When Disturbed decided to disappear as a band, they really did mean it. Not only did they go on a hiatus in 2011 — allowing the band members to pursue outside projects and personal activities — but they also stayed out of sight while they regrouped and recorded their most recent album, Immortalized, in Las Vegas.
"It was very tricky," guitarist Dan Donegan says, looking back at how Disturbed kept all but a few people in the dark about their return to action. "I mean, we definitely pulled off some ninja moves in order to keep it a secret. A challenging thing for all of us was not telling some of our family members. I told my dad at the very end of it. My mom only knew because she was spending a little more time at my house with my wife, helping out with the kids because I was gone for those three months."
The cloak and dagger worked. When Disturbed announced the release date for last year's Immortalized, it also sent the first single, "The Vengeful One," to radio without advance notice. This created the sudden burst of attention the band was hoping for.
Immortalized also became the fifth straight Disturbed album to debut at No. 1, while the singles — "The Vengeful One," "The Light" and "The Sound of Silence" — have each gone No. 1 on Billboard's Mainstream Rock singles chart.
Disturbed began its hiatus at what might have seemed like an odd time. The group had been on a roll, pretty much from the moment of releasing its debut album, The Sickness, in 2000. That one sold more than 4 million copies, and the three albums that followed — 2002's Believe, 2005's Ten Thousand Fists and 2008's Indestructible — each went platinum.
The 2010 album, Asylum, didn't sell quite as well, but that may have been a function of the industrywide decline in album sales. In any case, Disturbed was still headlining arenas and playing prime slots at major festivals.
But a dozen-plus years of staying on a songwriting/recording/tour cycle without extended breaks had taken a toll on Donegan and his bandmates, singer David Draiman, drummer Mike Wengren and bassist John Moyer. They needed to do something other than Disturbed.
The timing was especially good when it came to the band members' personal lives.
"At the time of the hiatus, David was just about to get married, and during the hiatus he had his first kid," Donegan explains. "I have two kids and Mike had his second kid. So we had a lot of things going on in our personal lives. It was nice to go home and have some normalcy to it, and just be a dad and be a husband and do a lot of things that we want to do."
During the hiatus, Draiman formed an electronic-edged band, Device, which released a Top 15 self-titled debut album, while Donegan and Wengren formed the band Fight or Flight. Moyer, meanwhile, worked with Adrenaline Mob and Art of Anarchy.
But by early 2014, Donegan and Draiman began exchanging initial song ideas for a reunited Disturbed.
After several months of band writing sessions in which those ideas were developed and refined, the group went into the studio with producer Kevin Churko, best known for his work with Ozzy Osbourne and Five Finger Death Punch.
Immortalized continues to sound very much like Disturbed, with forceful yet melodic hard-rocking songs like "What Are You Waiting For," "The Vengeful One" and the title track setting the tone for the album.
The biggest surprise on Immortalized is the brooding version of the Simon & Garfunkel hit, "The Sound of Silence," which features Draiman stretching his vocal range to new lows and highs, while his bandmates take a break from big guitar riffs and big drums in favor of a string section.
One byproduct of keeping Immortalized secret was the band had to wait until the album was announced to start planning for tours to support it. That's why the band is only now hitting the road.
Donegan said there was never a question whether Disturbed would return. The only question was when. "The beauty of it," he recalls the band saying at the time, "is that we'll return when we feel like the fire is there — when we've missed it so much that we feel like we have something to offer."