The other day, I heard through the ol’ grapevine that Terry Pratchet, creater of Discworld, has passed away. Looking back on a lot of these In Memorium posts, I can’t help but notice that March is when all my heroes end up dying. I wonder why that is?

I’ll admit, I know little about Terry Pratchet himself. I know he wrote the various Discworld novels, and I know a couple years ago, he was diagnosed with alzheimers. That’s pretty much all I know about the guy.

His Discworld novels, however, are a pretty big part of my life. I still remember listening to the audio books back in the day. Back when four-sided cassette tapes were the gold standard. Yes, I said four-sided.

Basically, you had a standard cassette tape, but somehow, you had a switch on the cassette player that flipped from A to B. So you’d have side 1A, then you’d have to flip over to side 2A, then you’d have to flip back over to side 1 but flip a switch to get side 1B… And you thought regular cassettes were a pain in the ass. Seriously, why are we bringing these back? Because some fucktard from that Guardians of the Galaxy movie was using a tape player to listen to his mixtape? Or because the Portlandia crowd decided that old shit is cool, no matter how inconvenient it is compared to the new shit. I don’t care what anybody says, Cassette tapes are shit, vinal is shit, and VHS is a terrible, space consuming format that I’m glad went the way of the dinosaur. Old stuff dies for a reason.

But while the formats sucked ass, the stories presented to me through said formats were great. I always loved Granny Weatherwax the most. In more recent years, I’ve found myself enjoying The Wee Free Men as well, if only because the concept of Scottish smurfs amuses me. I also enjoyed the stories with Constable Carrot, and Moist Von Lipwig. However, Granny Weatherwax was always my favorite.

Literature has lost one of its greatest minds, and there’ll never be another one quite like him. May he rest in peace.

When I first heard Volbeat, I was enchanted. Admittedly, my opinion of rockabilly was fairly low, and while I acknowledge Elvis is the king, I still say Metallica are gods. Even if Lars is a little prick, “St. Anger” was fucking terrible, and it’s been years since they put anything new out. And yet I ended up liking Volbeat anyway. Because if the internet has taught me nothing else, it’s taught me that metal is the most flexible, versatile art out there. I’ve heard The Children of Bodom do a Britney Spears cover, and it actually worked! I’ve heard The Ten Masked Men, and they are badass. I’ve even heard Steel Panther do a cover of the fucking Backstreet Boys, and it was good!

Long story short, Volbeat captured my imagination, and became an instant favorite.

Four years later, though… They’re still good and all, but I think it’s safe to say the novelty’s worn off. It doesn’t help that they’re a part of this year’s Rockfest out here, and the radio is prone to overplaying artists whenever they come to town. Regardless of what genre, station, or band it is.

The loss of novelty, in the longrun, has taken an awesome band, and simply made them good. And there’s nothing wrong with good. If anything, that comment is just a warning that my grade might not be the same as yours.

in 2013, Volbeat put out “Outlaw Gentlemen and Shady Ladies”. The only real thing I really have to say about the album title is that if I were on the naming committee, I’d have flipped it around. “Shady Ladies and Outlaw Gentlemen” just has a better ring to me. But hey, that’s just me.

Aside from that one tiny little nitpick, this album is everything we’ve come to know and love about the band. And today, we’re going to give it a listen.

ALBUM ART: B+

the album art for Volbeat's "Outlaw Gentlemen and Shady Ladies"

TRACK LIST

1. Let’s Shake Some Dust
GRADE: A
An excellent intro track that lets you know exactly where you’re heading. And that direction you’re heading is the wild west. Hopefully the kickass Quick and the Dead wild west, or even the bizarre schlocky Brisco County west. Never the sucky Will Smith Wild West!

2. Pearl Hart
GRADE: A-
Here’s where the rock actually kicks in. The first track seems like a lead-in to this track, but the two sound so unconnected that I might as well count track 1 as a separate entity.

3. The Nameless One
GRADE: C+
Weirdly enough, I thought this was the other half of “Pearl Hart” when I was listening to it the first time. I wasn’t really paying close attention I guess. It’s not especially ear grabbing, but I suppose it gets the job done.

4. Dead But Rising
GRADE: B
Admittedly, I’m giving this the grade I’m giving it because it’s actually among the most overplayed on the radio right now, and I’m experiencing a wee bit of burn out. If you take the burn out factor out of it, you can probably bump it up a letter grade. It KINDA sounds like “A Warrior’s Call” back over on “Beyond Hell/Above Heaven”, but that’s probably because both songs are really D-chord centric. Keep in mind, I’m going by keyboard chords when I say that, too (I’m not especially good at guitar). That aside, it’s a pretty catchy tune. Even if the term “Dead But Rising” is a bit on the Engrish side for me.

5. Cape of Our Hero
GRADE: A+
Hands down one of, if not my absolute favorite track on the entire album. True story: I used the opening bars of this song as my ringtone for the longest time. Of course, that was back when I had audacity on my computer, and could edit my own ringtones out of my music collection to get the bits I wanted for free as opposed to gamble on the ringtone store. Whatever, I own the fucking CD, I oughta be able to do something like that if I want. And no, I’m not selling my recordings. I’m an entitled prick, but I’m not that stupid. What was I talking about again? Oh yeah, “Cape of Our Hero”. Hands down my favorite track on the album. Well worth the listen.

