Review Summary: Maybe it's finally time to admit that maybe they're just not a good band anymore.
Two years after I was let down by Disturbed essentially re-releasing Ten Thousand Fists with a slightly darker bent, I'm let down by disturbed again. Last time I was upset because of what they were hyping, a good return to the form found on The Sickness and Believe. I thought the album came off as Ten Thousand fists with some watered down Sickness mixed in to keep things fresh in the sound. It seems now I've gotten my wish. Asylum is the closest the band have come to their roots so far in their career, in a slightly darker version of Indestructible. The problem is that this is just a bad album.
Of the bands strong points on Indestructible, two of them have gotten weaker. Mike Wengren's drumming has regressed to Ten Thousand Fists style of simply playing with the music in simple, effective beats. On Indestructible he had taken great strides to standing out from the band; here his playing fades into the background without any any unique flavor of its own.
On the other hand Dan Donegan is still doing a great job coming up with riffs. His playing is still much more than the average palm chords and recycled riffs everyone else is using. They're the recycled riffs he's been writing since Believe. On Ten Thousand Fists and Indestructible they were injected with enough feeling and energy that they were still entertaining; this time around they lack that soul and come off feeling overly polished and sterile.
But in reality, all of this was just written for David Draiman to put his vocals over. As the only member in the band to have made any progress on the album, he saves it somewhat. His harsher barking vocals have lost the more melodic edge that they gained on Ten Thousand Fists and have mostly reverted to the darker, more sinister sounding vocals on The Sickness. His cleans here are also better than ever, hitting highs and lows with better precision and more evidence of emotion and technique than he's shown so far. But really his style is just absorbing the style he used on Believe. His note choice and timing on several songs (Never Again, Serpentine, Another Way to Die, Sacrifice) sounds like it could be ripped straight from the earlier album, and what isn't is stock leftovers from Indestructible.
In all the band have finally made the album I wanted them to make, a smooth amalgamation of everything they've done so far. It's the darkest, broodiest album they've released in their career. As such I'm left with a difficult question to answer: Why isn't this a good album?
Everything here is polished to the point of being soulless. The guitars lack any emotion or energy at all. The tone is so squeaky clean it sounds almost smooth. The little bit of crunch the guitars have leave it sounding like a mass marketed product, like the result of careful marketing research and commercial planning by a label intent on generating radio play. Everything here is completely inoffensive and sterile. Draimans barking is used seldom enough to keep them from overpowering the record and never once does he sound genuinely angry. He comes across as a spoiled child, petulant he must perform and starts throwing a tantrum.
And where it's not ruined by a lack of soul or commercial polish it's ruined by unoriginality. Asylum apes Inside the Fire pretty hard, preventing what would be the standout track from really standing out. The opening riff of The Infection is stolen from Decadence, the verse of Serpentine is very reminiscent of Awaken, The chorus to Crucified resemble a mix of choruses from The Night and Haunted. And while it's all small similarities it gives the album enough of a "been there, done that" feel that it's difficult to really enjoy.
Altogether this is a very disappointing release that I tried very, very hard to really love. It's a band I grew up with that helped form my opinions on and general taste in music. And maybe it's finally time to admit that maybe they're just not a good band anymore.