It has been awhile since I have heard anyone talk about the time Disturbed covered a Genesis song. Probably because it seems like it would never happen. But it did. In 2006, the American heavy metal band covered a song by a British pop-rock band and if a listener didn’t know better, he or she would be hard pressed to figure out which was the original artist. Disturbed makes the song sound like any other Disturbed song. Put another way, it manages to play up the elements of “Land of Confusion” that could work in the typical Disturbed soundscape. Twelve years later, the cover version has enough menace and hardcore metal elements to keep audiences listening.
Genesis, Disturbed and “Land of Confusion”
Genesis’ version of the song appeared in 1986. Back then, the use of puppets that looked like they were made out of nylon and foam and were created in the likenesses of the era’s celebrities, including then-president Ronald Reagan and his wife, Nancy.
Disturbed’s version sticks to the original fairly closely in terms of lyrics. The one noticeable change is the line “the sound of your laughter” from the original becomes ” in the wake of this madness” in the cover version. “Land of Confusion” appears on Disturbed’s album “Ten Thousand Fists.”
The song is about the chaos of contemporary times. As a result, at almost any point in American history after the advent of rock ‘n’ roll the song is appropriate. There is always tumult, political and social scandals, insinuations of corruption and other problems that seem too large for the average person to handle. It sounds appropriate to have the song handled by a heavy metal band, although during the mid-1980s, no one had a problem with Genesis’ version.
“Land of Confusion” by Disturbed
Since audiences already familiar with the original know the words of the song, except for one line, the song has to impress listeners on the strength of its soundscape. For comparison and contrast sake, it was interesting to hear Disturbed’s version first, and then listen to Genesis’ version. The “bones” of the song are the same. But it comes as no surprise to find that Disturbed adds a little in terms of guitar, drums and keyboard and other elements, including the rhythmic cough or throat-clearing that makes an appearance on some of Disturbed’s best-known songs.
The edges of the guitar riff sound rougher and that almost intangible element, “menace” has a definite presence in the Disturbed version. The gruff, but flexible vocals of David Draiman seem perfect for the song.
The tribal drums and the keyboard or synthesizer effects way off on the treble side of the soundscape give the song a nuanced feel that shows it as more than just a heavy metal song that used to be a pop-rock song.
It has been more than a decade since Disturbed’s version first rocked audiences. It will be interesting if new versions will be released from bands who will give listeners a new way of seeing the song that showed people how to catalog the world’s problems. The song isn’t just about the problems, though. It discusses who (“my generation”) will fix things. So beyond the chaos, the tumult, there is hope.
Interestingly, “Land of Confusion” has also been covered by Nelly Furtado, and others, including Scandinavian metal and dance groups. That the song has been covered by a variety of bands speaks to the universal nature of the discontent relayed in the lyrics. The song’s groove is easily replicated by pop and metal band’s and so the song appeals to listeners on more than one level.