This time the band had P.O.D and Altar Bridge opening. I remember sitting outside in the foyer reading a book about Sonic Youth (silent protest?) while waiting for the, ahem, music to begin…
w/ P.O.D. and Altar Bridge
@ TSB Arena
Wednesday September 10
American metal acts Disturbed, P.O.D and Altar Bridge are peas in a pod. Fans might see it differently, praising the intensity of Disturbed and perhaps mocking the Christian-rockers P.O.D, but why quibble over terms, here are three bands born of the Nu-Metal genre and all miss the mark by a mile when it comes to adding anything new to the hard rock canon.
Disturbed, rightful headliners, is a band with a huge following in New Zealand. Amazingly the band has been in existence for a decade now and the fan base continues to grow, each album outselling the previous. It’s a great bogan business model but as with my previous encounter reviewing Disturbed (the band last visited Wellington in 2003) I stood perplexed as a clattering sound of sludgy guitar riffs and too-loud bass thrummed around one of the poorest sounding concert venues in the country. A bad mix in this arena is punishing and Disturbed’s overly eager drummer bungled his first attempt at a big fill in the opening number. Some would say this is monolithic rock but I’d happily add or substitute monosyllabic (and while we’re at it mono-browed). One part knuckle-dragger, one part poseur, lead singer David Draiman seems to have convinced a global audience weaned on Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park that his crew is the real deal and when he speaks (“my brothers, my sisters, my blood…welcome to music as a weapon”) I feel like I’m watching a clapped out and bereft-of-ideas Henry Rollins hacking it out on the Sci-Fi fan-convention treadmill. Weak shred-styled guitar solos sit incongruous within the hollow body of faux-heavy songs and I didn’t realise I would need a compass, pick-axe, flashlight and bag of Scroggin to keep me going as I tunneled in search of a melody.
P.O.D sounded absolutely shocking, again worse than my previous encounter with the band (at 2006’s Edgefest). The big anthems Boom and Alive sounded like the musical equivalent of a limp-wristed bar-poured shandy and at best snatches of the songs sound like Rage Against The Machine tunes boiled down to cellphone ringtones.
Altar Bridge have clearly worshiped at the temple of hard slog, the singer channelling sub-Chris Cornell/Eddie Vedder vocals and the guitarist stealing slashes of Slash’s guitar work. Post-grunge, post-nu-metal this, apparently, is the new sound. And it is awful.
And then in 2011 it was back to see Disturbed again. My sister-in-law had caught a bus down from Hastings. Fuck she was amped!
TSB Bank Arena, Wednesday, May 4
American nu-metal act Disturbed has released five albums in the last decade and New Zealand is the only other territory beyond the band’s home-country to see consecutive number one chart placements for every album from their sophomore release onwards. Lead singer, David Draiman, pointed this out to the frenzied fans at the end of a clipped, 70-minute set that embraced material from across the band’s career. He did this after telling the audience to stop being a bunch of “lazy pussies”, lambasting those seated at the back, telling them to work harder for an encore. He even had half of the crowd mocking the other half, “flipping them off” (Draiman asked the front section to give the back section the finger).
Disturbed’s metal-on-training-wheels might actually be making people dumber. Here an audience started to boo at the end of the last song – due to the short length of the set – then essentially turned on itself until another Playstation guitar riff was squeezed out with a cardboard bass-drum thrum in weak support and, suddenly, the crowd was electric again. Ecstatic in fact.
After four songs I had to pinch myself, not because I thought I was dreaming, simply to stay awake. Every song sounded the same. The soulless, interchangeable guitar solos were served up with the offensive squeal and weak impact of a whiteboard marker scrawling across a window. The songs all took on war-cry choruses, an army of fans chanting in unison, threatening the empty air above with a closed fist, singing along in matching t-shirts about the power of individuality. There was even a cover of Land Of Confusion that would have many, and not necessarily those with surnames of Collins, Banks and Rutherford, pining for a Genesis reunion.
This is the third time I have seen Disturbed in Wellington. And this time I made it to the very end of the concert – keen to see if something different, unique, might happen. It did not. My sister-in-law travelled from Hawke’s Bay and said she had the time of her life.
It Was The Worst started life as a series of posts on the Phantom Billstickers Facebook page