But please, read on as to why I am assigning the highest possible rating to an album that, thus far anyway, has been hotly disputed in terms of quality. I am going to explain my reasons the best I can, lest I be labeled a "fanboy" or something equally ridiculous and baseless. (This will be a rather long review and yes, I will be explaining each song, so if that isn't what you want to read by all means move on.) Perhaps I am going deaf in my old age (after all, I am pushing 30) but after having listened to this album all the way through several times in the last two days, I find nothing at all "stale, "generic," or "boring" about it.
In the post-Sickness era, progression has become what Disturbed has been all about. This applies to both their musicianship and their lyrics. The Believe record showed the band slightly expanding on the sound they established two years prior, with lyrics tackling the thorny issues of faith and religion. And how can we forget David Draiman's beautiful melodic singing on cuts such as "Remember," "Awaken," "Mistress," and the closing ballad "Darkness?" Ten Thousand Fists marked the first appearance of solos played by guitarist Dan Donegan, and the album's lyrics took on a very political/social nature. (TTF, as it turns out, has become my least favorite Disturbed album. A handful of great tracks, but too many mediocre ones that felt tacked on.) Indestructible was an even bigger step forward musically with Danny doing even more shredding and the rest of the band stepping up their game as well. Lyrically speaking, the songs were "darker." One need only look to tracks such as "Haunted" and "The Night" for evidence of this, not to mention the single "Inside The Fire" which dealt with the suicide of an ex-girlfriend of David.
All of that brings us to the newly released Asylum. Musically, I would say it is a combination of the best aspects of Believe and Indestructible. David hasn't used this much melody in his vocals since the former, and slight tweaks have been made to the overall sound of the latter. This, I think, has allowed the rhythm section of bassist John Moyer and drummer Mike Wengren to sound more prominent while still letting Danny show off his shredding. And the lyrics? Well, if you thought the material you heard on Indestructible was dark, you haven't heard anything yet.
The album opens with an instrumental called "Remnants," which leads right into the title track. David, in interviews, has explained the word "asylum" as having a double meaning: a place of solace, and a place of loneliness. That duality is made very clear in this song. "The Infection," from what I hear anyway, appears to be a song of the "broken relationship" variety but also one that resolves on a positive note; infection being a metaphor for the chain of relational failures that must be broken. The song features some great and rather long soloing from Donegan.
"Warrior," lyrically speaking, sounds most like the title track from the Indestructible album. Disturbed have always been supportive of the U.S. military, and it is no secret that our soldiers listen to their songs to get pumped up. This appears to be another tribute tune. We've all heard "Another Way To Die," which has infamously become known as "the global warming song" in some circles. Some have suggested that this phenomenon is a sham. Said people do not have science on their side, but that's irrelevant. Disturbed have churned out a hard-hitting song in the vein of something they would have done back in 2000, but with an intelligent message this time around as opposed to "Well here we go, we're droppin' plates!" "Never Again" is, quite clearly, about the Jewish Holocaust and the idiots who deny that it took place. Not many lyricists are ballsy enough to tackle that subject but Mr. Draiman is, and being of Jewish descent the song is obviously of particular importance to him.
"The Animal," lyrically, sounds like something that could have been written about one of those terrible and overrated Twilight Saga movies, but for some reason I doubt that is what the band had in mind. I think Draiman, here, is speaking of that "dark side," if you will, that is in all of us no matter how meek or mild we seem to be upon first impression. "Crucified" is clearly another love-gone-sour song, but a very powerful one at that. I will not hesitate to say that the chorus is one of the absolute BEST ever produced by this band. Those who have had their hearts broken as many times as David appears to have had (which is alluded to in many of his interviews) no doubt think they never will find love, symbolically feeling crucified and dead. "Serpentine" is my vote for best song on the album in all respects. Yet another love/relationship tune, or so it seems, but this time dealing with the dark heart of the person walking away and causing the pain of the other.
"My Child" opens with the sound of a baby crying and deals with the death via miscarriage of a child that David would have been the father to. I am not a parent, but I can't imagine the emotional and mental anguish that someone who loses a child must go through. Some have suggested that this song, due to its topic, be a ballad. That sounds like a good idea on the surface, but I think the lyrics make a better fit for an aggressive song. You can hear a "flatline" sound at the end of the song, which further drives its reality home. If I had to pick a least favorite song on the album, it would have to be "Sacrifice." It's a decent tune, but nothing about it really sticks out to me aside from the "Jekyl into Hyde" reference. But I'm not going to downgrade my rating based on one song. Asylum closes on a rather strong note with "Innocence," a song dealing with the failures and corruption in our justice system which sometimes allow for violent criminals to walk free. A great chorus right up there with the one in "Crucified," and an issue which nine or ten years ago I never thought I'd hear the band write a song about.
All in all, eleven out of twelve tracks which I thoroughly enjoy. That's enough for me to give this album a five. If you can get your hands on a copy of the deluxe edition for a few more bucks, it is well worth it. Not only do you get three bonus tracks (live versions of "Down With The Sickness" and "Stricken," as well as an amazing cover of the U2 classic "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For"), but also a 90-minute DVD telling the story of the band from the pre-Disturbed days up to the present time AND lessons on how to play parts of ten songs culled from four of their albums. To top it all off, a double-sided poster is included; one side featuring the album cover, the other guitar and bass tabs for every song on the album. All of this inside very impressive packaging. Get it and you won't regret it.
Okay, so that was much longer than I really wanted it to be, but it is what it is. Feel free to rate my review helpful or not helpful if you want, or to leave whatever comments float your boat. I can assure you none of it will get to me. :-)