6. Room 24
GRADE: C
You know, you think I’d love a song that’s this heavy. Shit, it even has King fucking Diamond on vocals! Instead, I find myself feeling… Bored. It’s too bad, because this pairing has the potential to be something pretty badass.

7. The Hangman’s Body Count
GRADE: A
This was the first single off the album. Admittedly, this was a song that had to grow on me. I didn’t hate it, but considering “Cape of Our Hero”, I was genuinely surprised they went with this one. I mean hell, it’s ot even track 2 or track 5! Although I suppose we’re done with that cliché by the time we get to 2015, but still! All I know is that once you get used to it, it’s a great track.

8. My Body
GRADE: B
Apparently this is a cover tune. I’ve never heard of Sameer Gadhia, but yeah, apparently this is a cover of… His? Theirs? Whatever. It’s actually not that bad. I’m going to have to find the original one of these days to compare and contrast, but right about now, the Volbeat version’s pretty good.

9. Lola Montez
GRADE: B+
I honestly have no idea who Lola Montez is, but my knowledge of the wild west is pretty limited. I know a lot of the obvious ones like Billy the Kid, Black Bart, Wild Bill Hicock, and what have you, but more obscure ones like this one go over my head. But I guess the song is all about her, so it works out in the end. I hesitate to call it a ballad, but it’s definitely one of the more upbeat songs I’ve heard these guys put out. Considering the lyrics, I’m wondering if that’s ironic, or just coincidential.

10. Black Bart
GRADE: A
Hey, I was just talking about this guy! Unsprurisingly he gets a real badass track. The last one was bouncy and peppy, but this one is straight forward metal. Much like Black Bart himself, no doubt.

11. The Lone Rider
GRADE: A
This song features Sarah Blackwood as a guest vocalist. I have no fucking clue who that is, but either way, this song is… Interesting. Interesting in the way that only Volbeat could possibly get away with it. It almost sounds like a country song! Right up until they get to the chorus, at which point he rock kicks in. This song has to be listened to to be believed. Even if you end up hating it, you got to admit that it’s… Interesting.

12. The Sinner is You
GRADE: C+
The Sinner is You. It sounds less like Enrrish, and more like an internet meme. It’s just too bad such an eye catching title is so dull. I know they’re trying, but I just can’t get into this song to save my life.

13. Doc Holiday
GRADE: B
Again, I grade it the way I do because I’m getting a little burned out on the radio playing it. I’m also seriously bummed out the radio bersion edited out the intro that features the banjo. Volbeat is one of very few bands on Earth who can make a fucking banjo metal. Fintroll is the only other one I can think of off the top of my head, but I can’t guarantee they’ve aff

14. Our Loved Ones
GRADE: B+
I seriously thought it wasn’t going to be as slow as it ended up being based on the intro, but once you get past the sudden slow down from said intro, it’s actually pretty good. Slow tracks like this do tend to make for good closing tracks, and this one doesn’t stray from the beaten path in this regard.

OVERALL GRADE: B+

Really, what can I say about Volbeat that I haven’t said in previous album reviews. “Outlaw Gentlemen and Shady Ladies” is, if nothing else, another bulletpoint on the chart of reasons why this is one of my favorite bands. It’s not perfect, but it’s definitely worth having in your collection.

Dystopia is popular anymore. It’s a popular sore point with my mom whenever we get to talking about books, but it can’t be denied. I honestly have no specific problems with the genre, and considering this is the generation of The War on Terror, the great recession, and a government so fucking polarized that fourty-seven senators willingly performed an act of treason that’s been illegal since the U.S. constitution was put into effect but is apparently perfectly justifiable on the basis “Obamr’s a heathen devil liberal sombitch, and we needs to send us a message to Obamr to fuck off with his socialtyism!”… Yeah, dystopia works right about now.

As a native Kansan, The Wizard of Oz is pretty much the bane of my existence. We’ve had to put up with San Fransissies and New York guidos making fun of us for being backward hicks who raise corn for a living. The depressing thing is that the only part of that I can legitimately debate is that we don’t grow corn. Kansas grows wheat, Nebraska grows corn. Sadly, everything else seems to apply. Especially when you live out west. It doesn’t get any republicanner than the west side. *sigh*

All the more reason when I heard about Danielle Paige’s Dorothy Must Die, I knew I had to read this. And apparently, it’s a pretty popular book.

I’m not going to lie, it’s not all great. It tends to drag on at points, and I feel like we’re trying a wee bit too hard to make this story longer than it needs to be. Believe me, I’ve been there. Trying to meet 80,000 wrds bare minimum isn’t easy. 60,000-79,999 seems to be easier, but it’s still a challenge, and I’ve grown to dislike this young adult fad anymore.

The audible.com version has a reader who I swear is dragging it out as long as humanly possible. Either she genuinely reads that slowly, or she’s getting paid by the hour, and she’s trying to make this shit last. In the case of the former, I won’t judge. In the case of the latter, fuck you.

Despite a few spots of obvious padding, and the sequel bait at the end, though, I liked this book. I love how The Scarecrow is now a mad scientist, and how the once Cowardly Lion is now dismembering people and consuming their fear. I love how something as innocent as The Wizard of Oz has been transformed into this cartoony Game of Thrones minus the incest, the constant fucking, and about fifty gallons of the hundred gallons a season of blood.

