"It's been a process, man," Disturbed frontman David Draiman said during a recent break from recording. "We don't want this one to sound anything like what we've done, and it's always hard to reinvent yourself and come up with something that doesn't borrow elements from what you've already created. It can be very taxing."
Fortunately, Disturbed have found a good outlet for their stress and frustration as they craft their third record. Whenever the pressure gets to them, the bandmembers — singer Draiman, guitarist Dan Donegan, bassist John Moyer and drummer Mike Wengren — head into the studio lounge for a few rounds of foosball.
"We have a tournament chart set up, and we compete against each other, which is a lot of fun," Draiman said. "We've gotta do something to blow off steam, although you'd be surprised how angry you can get playing foosball."
The Chicago metal band is again working with Johnny K, who produced 2000's The Sickness and 2002's Believe, at his Groovemaster Studio. The band set the bar even higher for itself this time, workshopping the new material for many months before finally hitting the studio in December.
Draiman insists Disturbed's still-untitled new record — due by early summer — is their angriest, most unrepentant offering to date. It's equally energized by feelings of betrayal, frustration and alienation.
"The lyrics push in many different directions, but they're united in their anger," the singer said. "For example, 'Hell' is about a relationship with someone who keeps coming in and out of your life, and every time they come back they f--- up your whole world. 'Decadence' is about how difficult it is to live a decadent lifestyle, the effect it has on you and what it does to your soul. They're different ... but they're both really pissed off."
Other track titles include "Monster," "10,000 Fists" and "Deify." The latter song is a scathing condemnation of demagoguery that begins with a portion of President Bush's 9-11 speech and includes the lyrics "Deify you, they see you as the new Messiah/ Renew belief in some demented man."
"The song's not specifically about George Bush," Draiman said. "It's about people like him. It's meant to be cryptic and ambiguous, but it's clearly about making a god out of someone."
So far, Disturbed have finished 13 tracks. They plan to record seven more and select 13 for the final cut. A single has yet to be chosen. "There just isn't one song that jumps out," Draiman said. "There are a bunch that do that."
One track that has been confirmed is a cover of Genesis' '80s pop classic "Land of Confusion." The song seems like a strange choice in contrast to the relentless barrage of the other tracks, and it contradicts a claim Draiman made after Disturbed covered Tears for Fears' "Shout" on their debut.
"I know I said I would never do another cover, but I guess I lied," the singer said. "Just wait until you hear it. We took the synth beat out and riffed it up and chunked it up so it's heavy as f---. Basically, we took all the pop out, and what's cool is that the lyrics are so appropriate for today's times."
Aside from being their loudest album, Disturbed's upcoming LP will also be their most complex, taking inspiration from musically accomplished acts like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden in addition to the nü school of headbanging. "There has been a real lack of great musicianship over the past five or 10 years," Draiman said. "So with this album we really wanted to challenge ourselves and do something that outshines anything we've ever done. There are guitar solos and complex arrangements. These are really difficult songs to play."
Draiman credits new bassist John Moyer (ex-Union Underground) with helping the band realize its full creative potential. After an extensive search, the band chose Moyer to replace original bass player Steve "Fuzz" Kmak in April 2004. When Kmak was in the band, Disturbed weren't totally clicking — personally or musically. But after Moyer joined, the group achieved a new level of creativity and enthusiasm.
"He's our boy," Draiman said. "He's kicking ass on this record. His tonality, technique and meter are light-years ahead of where we were before, and it shows in the music."