Unpopular Opinion - Disturbed's Sound of Silence
I’m not a Disturbed fan. Unapologetically, actually. I remember when 2000’s The Sickness came out and I remember how all of the pent up angst and rage - which prior to listening to tracks like “Stupify,” “Down With The Sickness,” and “The Game” I never knew I had - exploded from my pre-teen being. After that they just seemed to release the same 10-odd tracks on an infinite repeat, release after release after release. In fact, there’s a running joke, made famous by NonRandomNonSense’s YouTube video “The Greatest Hit of Disturbed” that showcases their knack for repetitive rhythms, melodies, and monotony. I made it a point to avoid their music due to lack of “freshness” until a full decade later, 2010’s Asylum. “At last!” I thought. “Something slightly less repetitive and slightly more innovative!” But that’s a different review for a different time. Hopefully never.
Let’s talk covers. On every album since their debut, Disturbed has made it a point to include one cover in their track listing. This started with their debut album with a track called “Shout 2000,” originally recorded as “Shout” by Depeche Mode in 1981 and coincidentally another track of theirs that I find to be complete garbage. As I said, I essentially ignored anything released after The Sickness but in 2005 Disturbed released Ten Thousand Fists on which they placed the cover “Land of Confusion” originally recorded by Genesis in 1986. THIS. COVER. IS. AMAZING. Draiman’s voice is a perfect match to that of Phil Collins’ albeit with an edge that really pushes the lyrics that extra step further. I didn’t even mind the intermittent “AWH AWH AWH”s placed between pre-chorus and chorus. This is everything a cover should be - a reinterpretation that pays its respects to the original composition while attempting to push the message (both musically and lyrically) a step further. This is not a review of that song though. This is a review of something far more terrifying. Terrifying because Disturbed’s “Sound of Silence” is their largest success to date. Terrifying because their YouTube video has almost 88-million views while the YouTube video of their Conan O’Brien performance has over 20-million. It’s climbing the Spotify streams at a near 60-million streams to date and it is Disturbed’s highest charting song on the Hot 100 - peaking at 42. Paul Simon himself made it a point to reach out to David Draiman to tell him how much he enjoyed Distrubed’s take on the song that he wrote. What. The. F***.
So why do I hate it? Why not conform with the those who have named this their Second Coming and bow before its omnipresent grace and wisdom? Let’s start from the beginning. There’s a beautiful piano medley playing faintly in the background. I can almost visualize the cliche camera pan over war-torn Whocaresistan, post-battle, rifles sticking out of the ground with helmets placed carefully atop their bayonets, paying homage to the recently deceased buried before it. Who started this war? Why are we fighting? Where is this tangent going anyway? Then, out of the darkness (pun intended), a lone voice - a baritone elixir for the ears. Huh. He seems to be having some trouble singing that low and in key. Should we maybe transpose the composition up a step or two? No? Alright, well let’s just add a merry mix of autotune (yes, kids, it’s autotuned) and too much reverb. Ah, much better! Orchestral swell! LEGITIMIZE ME! Seriously, this over-dramatic and over-serious attempt at sincerity that - by the way - does not exist on any pre-existing Disturbed track (I’m looking at you, “Droppin’ Plates”) just serves my further distaste at the musical butchery that is on exhibition.
Onwards and upwards we reach the 1:50 mark and one of the most peculiar decisions makes itself known. For anyone counting, this song - like most pop songs - was written and is performed in 4/4 or Common Time. For any whose music education is a bit lacking, 4/4 is when you are able to count to four within one measure in time with the song’s pulse or beat. Generally, for most popular music, snare hits fall on beats 2 and 4 making it easy to keep track of what exactly defines a “measure” within the piece of music. There are no tell-tale drums to help guide us in this track but the pulse remains a steady 4 beats per measure pretty consistently until we reach this one particularly jarring moment. For whatever ungodly reason, 2 beats miraculously disappear around the 1:58 mark (“People talking without listening, People writing songs…”) completely throwing off any sense of time. I’m trying to make a point of not referencing the source material while complaining about this atrocity; but, for the record, I checked. Simon and Garfunkel’s version does not cut out 2 whole beats. Whether this decision was made to cover up an error in performance or just to make things more interesting, it’s a striking choice that literally throws me out of the music.
What this song really needs though, is timpani. Oh thank god, they added timpani - END THE REVIEW! Just kidding, I’m not done. Further to my point to not reference the source material, an argument has been made that what makes the original stand out is the tight harmonies on display between both vocalists - Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel. Don’t worry though, Draiman’s complex harmonies are also on display. Once. At the end of a single line (“…neon god they made!”). The complex harmony? One octave up. *Slow clap*
Ok ok, let’s skip to the end, shall we? Wait. What is this? Why does the end sound like some sort of sad and sorry Christmas Carol? The waning flatulence of a long forgotten Jingle Bells-ian tune once revived for use in my church’s annual “true meaning of Christmas” pageant. Chimes? Yes, over the droning death-rattle that is, I can only assume, the orchestra’s last stand, chimes are played on every down-beat in order to “compliment” the melody established by both piano and guitar - giving this song, perhaps not the ending it needs but the ending it deserves. And Scrooge’s heart grew three sizes that day.
Written by Stephen Farley