I haven’t done a whole lot of looking into this just yet, but I’ve heard through the grapevine that the CW is apparently in talks to make this a TV series. So basically, get ready for another series of hour-long episodes containing fourty minutes of comercials, and twenty minutes of actual show. Seriously, I want to like the shows on that network, but that really fucking irritates me to no end. And honestly, comercials don’t bug me all that much. This generation of DVR and Netflix has no idea just how good they have it. Us 90s folks had to learn the zen art of actually talking to each other during the comercials.

Sorry, my inner curmudgeon interrupted me again.

I strongly recommend you pick up this book. Paperback, hardback, e-book, whatever. This has to be read to be believed.

At one point in time, I liked Crossfade. Tell you the truth, I don’t think I ever really grew to hate Crossfade, either. If nothing else, I distinctly remember being pissed off at the fact my copy of their debut album was censored, and I bought it from a place that normally didn’t sell, or accept censored albums. That hissy-fit aside, though, I don’t ever recall deciding one day that this band sucked. If nothing else, I think I just got distracted by things like my discovery of Avenged Sevenfold or something. I’ve even thought of repurchasing my copies of the older albums, and maybe picking up any new ones that’ve come out since 2006.

All that being said, I still remember a great deal from these guys’ debut album. And I remember this song when it was on the radio. I also remember how it was a staple of whoever made mix-disks for my old gym. For the record, that gym actually closed last year, and I haven’t found a replacement, but the way my money is going lately, it’s going to be a while before I actively seek one out. But I digress.

“Colors”… Oh man, this song is horrible. From the two albums I used to own, and the memories I have of the track lists, this song is basically a black eye on an otherwise decent record.

I know they’re trying for something deep and meaningful. Essentually, it’s a song saying “Yo man, this ain’t like you. You’re usually a lot more chipper than this! Cheer up, man! Things could be worse!” And I have no problem with that. Considering emo was just starting to take off around this point, and songs like “How Could this Happen to Me” were the gold standard, I approved.

But then you get to the chorus. “Of all the colors you’ve shined, this is surely not your best” has got to be the clunkiest, silliest attempt at symbolism since that time I was forced to go and see Immortals. Again, I get what the song is saying, but that really could’ve been worded a lot differently. It’s so bad, it’s almost funny.

I guess the moral of the story is that not everything can be gold, and of all the tracks they’ve played, this is surely not their best.

the album art for Blind Guardian's "Beyond the Red Mirror"

Is it too early to decide the best album of 2015? In the immortal words of one Charles Barkley, “I quit my job, because I’m never going to see anything that amazing ever again!” Or maybe it was Shaq? They were definitely commenting on the slamdunkathon. Whatever, this album right here is beyond amazing.

The only real complaint I have with this album is less about the album itself, and more to do with Blind Guardian themselves taking for fucking ever to come out with new material. I mean yeah, I’m well aware of the detail that goes into recording a one-man choir like Hansi, but five years? Unless that best of compilation counted as a 2012 release, that’s a painfully long time to go without a fix. And I didn’t even bother with the best of, because aside from a reworked version of The Bard’s Song (which has got to be, like, the fifth version they’ve put out of that song by now), there’s really nothing there I don’t already have on some other album, so what’s the point?

But hey, the important thing is new material came out, and the new stuff was well worth the wait.

“Beyond the Red Mirror” is an album that tells a story. More specifically, it’s a sequel album to “Imaginations From the Other Side”: an album they put out literally twenty years ago. It’s odd, but not unheard of to wait that long. Queensryche did it with “Operation: Mindcrime”, and… Uh… Okay, bad example. As far as I know, “Beyond the Red Mirror” doesn’t introduce any continuity errors to the story, but I’m honestly going to have to dig up my copy of “Imaginations from the Other Side” to verify that.

As for the music… Really, what can I possibly say that doesn’t make me sound like a syckophantic fanboy? Because even now, three or four years after the novelty of Blind Guardian has worn off, I’m still thoroughly enjoying this album, and I’m remembering how they lit my entire fucking planet on fire five years ago (give or take) with “At the Edge of Time”.

Hilariously enough, there’s actually a track called “At the Edge of Time” on this album. Coincidence? Eh, maybe.

Much like Moonspell’s “Alpha Noir / Omega White”, it comes in a case that looks more like a book than a traditional CD case. Except instead of how Moonspell did it, the CD is included in the last page of the book, which is actually a cardboard sleeve. Pretty stylish right there if I do say so myself. Admittedly, it’s not the first time I’ve seen this style (Evergrey’s “Recreation Day” had a similar style as memory serves), but it’s still pretty neat.

Really, there’s no point in going on. Every single track is an A at absolute least. The story holds my attention. Shit, even the casing the album comes in is cool! All around, I highly recommend this album.

OVERALL GRADE: A+

I can’t remember how often, if at all, I’ve mentioned the… Band? Custom. I question it because I remember hearing it’s a one-man-show in the studio, but then when he’s on tour, it’s the whole band. It’s not unheard of: apparently Anaal Nathrakh got their start that way as well kinda just to name one example off my head. Either way, I’m pretty sure I used him as a punchline once or twice in my music reviews. If I’m wrong, I apologize.

