Concert Review – Disturbed & Breaking Benjamin (Molson Canadian Amphitheatre, Toronto, ON, 08/08/2016)

The city of Toronto got awesomely “infected” by David Draiman and his horde on a warm and beautiful night of alternative music.

OPENING ACTS: Saint Asonia and Alter Bridge

Disturbed_Breaking Benjamin_2016Due to my hectic working schedule yesterday and the distance from my place to the fantastic Molson Canadian Amphitheatre, I wasn’t able to see the performances by the two special guests of the night, Canadian Nu Metal/Hard Rock band SAINT ASONIA and American Rock N’ Roll/Hard Rock band ALTER BRIDGE. To be honest, I wasn’t very excited to watch Saint Asonia, despite the fact they’re portrayed as a “supergroup” based in Toronto formed by lead singer and guitarist  Adam Gontier (ex-Three Days Grace), lead guitarist Mike Mushok (ex-Staind), bassist Corey Lowery (ex-Stuck Mojo) and drummer Rich Beddoe (ex-Finger Eleven). I’m not sure how many people were actually able to watch their concert, nor if they were a good warm-up for the following bands. All I can say is that the music they play is not my cup of tea and I don’t really regret missing their performance.

What I do feel slightly sad about was missing the excellent singer Myles Kennedy and the talented guitarist Mark Tremonti (together with bassist Brian Marshall and drummer Scott Phillips) playing their straightforward and honest rock music with Alter Bridge. We all know Myles and Mark are awesome musicians, and even considering the music by this Orlando-based group a bit too soft for me I’m sure that might have been a kick-ass concert. Well, that’s the price to pay when there are too many bands in such a short period of time, fans end up missing a good chunk of what they paid for unless they arrive REALLY early to the venue, which was not the case for most fans last night.

BREAKING BENJAMIN

IMG_1585The Molson Canadian Amphitheatre got packed only a few minutes before American Rock N’ Roll/Hard Rock band BREAKING BENJAMIN began their show, with frontman and guitarist Benjamin Burnley leading his competent band from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania formed by Jasen Rauch on lead guitars, Keith Wallen on rhythm guitar, Aaron Bruch on bass and Shaun Foist on drums. The band got back in action a couple of years ago after Benjamin was finally able to overcome his phobias and addictions, with all members being completely new to the band (except for Benjamin, of course), and based on the warm reaction from everyone at the venue I believe fans truly missed Benjamin’s melodious mix of Alternative Metal and Hard Rock during the band’s hiatus.

As a fan of the darkest side of music who’s always listening to the most visceral forms of Thrash, Death and Black Metal, I must admit their music didn’t excite me despite being extremely well-crafted and played to perfection by all band members. Except for the brief moments when they played an excerpt of the superb Walk, by one of my favorite bands of all time, Pantera, as well as another excerpt from the classic Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana, I couldn’t really connect to the band’s music. One thing I enjoyed a lot though was the vocal range by Aaron, going from clean and melodic lines to furious growls whenever he was responsible for the vocal parts, and for me that was the best ingredient of their concert. Please don’t think I hate Breaking Benjamin with all my strength or that it was a horrible concert, let’s simply say it’s hard to pay some decent attention to a band you’re not a fan of their music or style when you’re anxious for the following act.

Setlist
So Cold
Angels Fall
Sooner or Later
Blow Me Away
The Imperial March / Schism / Smells Like Teen Spirit / Walk
Polyamorous
Ashes of Eden
Believe
Breath
Failure
Until the End
I Will Not Bow
The Diary of Jane

Band members
Benjamin Burnley – lead vocals, rhythm guitar
Jasen Rauch – lead guitar, electronic strings, programming
Keith Wallen – rhythm guitar, backing vocals
Aaron Bruch – bass, backing vocals
Shaun Foist – drums, electronic percussion, programming

DISTURBED

IMG_1592Only one day after playing at Heavy Montréal, Mr. David Draiman and his Alternative Metal horde DISTURBED hit the stage at the Molson Canadian Amphitheatre to do what they do best, which is playing electrifying razor-edged modern metal music. Still promoting their 2015 album Immortalized (which by the way was awarded gold in Canada as well as platinum to the single The Sound of Silence, as informed by Draiman during the show), this iconic band from Chicago, Illinois not only revolutionized music with their inception back in the 90’s, but they also keep bringing different generations to their live concerts like what happened yesterday, something only traditional bands like Iron Maiden and Metallica do nowadays.

