Disturbed Not Down With the (Altitude) Sickness

When Chicago metal band Disturbed emerged with debut album The Sickness in 2000, having formed as Brawl in 1994, the hard-rock-loving world was nu-metal crazy. Bands like Korn and Coal Chamber (yes, even Coal Chamber) had convinced everyone that going severely bass-heavy and adding an element of hip-hop to the vocals was the way to go. Maybe throw in some industrial crunch. So for the next five years or so, bands like Static-X, Drowning Pool and Taproot thrived — and so did Disturbed.

These days, however, people do their best to avoid the nu-metal tag, much like rock-and-roll bands spent the 1990s distancing themselves from the hair-metal label. Nobody wants to be associated with a scene that’s over.

“I don’t think we were ever a nu-metal band to begin with,” says Disturbed drummer Mike Wengren. “I just think we happened to come out around the same time. Unfortunately, as great as some of those bands were, they’re not around anymore. I think that we have a connection with the fans, we write music about real stuff, and people are able to connect to that, whether it’s through the power of the music or being able to connect through the experiences of the lyrics. I think they get it, so they stuck with us for all these years.”

The fans certainly did stick with the band, even when, in 2011, they decided to take a break for nearly five years. Last year’s Immortalized album was the comeback and, as is usually the case with this band, it was adored by the fan base — not so much by everyone else.

“We certainly did need the break,” says Wengren. “We were always brothers, we always get along and love each other, but things had become sort of stale. It was always work, work, work. After twelve years practically going straight with writing, recording and touring, it just became a little monotonous, and we just needed to take a step back. Personally, and I think I can speak for the rest of the band as well, it’s been so rejuvenating. We just came back with our batteries recharged, hungrier than ever. We put out a great record, and we’ve been touring and touring hard, but also we’re at the peak level of the band as far as performances are concerned.”

Disturbed turned twenty years old this year — 22 if you include the early days when the band was called Brawl — and Wengren feels fortunate that he’s still able to live the dream, getting up every day and doing what he loves for a living. The drummer thinks that’s partly because they’ve grown as musicians over the years.

“I think that’s a natural evolution when you play together for so long,” he says. “But we’ve also matured as people. We’re family men now. I don’t think that’s necessarily made us softer, but I think it’s given us extra incentive to go out there — not just for ourselves, but for our families, too.”

Some heads were turned upon the release of Immortalized because of the inclusion of a cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence.” While not the first unexpected cover by the band — debut album The Sickness included a version of Tears for Fears’ “Shout” — this one displayed a previously untapped, emotionally raw side of Disturbed, and, in particular, of singer David Draiman.

“It’s been nice for us in the band,” Wengren says. “We’ve known he can sing for years, so for him to get that recognition is rewarding for us as well.”

Since the release of Immortalized, Disturbed has been touring hard, making up for five lost years. This isn’t a band to write on the road, says Mendel, so don’t expect a new full-length record any time soon.

“We’ve attempted to do some writing on the road...we can do a couple of riffs and beats here and there, but when we write, we like no distractions. We have to be focused,” he says. “When you’re out on the road or in a dressing room, there are people coming in and out all the time. There are interviews and meet-and-greets, and that stuff interferes with the rest of the day. When we’re out, we prefer to focus on the shows and play the best shows we can.”

On September 28, Disturbed will be bringing that live show to the Broadmoor World Arena in Colorado Springs, and Wengren admits that he enjoys playing this state.

“We’ve been going there since 2000,” he says. “The fans are always really energetic and supportive, and it’s one of the cities we definitely look forward to coming to. We’ve been playing a similar set for the last couple of legs, and we’re talking about changing it up. Of course, we’ll have all the crowd favorites. We’re trying to keep it fresh — not just for ourselves, but for the fans, too.”

Fortunately for Wengren, he says he doesn’t suffer from altitude sickness when he comes here. So he’s not down with the sickness.

See what we did there?

Disturbed plays with Chenille and Nothing More at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, September 28, at Broadmoor World Arena, 3185 Venetucci Boulevard, Colorado Springs, 719-520-7469.