It’s hard to classify this guy as a true SISOH induction, because he had one hit, it barely got any air time for the week it was on KC radio, and it was gone. Considering a lot of the misogynistic crap that’s been finding it’s way on there lately (Nickelback’s “Something in Your Mouth”, Buckcherry’s “Crazy Bitch”, pretty much anything by My Darkest Days apparently, etc), you’d think something like this would be celebrated. I guess Custom was ahead of his/their time? Either way, I remember fucking hating the song, and for some reason, I remembered it over the weekend. One listen later, I decided I hated it so much that it was worth an honorable mention.

As far as the sound goes… The term “product of its time” pops up a lot in my mind, and in all the wrong ways. Where as Disturbed’s “The Sickness” was a product of its time in all the right ways, this thing has all the clichés of that era that everybody complained about even back then. Custom’s singing voice is a nasally, raspy, barely intelligible atrocity that makes me want to break my stereo, and the instrumental is… At best, unremarkable.

Then we actually get into the song. Whew boy, this song.

This guy reminds me a lot of WWE’s Triple H during this time. On one hand, everybody hated the guy. On the other hand, I get the sneaking suspicion that I’m supposed to hate him. Fair enough, except much like Triple H during the early 2000s, I hate him for all the wrong reasons. I don’t hate him because he’s a sinister villainous prick, I hate him because he’s song is fucking terrible, and the only guy who seemed to like the fucking guy was the afternoon DJ at 98.9 The Rock at the time. Where as Triple H was where he was because he was someone’s son-in-law. In both instances, I hate them less for the character they’re playing, and more for suspected behind-the-scenes cronyism.

I get the point of the song. Sometimes, you can do everything right, and your daughter still ends up being a slut. It’s stuff like that that makes me think there might be something to predeterminism. However, just because I get the point doesn’t mean it’s a good song.

I couldn’t tell you one way or the other if Custom is still around in other parts of the country, or if he’s faded into obscurity as a one-shit-wonder, or what, but I’m actually very happy this song isn’t in any sort of rotation anymore. thirteen years later, this song still sucks.

“The Sickness”, though nowadays considered to be a product of its day, was awesome.

“Believe” was awesome.

“10,000 Fists” was awesome.

“Indestructible”… Whew boy, you want to talk about a let down.

I hesitate to call it a bad album, because honestly, it’s not. However, after three albums of pure awesome from a band that seemed to get better and better with each new release, this was the point where things started to plateau. I suppose in the grand scheme of things, it was bound to happen. I also guess that it’s my fault for holding Disturbed in such high regard. By the time “10,000 Fists” was on single five, my own personal standard of excellence was so high for these guys that there was probably no way they could’ve met it.

That being said, time has passed, my mind has rationalized (sort of), and my standards are significantly lower than they were back then. And this album… Is still a bit of a disappointment.

Even if an album has no core concept behind it, it can still be good if it’s consistent. “The Sickness”, near as I can tell, had no core concept behind it, but it was still awesome because it was consistent. “Indestructible” doesn’t even have that going for it.

I suppose I’ve put this off long enough. Let’s put this album in and get it over with.

ALBUM ART: B

the album art for Disturbed's "Indestructible"

Hey, Guy! How’s it hangin’?

TRACK LIST

1. Indestructible
GRADE: D-
Dude, I support the troops as much as the next guy, but honestly, when this track came out, just about everybody was fucking sick of hearing about Iraq. The only thing Operation: Iraqi Freedom ended up doing in the longrun was bring us a threat twenty times worse than anything Saddam Hussein was capable of known as The Islamic State. I suppose “The Arab Spring” back in 2011 didn’t help matters, but back in 2008, who knew that was going to happen? Certainly not America, who was in the process of spiraling that much further down hill into a recession we’re still digging ourselves out of as of this writing.

But suppose you’re ot interested in politics. Suppose you wish I’d just shut the fuck up and talk about the song. Okay, let’s talk about the song. This song, despite being the title track, sticks out like a sore thumb. Not necessarily because of its ties to politics, but because “Indestructible” was supposed to be the single darkest album Draiman and friends ever produced. And yet we’re greeted with a jingle for the fucking troops? Again, I support our troops, but there’s a time and place for everything, and this clearly wasn’t it. Probably ought to have saved this for “10,000 Fists”.

2. Inside the Fire
GRADE: A
Honestly, I like to pretend track 1 doesn’t even exist, and I consider this the true start of the album. Under that logic, this is a great way to kick things off. As is, it’s still a great song. I’ve heard Dan Donegan bust out guitar solos in the past, but there’s just something about the solo in this that screams game change. Well worth the listen. The song was written about an ex-girlfriend’s suicide, and the devil tempting Draiman to go with her according to interviews. Also, it’s pretty obvious if you… You know, actually listen to the song.

3. Deceiver
GRADE: B-
It’s not quite as epic as “Inside the Fire”, but it’s still pretty catchy.

4. The Night
GRADE: B
I can’t remember if this was the second, or the third single, but either way, it’s pretty good. I suppose the opening guitar part, and the main riff of the song aren’t particularly inspired, but I’ve heard worse. Hell, I’ve heard worse from this album. It makes me think of werewolves. I wouldn’t be surprised if I missed the point entirely, but that’s what I think when I hear this.

