Various Artists

Music as a Weapon II

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Music as a Weapon II is a keepsake of Disturbed's 2003 tour of the same name, which also featured Taproot, Chevelle, and Ünloco. But it's also a time capsule for the active rock radio format, which in 2002 and 2003 was bombarded by bellowing pretenders to the Korn and Tool throne. Minor leaguers like Taproot and Chevelle had nothing to offer beyond compressed production, roaring guitar sludge, and laughably stale woe-is-me lyrics; naturally, they sold millions of records. Here, Taproot get the worst of it. Music as a Weapon's shallow sound quality is a definite disservice to all of its bands. Still, Taproot's "Myself" is a painfully uninspired mess of overcompensating vocals (in both the melodramatic moan and scary growling departments) and tuneless guitar. "Sumtimes" and the hit single "Poem" fare a bit better, but in general the live setting reveals Taproot's tunes as tepid, blustery rewrites of the recent post-grunge past. As for Chevelle, their earnest Tool reproductions are rescued by some genuine instrumental chemistry, especially in the final thrashing moments of "Forfeit." Since Ünloco's metallization of Nirvana is neither here nor there, Music as a Weapon II is ultimately about Disturbed. The Chicago combo isn't entirely free of genre homogeny. But its vigilant dedication to melody and a higher standard of bone-crushing metallurgy have helped carve a unique sonic niche. Both traits are evident on Weapon. A brooding introduction sidles up to the spiky, thick boot-heel strut of "Bound," and the previously unreleased "Dehumanized" -- "Let me see those fists!" David Draiman implores the gathered throng midsong -- should satiate those lying in wait for the band's next full-length. Weapon might have used more tracks like this; a cover of "Fade to Black" is unremarkable, and the atmospheric Believe ballad "Darkness" doesn't translate to disc very well. Are those strings in the background? Still, Disturbed know how to bring the house down, which they absolutely do with an incredible closing version of "Stupify." Too bad Beavis isn't around anymore. He would've loved Draiman's guttural yawps. "Don't denyeee meeee!"

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