Blending classics such as the opening song Ten Thousand Fists and the classy Stricken with new songs like the kick-ass The Vengeful One, Draiman and his crew conquered all from the very first notes of their powerful performance. Draiman might not be moving around like before, but it looks like that’s a task he’s leaving for guitarist Dan Donegan, drummer Mike Wengren and especially bassist John Moyer to do, with those three guys being unstoppable on stage while Draiman focused on his unparalleled vocals (including his classic “monkey screams”) and leading gestures. They even invited the guys from Saint Asonia and Breaking Benjamin to sing the classic Who Taught You How to Hate with them, although it felt a bit weird seeing two bass players on stage at the same time.

IMG_1602One of the most anticipated moments of the show was their beautiful version for Simon & Garfunkel’s The Sound of Silence, and I have to say that lived up to all expectations and beyond. The drumming by Mike was incredible, as if he was pounding our hearts, and the piano notes embellished the entire ambience, but of course the main ingredient in such a unique ballad were Draiman’s vocals. He sang each and every note to perfection together with the fans, a memorable moment in a warm Torontonian night that will stay fresh in our minds and hearts for many years to come. Another great example of how Draiman flawlessly captivated and commanded the audience throughout the whole gig occurred during their new song called The Light, where he asked everyone to raise their lighters and mobiles during the chorus of the song and every single person obviously attended his demand, creating a sensational view of brilliant dots all over the venue.

My only complaint is that their setlist was way too short, with only fourteen songs being played in total. They could have played a few more tunes like the title-track “Immortalized” or even their version for “Land of Confusion”, which has been part of their recent setlists. Anyway, the icing on the cake came in the form of their biggest hit Down With the Sickness, with all fans jumping up and down and screaming the lyrics together with Draiman, especially the ones in the floor section like myself. The heat of the fire coming from the stage might have been strong, but the heat coming from their music was even stronger, leaving all fans happier than usual on a Monday night on their way back home. When introducing Down With the Sickness, Draiman said Toronto was “infected” by their music. I can’t think of a better definition to their concert than that.

Setlist
Ten Thousand Fists
The Game
The Vengeful One
Prayer
Liberate
Who Taught You How to Hate
Stupify
The Sound of Silence
Inside the Fire
The Light
Stricken
Indestructible
Voices
Down With the Sickness

Band members
David Draiman – vocals
Dan Donegan – guitar
John Moyer – bass
Mike Wengren – drums

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Album Review – Disturbed / Immortalized (2015)

If you love Mr. David Draiman and his crew more than anything in your life, just go for it.

Rating5

disturbed_immortalizedDiehard fans of Alternative Metal can take a rest now and enjoy some peace of heart (or maybe not), as American Heavy Metal icons Disturbed finally released a couple of months ago a brand new album after a long hiatus, entitled Immortalized. And although the sixth studio album in their career (the first since their 2010 release Asylum) might be far from being a masterpiece and won’t change anything in the heavy music scene as we know it, it will surely put you to scream, jump up and down and raise your fists in the air together with Mr. David Draiman and his crew. But that will most probably happen only if you’re addicted to their music, so to speak.

Perhaps the main “issue” with the new album by the band that helped put Chicago, Illinois on the worldwide map of Alternative Metal is not the lack of innovation, but the extreme repetitiousness and hollowness of all lyrics. It’s nothing that ruins the album or makes it unbearable to listen to, but at least for me it feels like many songs are just filler and only their most devoted fans will end up digging them. Anyway, it’s still Disturbed with yet another excellent artwork featuring “The Guy”, designed by Raymond Swanland, and you’ll surely have a good time listening to it at home, work, school or in your car, but other than two or three truly strong songs the rest of the album doesn’t achieve its full potential and will be forgotten pretty soon.

The album begins with The Eye of the Storm, an alternative intro that sets the tone for what’s about to come, the incredible title-track Immortalized, which by the way is the best song of the album by far. You’ll need just a couple of seconds to realize it’s Disturbed at its finest, from its razing riffs to the unique voice by Mr. David Draiman, with its chorus being one of those things you’ll feel honored to raise your fists and sing together with the band (“Oh, in the calm before the storm / Another legend will be born / Another battle will be won / We will rise / Oh, so heed the call of confrontation / Today we feed on domination / Secure a legacy that will never die / Be immortalized”). The Vengeful One is another instant classic where the band offers their fans a unique fighting chant with an imposing rhythm and fierce lyrics, and I bet this song will be a permanent piece of their setlist from now on.