5. Perfect Insanity
GRADE: B
Interesting fact: this was ne of two tracks the band had been hanging on to since before “The Sickness”. It makes me wonder how it would’ve sounded if they had included it on their debut. I have a feeling it’d be a lot more techno-sounding. A lot more synth, a lot more industrial, you know. Definitely wouldn’t have a guitar solo in the bridge, I guarantee that much.

6. Haunted
GRADE: C+
This was the other track they held onto, and only just then released. And unlike the previous one, I’m kind of seeing why they held off on it. It’s not bad, but honestly, it’s not holding my attention nearly as well.

7. Enough
GRADE: C
Boy, they really love starting off with drums on this album, you know? This is the third track that does this! It isn’t until the actual song starts when it sounds a little more distinct. And even then, it doesn’t hold my attention so well.

8. The Curse
GRADE: B
Here we go! Everything about this song grabs my attention, and refuses to let go. Maybe it’s not perfect, but it could’ve been a lot worse.

9. Torn
GRADE: B-
Much like the last one, we come out guns-a-blazin’ with this one. I was kind of expecting it to be like “Guarded” back on “10,000 Fists”, but once it gets past the intro, it kind of mellows out a little bit into the usual Disturbed fare.

10. Criminal
GRADE: B+
Not going to lie, I forgot this was on here. Admittedly, it has a slow, unappealing start, but once things pick up, they pick up with a vengeance! I rather enjoy this song.

11. Divide
GRADE: A-
I’m surprised to find this wasn’t one of the hold-overs from pre-“The Sickness” era Disturbed. It seriously sounds like something they wrote back then, and have since reworked. Well worth the listen!

12. Façade
GRADE: B
It’s a pretty heavy track in its own right, but while still pretty good, it’s difficult to lompete with the previous track. Still, it’s a good finisher track if nothing else.

OVERALL GRADE: B

I hear you over on the other side of the monitor. You’re probably disappointed to see I gave this thing a passing grade after promising how much of a dud it was going to be. You’re probably even on the verge of calling me a walking contradiction after reading the rant above. Well honestly, a B-grade album like this, after three A-worthy efforts in the past, actually is a bit of a letdown. Maybe not a monumental letdown, but a letdown all the same.

Still, I was willing enough to dismiss it as an off album. Maybe Disturbed were just experimenting with their awesome new independent studio and elf producing, and hadn’t quite figured out what worked and what hadn’t. Maybe the next album will have a more consistent direction.

Yeah, no. “Asylum” was Disturbed’s 2010 offering. I’ll save you the trouble of backtracking through four years of incoherent, poorly spelled babble, and tell you right here this album nearly killed my fandom of the band dead. Hell, it was so bad, I wouldn’t be surprised if the badness of the final product was what led to the band breaking up not too soon afterward!

Okay, I’m done with Disturbed month. Come back next week, and I swear, I’ll be talking about something different.

Oh yeah, and sorry the “10,000 Fists” review took so long. I had gotten a new computer that week with Windows8, and I’v still learning how everything works. Seriously, my laptop is a fucking lair. EVERYTHING has changed, and I have to learn a whole new control scheme. However, unlike a certain cover artist I know, I’m not about to throw a hisyfit after five minutes of failure, take my ball, and go running over to the altar of Steve Jobs to dawn a blue shirt and join the cult. I love challenges, and I’m enjoying learning how this new system works. Even if by the time Windows10 comes out, we’re going to go right back to the start menu.

I can’t guarantee this, combined with a sudden addiction to The Sims 3 that reminds me why I put the fucking game away in the first place, won’t delay future updates, but I’ll do my best to stay on top of things.

“Believe” was a game changer in just about every sense of the word. It polarized fans for a while I noticed, but by the time their follow-up album, “10,000 Fists” came out, the ones who were truly loyal fans had made their choice to stick with the band and see where things go from here, and the ingrates left.

“10,000 Fists”, while not as concept driven as “Believe”, does feature a lot of political themes. Which is a fancy way of saying some of the tracks are showing their age nowadays. Sure, some themes are timeless, but some of the tracks on this can be described as a wee bit on the topical side. Probably a good thing “Deify” wasn’t a single. 2005 was the point where Bush jokes and political commentary on the Bush administration were just then starting to get old. About a year later, the jokes and the commentaries became groan inducing. Almost as much as the administration itself, but I digress.

I absolutely loved “The Sickness”. “Believe” was pretty much love at first listen. “10,000 Fists”… Honestly, this one had to grow on me a little by comparison. I don’t know why. They still sounded like Disturbed, they were actually heavier in this than in anything they put out prior, and they were taking shots at George W. Bush: the man everyone hated, but reelected anyway. Probably because we wanted to keep complaining and making jokes while the cash cow had milk in her udders. That, or John Kerry was promising to eat orphans and kick puppies at his rallies. My memories of the 2004 election are kinda blurry anymore.

It had all that going for it… Yet it took a while before I could say I truly appreciated it. I guess I was too busy cutting my teeth on Avenged Sevenfold at the time to notice. Anything is possible.

