Disturbed may be one of the most successful rock bands of the last two decades, with 16 million records sold and 2 billion streams of hit singles like “Down With the Sickness,” “Indestructible” and “Another Way to Die,” but when the bandmates have a new album they don’t forget about their roots in Chicago.
Following a special pair of rare intimate shows at House of Blues for the release of “Immortalized” in 2015, the heavy rock quartet that fully formed in the southwest suburbs of Chicago in 1996 through an Illinois Entertainer ad will also celebrate the release of new album “Evolution” with a set at Lakeview’s Vic Theatre on Wednesday. The show will be recorded and aired on SiriusXM’s Turbo and Octane channels on Oct. 18, the day before the new album drops, and will be one of the first times Disturbed has played the hometown venue since the early 2000s, when the success of their early albums “The Sickness” and “Believe” thrust them quickly into arenas and worldwide festivals.
“I love that little reminder of how it all started for us, playing those types of rooms,” says guitarist and founding member Dan Donegan, chatting from his home in the south suburbs. “Places like the Vic, Metro and House of Blues were bucket-list venues that we wanted to play as a local band, and it’s nice to be able to return and give fans that intimate show and a little taste of the new Disturbed music.”
When: 7 p.m. Oct. 10
Where: Vic Theatre, 3145 N. Sheffield
Tickets: sold out
The freshly inked material on “Evolution” (the band’s seventh LP) takes some of the biggest leaps of Disturbed’s career, with the unpredictability in David Draiman’s vocals, Mike Wengren’s drumming patterns, Donegan’s dimensional guitar work and John Moyer’s low-down bass lines fully embodying the album’s title.
“With this album we branched out quite a bit,” Donegan says. “Looking at this long lengthy career we’ve had and been able to sustain, which can be tricky in this business, as well as the musicianship that has grown from when we started, we wanted to show some different sides to the band. There’s always those trademark things that are Disturbed that we won’t divorce ourselves from, but we’re taking chances and exploring. We don’t want Disturbed to have just one definition.”
The band chose the first single a bit more democratically this time around, allowing fans to decide whether they wanted a trademark heavy riff or a more somber ballad. Fans unsurprisingly went with the aggressive punch of “Are You Ready,” Disturbed’s fastest No. 1 single (on Billboard’s mainstream rock songs chart) to date. While the song sounds like it could have been ripped from the B-sides of “Immortalized,” Donegan says “there’s a lighter side to the album, too. I think fans will be pleasantly surprised when they hear more tracks.”
The soft backpedal of the acoustic guitar on “A Reason to Fight” harkens back to Disturbed’s triple-platinum cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence,” which earned the band a Grammy nomination in 2017. The “Stairway to Heaven”-esque intro on “Already Gone” is another bold diversion, showing off Draiman’s former classical cantorial training, which he has become more comfortable exposing on recent albums.
In previous interviews, Draiman has compared the change of tide of “Evolution” with the shift of Metallica’s Black Album, and though that may be eye-rolling to some, consider that Disturbed is the only band behind the metal forefathers to have five consecutive No. 1 debuts on the Billboard 200 charts.
“Being a hard rock band, there are certain albums that have raised the bar that we have looked up to. The Black Album was that one for Metallica. It turned the corner for them and reached the biggest audience they ever had,” says Donegan. Both acts expand their reach, playing Austin City Limits this month. “When we are making these songs, we want to reach as many people as possible. On this album in particular there are a lot of strong personal messages that we think a lot of people can connect to.”
One of the strongest receptions has been for second single “A Reason to Fight,” a rally cry against addiction and depression that was written around the time when Chris Cornell, Chester Bennington and Scott Weiland and other colleagues lost their battles. “We’ve all personally had people close to us in our lives, whether family or friends, that fought through some form of addiction. We’ve gone down that path of tough love with certain people and want to give that positive message to not to give up that fight,” says Donegan.
He has the same message of perseverance for the local music scene. When he’s not touring with Disturbed, Donegan can regularly be seen at music clubs across town including The Forge in Joliet. “I’m still always looking for inspiration, especially from the younger bands,” he says. “I like seeing the fire they have playing these clubs. It brings me back.”