Published on June 25th, 2015 | by Andy Sedlak
‘Ten Thousand Fists’ – Disturbed 
Summary: Now a decade old, Disturbed’s 2005 smash fires at a mishmash of targets with mostly rock-solid results.
Length: 55:55 | Released: Sept. 20, 2005
Producers: Johnny K, Disturbed
Peak Billboard position: #1
Say this about Disturbed – the band had the chutzpah to tackle big themes.
Modern pop radio? Check.
Heartless women? Obvi.
Throw in some metalhead soul-baring (“My soul is adrift in oceans of madness”) and Hank Williams caliber damning (“I have sold my soul/Now the devil’s laughing”) and you’ve got a recipe for the juice that runs through the veins of the decade-old Ten Thousand Fists.
Recorded over the first six months of 2005, band members fused the bleak candor of 2000’s The Sickness with some of the melodic modernism of 2002’s Believe. The end result found the band firing at a mishmash of targets.
Though, in 2005, who wasn’t? The attacks on 9/11 and the war in Afghanistan were less than five years old. The war in Iraq was a little over two years old. An already divided country waxed exhaustion after a divisive 2004 presidential election. It may have been over, but that’s not the same as being resolved. Volatile, mixed opinions bled into everyday life. Inevitably, those sentiments rose to the surface of the art being made at the time.
So when frontman David Draiman desperately urges you dig within yourself and take a stand in the title song (“We are the ones that will open your mind/Leave the weak and haunted behind”), it shouldn’t come as a shock. There was a lot of that in 2005.
From “Ten Thousand Fists:”
People can no longer cover their eyes
If this disturbs you then walk away
You will remember the night you were struck by the sight of
Ten thousand fists in the air
The band plays “Ten Thousand Fists,” live in 2008.
The album did phenomenal business. Like its predecessor, Ten Thousand Fists debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Album Chart. The number of metal albums to accomplish that feat is relatively small. As of a few years ago, it had sold around 2 million copies. That put it on par with Godsmack’s Awake and Korn’s self-titled 1994 release.
Part of Ten Thousand Fist’s crossover appeal is that Disturbed’s songs didn’t contain played-out metal themes like dystopian societies and Viking warriors. They were very much rooted in reality, though that’s not to say wordsmiths were behind these compositions. Poetry be damned. Draiman’s vocal fire is an open book. In a song like “Just Stop,” he showcases get-a-grip-on-yourself diplomacy.
From “Just Stop:”
Just stop enough of the limitless critical comments on my life
Just drop the judgment and all of your pseudo-involvement in my life
On the very next song, “Guarded,” Draiman’s in deeper thematic waters as he sings of the toll taken after one puts up walls in order to avoid the risk of pain. Meanwhile, the devil mocks him from a distance.
Again, poetry be damned.
Guarding yourself from the love of another
Left you with nothing tonight
Why does it sound like the devil is laughing
Leaving me haunted tonight
You did decide
But judging Ten Thousand Fists on its poetic content is a little like judging a Fourth of July fireworks display by its musical syncopation. The boom is the point. And Disturbed booms.
Low-slung distortion and rapid-fire fills dominate Ten Thousand Fists. Music is an emotional language first, and Dan Donegan’s galloping guitar triplets are largely to thank for underscoring the album’s sense of topical urgency. For all intents and purposes, the album was the group’s first with bassist John Moyer (Steve Kmack was bounced two years earlier). And if Mike Wengren’s hands-on-fire drumming could be bottled up and sold, every hard rock drummer in the country would be in line to buy it. His drum work, particularly on “Deify,” is like listening to a thunderous fate.
When the record came out, most of my friends were into metal. I remember a buddy playing Disturbed’s cover of Genesis’ “Land of Confusion” for me. At the time, I rolled my eyes and whisked it away. Now, however, I see it as an undeniable highlight on the record – one that makes odd sense within the context of the album.
The video for Disturbed’s cover of “Land of Confusion.”
Although it rose to Number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100, Genesis’ 1986 Reagan-era bitchfest never sounded angry. Disturbed, clearly riding a jolt of unlikely inspiration, put forward an updated version with the anger purposefully intact. It’s a convenient bonus that Draiman’s voice falls somewhere between Phil Collins and Chris Cornell, probably leaning harder toward Collins.
Disturbed’s version of “Land of Confusion” rose to No. 1 on the Hot Mainstream Rock chart, thanks in part to the popularity of a Todd McFarlane-animated video. McFarlane created the comic Spawn, and also directed Korn’s “Freak on a Leash” video.
The album’s most impassioned moment comes on “Pain Redefined,” a song bursting with bruised glory. The slow burner, “Overburdened,” has aged well. Disturbed thrived on the left turn – “Land of Confusion,” “Overburdened” and the brutal awareness of the title track all make a case for it. They were somewhat less interesting when they were championing various flavors of mid-’00s rock. Maybe you’re still into that scene. I’m not.
Songs like “Decadence” and “Forgiven” may not move the needle anymore. I agree with the theme of “Sons of Plunder,” but it’s just so bitchy. For whatever reason, Disturbed was never a band that could get away with condemning mainstream success while achieving it.
From “Sons of Plunder:”
You say you’ve found yourself a new sound
The shit’s loaded and ready to go
A bit too much just like the old sound
Already heard it for the hundredth time
One hundred more, all have the same sound
Running around with all the sheep that you know
“It’s so sublime, they’re breaking new ground”
“They’re sure to have another hit this time”
The last song on the record, “Avarice,” is a clear-the-benches headbanger. Put it next to “I’m Alive” and “Pain Redefined” as the record’s most captivatingly balls-out numbers.
A vintage interview with singer David Draiman, which shows his thoughtful, humble nature.
Ultimately, the album’s heart comes from taking on The Man. Whether it’s a polarizing president or hollowed-out industry executives, the band was most memorable when it took a stand. Look at a song like “Deify” – there’s purpose there. It’s undeniable. And as I was rediscovering the record, I couldn’t help but to notice how that sense of purpose drew me in.
Disturbed’s run at the top wasn’t over after Ten Thousand Fists. Reviews were mixed (they nearly always are in metal), but the group’s 2008 release Indestructible went platinum. In 2010, another release, Asylum, debuted atop Billboard’s album chart. Only two other acts (Metallica and the Dave Matthews Band) have notched four consecutive Top Ten albums in the Nielsen era.
As of now, the band called it quits on top. A B-sides collection and a box set have been released, but Asylum is their last studio record to date. There’s speculation that they may be reuniting soon. They’ve been hinting at it on social media.
Unfortunately, a renewed sense of purpose shouldn’t be hard to find.