So how do I feel about “10,000 Fists” now? Well only one way to find out. Let’s give it a listen!

ALBUM ART: B

the album art for Disturbed's "10,000 Fists"

The first album in Disturbed history to feature their official mascot: a guy creatively named “The Guy”. Not exactly a deathbat, or Eddie, or that starship thing Stratovarius was using for a while (they seem to have discontinued that fad), but I guess everybody needs a mascot.

TRACK LIST

1. 10,000 Fists
GRADE: A
This was actually the fifth, and final single to be released. Considering they went through an insane ad campaign that could easily be mistaken for a malware attack by today’s standards to get this song out there, I’m surprised they waited so long. That, and it’s an excellent intro for what we’re about to get.

2. Just stop
GRADE: A
This was the third single (I think) to be released off the album. This is probably where the politics are a bit on the timeless side. I’ve also seen people who are dumb enough to address trolls, or just bait Final Fantasy 7 fans into a flame war as background music. Because nothing drives your point home quite like someone else’s music.

3. Guarded
GRADE: A+
The first single, and probably the heaviest song on the entire album. On one hand, if it weren’t for Draiman, I’d wonder if this were even Disturbed. On the other hand, it’s still an awesome track. Well worth the listen.

4. Deify
GRADE: C
Like I said above, this is where the album’s political themes show its age. I’m not sure if you could call this a cashgrab, because Draiman doesn’t strike me as that kind of musician. More than I can say for those jerks in Nickelback, but I already ranted about that in SISOH. I get the sneaking suspicion Draiman might’ve been a disenchanted republican? Lines like “all my devotion betrayed. I was so blinded to see how much you’ve stolen from me.” kind of give me that impression. On his Facebook page, Draiman declared himself a libertarian, which seems to be the place to go when you’re a disenchanted republican, or a conservative-minded indivudal who thinks stuff like gay marriage or marijuana should be legal. I tried my hand at libertarianism, and I still agree with some of their philosophies, but at the same time, I believe that a government free of corruption is more important than a small government. Because a small government can still be corrupt.

I’m pretty sure I was talking about something else. Oh yeah, song. It’s showing it’s age with its anti-Bush politics, but it’s worth a listen if you wonder what we were like ten years ago I guess. Yeah, remember when the guy oppressing free speech, invading your privacy, trrkn rr jrrbs, and ultimately serving as the bane of our entire existence was a white republican? Good times.

5. Stricken
GRADE: B+
This was the second single from the album. Admittedly, it’s not the most remarkable track on the entire album, but it still sounds like Disturbed.

6. I’m Alive
GRADE: C+
I’m not going to lie, I’m not especially fond of this one. It’s a solid track by all means, but for some reason, this one just can’t hold my attention.

7 Sons of Plunder
GRADE: A+
It’s awesome because it’s true. And also because it’s got an awesome riff, and a grove that makes it well worth a listen. Even the chorus is a brainworm in its own right. All around a good track.

8. Overburdened
GRADE: B
Apparently, this song was written about the horrifying possibility of soldiers finding out that they went to hell after they died. It doesn’t specify which side of the war they were on, but it’s probably safe to say Operation: Iraqi Freedom, in all it’s pointlessness and stupidity, was the inspiration. It’s probably also safe to assume this is the closest thing to a ballad we’re going to get from this album. It’s a pretty heavy track, but more so with the tone than with the sound.

9. Decadence
GRADE: B+
Not going to lie, this is kind of where the album begins to decline for me. It’s not a dramatic decline, but I think it’s pretty safe to say that all my favorites are towards the beginning. That being said, you could do a lot worse than a B. And despite the decline, songs like this are still pretty catchy.

10. Forgiven
GRADE: A-
Okay, I forgot this track was even here. I sort of take back what I said about the slump. Sort of, because as memory serves, this is probably going to end up being the highlight.

11. Land of Confusion
GRADE: B+
I’d laugh about putting a Genesis cover on here, but this is the same band who covered Tears for Fears five years prior. So yeah, all is forgiven. It’s just too bad the video for this was a wee bit disappointing. I mean Genesis isn’t exactly my favorite band in the world, but their version of the song had muppets of Ronald Reagan. And the more I look into politics, the more I’m starting to see what a lot of people are saying when they insist that Reagan was the antichrist. Bush was terrible, but Reagan? WOOOO! Disturbed’s version of the song is good, but the video is pretty forgettable. But hey, it got “The Guy” some exposure, so I guess it all worked out for someone in the end.

12. Sacred Lie
GRADE: C+
It’s kind of overkill to put an anti-war song right next to a Genesis cover that criticized Neoconservative politics.

13. Pain redefined
GRADE: B
It’s definitely got a real brainworm quality to it, that’s for sure.

14. Avarice
GRADE: C+
In all honesty, it’s kind of a weak ending to an otherwise pretty good album. I don’t know, it feels kind of generic.

OVERALL GRADE: A-

Though the second half of the album kind of drags its feet, it’s still an excellent album with some very memorable tracks. Sure, not everything on here is gold, but I still can’t remember why I was a little more reluctant to welcome this album into my collection. Especially when you consider what came next. Contrary to the album name, I’d soon learn that Disturbed wasn’t, in fact, indestructible.