It’s in Open Your Eyes that the aforementioned issues begin: despite being another solid tune where Draiman and guitarist Dan Donegan do a great job together, it’s recommended for longtime fans of the band only as it doesn’t offer anything new, and besides, the chorus ends up getting way too repetitive after a while. And if they wanted to send an inspiring message through the song The Light, I’m sad to say they failed miserably, not only because its instrumental parts are significantly bland but also because its lyrics couldn’t sound more generic. It might be enjoyable for fans who love anything that comes from the band, but for fans of a wider range of heavy music it’s a real bummer. Then we have the interesting What Are You Waiting For, which reminds me of some of their songs from their 2000 classic The Sickness mixed with their 2005 release Ten Thousand Fists. In spite of the repetitiveness of the lyrics and chorus it’s indeed a very pleasant tune, with highlights to the excellent job done by drummer Mike Wengren.

You’re Mine starts in a “scary” Pop/Dance way, fortunately evolving to a much bolder and heavier sonority and therefore without doing any harm to the album; followed by Who, and let me tell you that if you’re not a fan of the band you won’t even notice the transition from the previous song to this one. However, this one is a lot more elaborate and deserves a better listen, with its solid riffs and beats providing Draiman all he needs to deliver his classic vocal lines. Once again lyrics get too repetitive in Save Our Last Goodbye, with its heavy riffs being what really stand out and give the song some significant energy. It should work a lot better if played live, though.

disturbed 2015I’ll never ever understand the reason for a band like Disturbed to record the hideous Fire It Up. I’m not pro or against it, I just think this is not Disturbed, where its weak instrumental  and even weaker lyrics feel like Draiman had the terrible idea to partner with Snoop Dogg so infantile they are (“Fire it up, I like to fire it up / and it feels so right / Fire it up, ’cause when I fire it up / I feel like serenity / I feel like serenity… is mine”). Disturbed should sing about fighting, about the human psyche, hatred and pain, and leave the superficial stuff to R&B and other crap. At least The Sound of Silence keeps up with the band’s tradition of unusual cover songs, this time paying a tribute to Simon & Garfunkel. It’s interesting how Draiman changed his voice for this song, and albeit it’s nothing outstanding and not even close to their awesome version for “Land of Confusion”, it’s still a nice variation to the band’s sounding.

Never Wrong sounds like the early days of Disturbed with its pure Alternative Metal vibe and Draiman showcasing his powerful vocals in a thrilling way. In addition, the entire band is on fire, elevating the song’s electricity and making it a perfect choice for some action inside the pit during their live performances. And lastly, the album ends with yet another decent but not outstanding song named Who Taught You How to Hate, also tailored for old fans of the band, with its repetitive but good-to-sing-along lyrics. And if you get any of the special editions of the album, I personally consider Legion of Monsters the most exciting bonus track of all.

To sum up, Distrubed are offering a decent Disturbed album for Disturbed fans, and that’s it. Nothing truly new, no breakthroughs or any type of new concepts added to it. Draiman knows what he’s doing and what his fans want, and that’s exactly what he did in Immortalized. If you love the music by Disturbed more than anything in your life, just go for it and you won’t feel disappointed at all. If Disturbed are simply another band in your playlist, take a shot at Immortalized and you’ll find some pretty good moments in it, but don’t expect it to have a relevant impact on the way you see music today. As long as you have fun listening to it, it’s mission accomplished for Draiman and his bandmates.

Best moments of the album: Immortalized, The Vengeful One and Never Wrong.

Worst moments of the album: The Light and Fire It Up.

Released in 2015 Reprise Records

Track listing
1. The Eye of the Storm 1:20
2. Immortalized 4:17
3. The Vengeful One 4:12
4. Open Your Eyes 3:57
5. The Light 4:16
6. What Are You Waiting For 4:03
7. You’re Mine 4:55
8. Who 4:46
9. Save Our Last Goodbye 4:59
10. Fire It Up 4:05
11. The Sound of Silence (Simon & Garfunkel cover) 4:08
12. Never Wrong 3:33
13. Who Taught You How to Hate 4:57

Deluxe edition bonus tracks
14.Tyrant 3:49
15.Legion of Monsters 4:23
16.The Brave and the Bold 4:34

Exclusive digital bonus track
17. Warning Sign 3:28

Exclusive vinyl pictures disc bonus track
18. The Vengeful One (Instrumental) 4:12

Band members
David Draiman – vocals
Dan Donegan – guitar
John Moyer – bass
Mike Wengren – drums