Believe (Warner Bros.)

Ballistic: Ecks Vs. Sever
Disturbed's second album is a giant leap for the band and a hopeful sign for metal. On Believe, the group has traveled far beyond the electronic-tinged rhythm-and-riffs territory of its debut, The Sickness, creating one of the best metal records of the year. David Draiman has developed into an actual singer, and the musicianship here is five or six steps past Disturbed's earlier work -- a real achievement, considering the haste with which Believe was written and recorded.

The first single, "Prayer," combines the driving riffs for which the band is known with soaring, melodic choruses. Other exemplary cuts include "Breathe," which rides a monster central riff and a hook that buries itself in the listener's brain; and "Darkness," an acoustic ballad on which Draiman unveils a soft, subtle voice. These tracks have vaulted Disturbed into the top rank of current metal acts. The band never was particularly beholden to trends, but Believe finds it creating music that's simultaneously personal and powerful, and that will surely expand its appeal beyond the (large but still limited) boundaries of the Ozzfest audience. Good for them.

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