You know, I’ve talked about not being a particularly huge fantasy reader back in the olden days a lot here. That being said, when I look at the older stuff I’ve written, and give away to the glorious orange god of failure, it’s genuinely amazing to me how much of this could qualify as fantasy. I guess I was one of countless people who heard fantasy, and instantly thought of orcs and hobbits and shit. Turns out there’s a lot more involved than that. But I digress.

The Mage World Chronicles was a series I started working on, and never finished. I was planning on four stories, but only made it to two in the planning phase, and I only made it to about two-thirds of one in the writing phase. 2004 was a point where I was planning things out a lot better. Unfortunately, I wasn’t very good about seeing those plans to the end. Until about my mid twenties, I always fell into the bad habit of wanting to start a new idea, setting the old one aside, and never getting to the old one ever again. And by the time I remember it, a minimum of five years has gone by, my plans for it (assuming I even bothered planning it out in the first place) are gone or forgotten, and there’s nothing left to do but wonder what could’ve been.

Mage World, in a twist that’ll probably surprise absolutely nobody, was a world where everyone was a mage. Some had minor magic that was great for cooking food, or healing cuts, or encouraging a garden to grow, and so on. A lot of the story, however, focused on combat mages. Specifically, a mage in a filthy purple trenchcoat simply known as The Drifter. And yes, he was pretty heavily inspired by The Drifter character on G4TV’s Portal. Perhaps I mentioned at one point that was my favorite thing to watch on G4.

The Drifter… My Drifter, had a particular vendetta against four very powerful mages. They were powerful both in terms of magical ability, and in political standing. One of whom, the villain of the first book, was the sultan of a generic desert nation. Strangely, there was no religious allegory against Islam, or Iranian politics, or whatever. The nation, near as I can remember, was either purely agnostic, atheist, or a hodgepodge of various beliefs in fictional deities created specifically for the book series. The vendetta was purely a personal matter between a nomadic swordsman wielding lightning bolts and a bad attitude, and an angry sultan who could hulk out, and be nearly invulnerable to most forms of projectile magic in his “final form”.

No, the religious allegories were intended for the second book. By book 2, the characters were already established, and there was no need to explain The Drifter’s quest beyond recapping what was said in greater detail from the first book. This book was all about exposing a fake deity, and the leader of the region’s most popular religion, not to mention the second of the four, as a fony.

That, however, is as far as I ever got. I vaguely remember thinking the third of the books was going to feature a villain themed around tigers, and his magic was geared mostly towards making wildlife do his bidding or something like that. That’s all I can remember for sure.

I must admit, even as I was writing the first book in this series, I had little faith in this story being any good. It didn’t really rip off any anime specifically (that I can think of), but it was very anime esque in its presentation. Maybe not so much with the sweat drops, and the stating the obvious and calling it a joke, , or even narrating what they’re doing as they’re doing it. I mean yeah, I explained how the magic worked when I got the chance, and sometimes, characters explained how their magic worked. However, it was never like in anime, where they explain their attack as they’re performing their attack. I seriously have no idea how I used to put up with shit like that, because that really gets under my skin when they do that nowadays. It’s still not as bad as the shows where the opponent decides to explain his entire life’s story in the middle of a tournament fight. I’m supposed to assume the entire fucking audience at the chunin exam just sat there and patiently waited for Neji to explain to Naruto why he’s such a fucking asshole? Fuck that, man, I’d probably be among the many spectators who’d be throwing beer cans and demanding they quit standing around and fucking fight!

I’m pretty sure I was going somewhere with that last paragraph, but damn it if I can’t remember.

Basically, there were a lot of action anime tropes in this story. Beshounin, I think they call that. It probably wasn’t as bad as some of the shows currently gathering dust in my dreaded crate of shame in my mom’s basement somewhere, but looking back on it, it was easy to see what my influences were at the time.

I suppose the concept of Mage World isn’t horrible. However, I think I’m done with it. I leave it in your trusty hands, almighty failure god.

In 2000, Disturbed hit the scene with “The Sickness”. The world… Or at least my particular corner of the world, was absolutely spellbound. My metal clique and I rarely agreed on anything unanimously, but the awesomeness of “The Sickness”, and Disturbed as a whole was definitely one of the rare exceptions to the rule.

Then, in 2002, Disturbed came out with “Believe”. Suddenly, we weren’t as unanimous.

“Believe” was a concept album. Meaning that every song on the album, while not necessarily telling a story like some, at least had to do with a common theme. In the case of “Believe”, the concept was… Well… Belief. 2001-2002 was a very interesting time to be around. Between Dave Draiman’s personal life, and 9/11 changing everything, the entire fucking world as we knew it seemed to be on the verge of a paradigm shift. Suddenly, spirituality was a legit cause to declare war again, and arabs were suddenly no longer a bunch of bearded dudes riding magic carpets and wielding mystical lamps. We needed something to believe in. And for a few months at least, George W. Bush actually came pretty close to getting me to vote republican in my first election. Then he had to fuck everything up, make a hardcore right turn at derkaderkastan, and declare war on Iraq: a country that literally had nothing to do with anything relating to Osama Bin Laden. Hell, three years after we overthrew Saddam Hussein, and reduced Iraq to a nation-wide melee, we discovered that Hussein actually considered Bin Laden and The Tallaban a threat to his country!

