The ’90s had been dominated by an alt rock explosion, however as the last decade got here to an in depth there was a shift in sound to a tougher edge. One of many leaders of this heavier sound was a younger band out of Chicago who known as themselves Disturbed, and on March 7, 2000, they launched their debut album, The Illness. Over the subsequent few years, The Illness unfold all through the rock world and have become a multiplatinum smash.
“People think it was like this meteoric rise. It really wasn’t,” frontman David Draiman advised us. He recollects, “We beat the hell out of ourselves for two or three years as a local band, our own self promotional mega machine, every band member in a different venue of the city every time a rock show would come through town, passing out our promotional material — cassettes, stickers, t-shirts, whatever we could. [This was] in addition to playing strategically where we thought it made sense and in addition to building our following on the south side of Chicago. So there was a long period of time before that and a lot of struggle in a city that wasn’t conducive to hard rock and heavy metal. Chicago was an alternative town. It was Smashing Pumpkins, Local H. It was not metal. So we were blacklisted. We couldn’t even play inner city clubs. We weren’t cool enough. We were too metal. That was something that wasn’t considered cool enough. We had to force our way in.”
However persistence finally paid off as a late ’90s shift in sound discovered labels transferring on from grunge and searching for one thing heavier on the rock facet. Finally a label known as Large got here calling and Disturbed received their massive break.
Disturbed, “Down With the Sickness” — Stay (1999)
With a document deal in place, the group refined their sound forward of recording. Guitarist Dan Donegan advised Guitar World that whereas guitar solos have discovered their approach into more moderen recordings, he stepped away from it early within the band’s profession. “In the beginning, before we were even signed, I’d solo all over the place and it didn’t really work, so I pretty much cut out the solos altogether until the last album or two. That’s the way it’s worked with us. Over time we’ve pushed each other to become better musicians,” mentioned the guitarist.
In the meantime, Draiman was changing into snug with the themes he was writing about even when it did unnerve him a bit. “It’s very frightening,” mentioned Draiman to the Phoenix New Occasions. “Because here you go, you’ve decided to be open and bare a part of your soul to these people, and lay it out on a platter for them to observe. So until you know that the listeners are getting any part of what you’re saying, it’s incredibly frightening.”
Becoming a member of Draiman and Donegan within the group was a robust rhythm part — Mike Wengren on drums and a bassist named Steve Kmak who went beneath the moniker Fuzz on bass. After their signing, the band turned to a different Windy Metropolis denizen to assist them notice their imaginative and prescient. Producer Johnny Okay had gone to highschool with Donegan’s brother and a relationship shaped over time. By the point The Illness got here round, there was already a bond and the band went to bat for the comparatively unknown Johnny Okay. to provide their album.
The Interrogation of Disturbed’s David Draiman
He advised Guitar Edge, “They fought hard to get me to do their record. They didn’t want to go to L.A. and make a record that wouldn’t be any better than their demos. I felt that with a budget and time, I could make a record everyone would really like. I told them, ‘If I demo you, I want you to go to bat for me [with the label],’ and they did with no contracts or production deals. It was a great thing and I can’t say enough good things about them. It’s your break, everyone wants one, and they made it happen for me. We all worked really hard to make the record as good as it could be. I pushed them as hard as I could, and we felt successful before it sold one copy. All of that hard work, and the fact that they are such a good band, made it easy for me to get other jobs. People liked it and would say, ‘Who did the Disturbed album? Let’s get him.'”
As 1999 progressed, the band chipped away at their debut disc and on March 7, 2000, the album lastly arrived. However as Draiman said earlier, it wasn’t an prompt success. The band began off by releasing the one “Stupify” in April of 2000. “[It] was actually a hard sell at radio,” Draiman advised us. “It’s not like it shot up. They worked it. Giant Records at the time, they worked it. They pushed it to where it got enough awareness that it did start to chart decently.” The monitor addressed themes of racism and discrimination, loosely primarily based on one in every of Draiman’s personal experiences. It might climb to No. 12 on the Mainstream Rock chart and No. 10 at Fashionable Rock and stays one in every of their most well-known hits.
Disturbed, “Stupify” Music Video
“Voices” received the subsequent look from the album and it too loved a strong however modest run at radio. Coping with the lyrical theme of madness, the monitor delves into psychosis of the thoughts. Serving to to promote the purpose, within the early days of the band’s performances, Draiman can be wheeled onto a stage in a straitjacket and muzzle very like the movie character Hannibal Lecter, earlier than breaking free to carry out the monitor. “Voices” would attain No. 16 on the Mainstream Rock chart and No. 18 at Fashionable Rock.
It was their third single, “Down With the Sickness,” that lastly solidified Disturbed as a drive. With the tribal beat from Wengren and chugging guitars from Donegan, the track pulled in listeners even earlier than Draiman’s animalistic sounds. The vocalist advised MTV2, “That noise just kind of came one day. The song originally was written and it just had a pause. Mike, his beat is just so tribal, and it just kind of made me feel like an animal.” Whereas the which means behind the lyrics has been debated, Draiman says the lyrics are merely impressed by private historical past and never a literal interpretation of his personal upbringing. He advised the Phoenix New Occasions, “I’m really talking about the conflict between the mother culture of society, who’s beating down the child yearning for independence and individuality, and the submission of the child.”
David Draiman Displays on The Illness Album
The rocker went on to state, “It’s kind of weird, because I try to write these songs cryptically, so that it’s open to self-interpretation. But then, so many people take the songs literally. I mean, what do you do about all these kids who are thanking you for dealing with abuse in one of your songs, when that really wasn’t the point? There were so many kids who found greater meaning in the literal notion of thinking that it was about a specific abuse situation, that I finally had to let go of my grander notions and just say Have at it.’ I’m not going to tell you what this song should make you feel. If that’s how it makes you feel, and it helps you deal with that situation and come to terms with it, then use it. That’s what music is for.”
Reflecting on the success of the track, Draiman credit it for catapulting their profession. “That’s when things really took a significant, dramatic shift because that song resonated with so many people,” mentioned the vocalist. “It became such a worldwide phenomenon that really took things to the next level for us. Then things became slightly meteoric. But it wasn’t until really the tail end of the cycle.”
The album additionally featured a number of different standout tracks. “The Game” stored issues rolling at radio into 2001 and the electronic-sounding, aggressive rocker showcased a extra industrial really feel to their sound. In the meantime, Disturbed took Tears for Fears ’80s nu wave basic “Shout” and made it uniquely their very own. “Shout 2000” had a darker, heavier vibe whereas Draiman’s vocals stored the anthemic qualities that made the unique such a fan favourite intact.
Disturbed, Full Stay Present (2000)
And whereas the music offered itself, the band took no probabilities, proving themselves to be street warriors. Very like their early days of strategically selecting Chicago venues to focus on, the band made probably the most of their touring in help of The Illness, working in back-to-back Ozzfest appearances, opening dates for Black Sabbath and launching their very own Music As a Weapon trek for optimum affect.
As soon as requested concerning the which means of The Illness album title, Draiman advised KNAC, “It represents the philosophy of individuality, the development of self, and finding the things in life that you are passionate about that brings you meaning.” That passion in the band’s own life resulted in one of the most highly regarded debuts in rock history.
The Sickness only topped out at No. 29 on the Billboard 200 Album Charts, and it is the only one of the band’s studio albums not to reach No. 1. However, it remains their best-selling album, having been certified four-times platinum by the RIAA.
See Disturbed within the Prime 100 Arduous Rock + Steel Albums of the twenty first Century