Ugh, I probably ought to quit while I’m ahead before I start demanding Sarah Palin’s head on a pike or something. Trust me, I’d find a way to connect those two tangents.

As a result of these times, Draiman and friends decided to take a different direction. To this very day, I still enjoy “Believe”. Some of the guys in my old metal clique, though, refer to “Believe” as “the point Disturbed went christian.” I have no fucking clue where they get that. Okay, I can pick up on the concept of religion just fine, but going christian? Especially since Draiman is a loud and proud jew.

Then again, I distinctly remember one of the guys in the ol’ clique turning into a raging antisemite his senior year, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he was hiding behind that as an excuse to hate the jew for being a jew. Your guess is as good as mine as to how he ended up going down that path, but I digress.

On top of being a concept album with a bit of a polarizing concept, “Believe” also marked Disturbed’s departure from a lot of the “new metal” tropes most bands get shit for nowadays. The industrial aspect of their sound was all but missing completely, Draiman sang a lot more than he did in the previous album, and there was even a guitar solo here and there. We all noticed the changes in sound, but frankly, Disturbed weren’t the only ones abandoning things like hiphop elements and raprock like it were infested with the plague.

I could go on and on… Or we can listen to this album. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather listen to the album.

ALBUM ART: A

the album art for Disturbed's "Believe"

This right here predates the COEXIST bumper sticker by at least a decade. I could be wrong about that, but I’m sticking to it all the same.

TRACK LIST

1. Prayer
GRADE: B+
I’ll admit, when this debuted as the first single, I was a lot more enthusiastic about it. Probably because back then, Disturbed was one of those bands that could do no wrong. Trust me, I still love this song… But I know better than to believe that now. Heh, get it? Believe? Oh whatever.

2. Liberate
GRADE: A+
It may not’ve been the first single… In fact, I think it was the third. But track two still managed to end up as a single. That being said, this track was, and still is, the shit. Probably the closest thing to true industrial you’re going to hear on this album is right here on this track, so enjoy it while it’s there.

3. Awaken
GRADE: A-
If you love Draiman’s little vocal sound effects (IE, the “aw-wah-ah-ah-ah!” from “Down with the Sickness”), you’ll love this song. It’s got the majority of them for sure. It’s not quite as straight forward brutal as “Liberate”, but it’s got it’s own charm for going with the swing sorta beat.

4. Believe
GRADE: B-
I thought for sure this was a single, but as it turns out, there might’ve been a glitch between the label and the radio stations or something. Because I distinctly remember this being on the air for a while. I’m not going to lie, if I have to skip any track on this album, it’s usually this one. It’s a solid track, don’t get me wrong, but in terms of must-listens… Maybe it’s just my opinion, but I usually tend to skip this one.

5. Remember
GRADE: A
Why they didn’t name this one “Believe” is a mystery to me, but hey, that’s just how I’d have done things. This one seems to focus less on heavy, and more on epic in terms of sound. I hesitate to call it the ballad of the album (you’ll see why later), but it’s definitely a different sound from what we’ve gotten so far.

6. Intoxication
GRADE: A
Ooh, right back into it with a heavy-as-fuck tune. Hands down one of my favorites on the disk even today.

7. Rise
GRADE: A-
I’m not going to lie, I forgot about this one completely. I kind of wish I hadn’t: it’s another really good one. Catchy as hell from start to finish.

8. Mistress
GRADE: B
It’s not quite as catchy as previous tracks, but it’s still worth the listen. I don’t know, the riff in this song seems a little… Generic. I love what they ultimately do with it, but I feel like I’ve heard those notes in that sequence a few times before.

9. Breathe
GRADE: A
Boy you want to talk about a track that rose my eye brow and made me wonder what the fuck I was listening to, “Breathe” was it. For the longest time, this was probably the closest thing to mathematical music I had in my collection. It’s far from the likes of Meshuggah, or Tool, or what have you, but there is definitely some algebra involved in this instrumental.

10. Bound
GRADE: A-
You just know the moment you hear the first three seconds of this song that it’s going to kick your ass. The verses are a lot quieter than I was expecting the first time around, but never the less, it didn’t disappoint.

11. Devour
GRADE: C+
Interesting fact: several voreraphilia authors I had found during that minute and a half when I was looking into voreraphilia quoted this song’s chorus in a pretentious effort to make their poorly spelled erotica look more deep and meaningful than it truly was. And people say I miss the point entirely. Not going to lie, it’s probably the closest thing to a forgettable track on the entire album. And I came to that conclusion long before I discovered voreraphilia was a thing. Seriously, internet, WTF?

12. Darkness
GRADE: A+
Admittedly, ending your album with an acoustic ballady thing like this was a bit of a cliche for the early 2000s, but hey, if it works, it works. And holy fucking crackerjacks, this works. It’s a hauntingly beautiful way to end an album, and it’s probably one of my favorite acoustic songs ever.

OVERALL GRADE: A-

To this very day, “Believe” is one of my favorite albums from this band. Worst case scenario, it’s aged significantly better than most music from this era has. I’m looking at you, “American Idiot”.

I don’t have a clever pun or wordplay this week, so just tune in for the “10,000 Fists” review next week.