Alternative metal exploded during the late '90s thanks to groundwork laid by groups like Nine Inch Nails, White Zombie, and Rage Against the Machine, and as record companies scrambled to find the next Korn or Limp Bizkit, the genre became clogged with legions of similar-sounding bands, all trying to find just the right blend of low, heavy guitar riffs, rap-metal, industrial, and intense aggression. Often, those attempts could result in sounds that seemed too calculated and self-consciously cobbled together to feel natural; plus, inventive production was frequently employed to disguise many songs' lack of memorable hooks. The Sickness, the first entry by Chicago's Disturbed in the alt-metal sweepstakes, thankfully avoids those common pitfalls, turning in a mixture of raw, gut-level metal and industrial/electronic backing that feels logical and integrated. Although the music has its fair share of pummeling aggression and accompanying shouted vocals, Disturbed also isn't afraid to employ melody, and they're actually quite good at it when they choose that direction. Occasional forays into rap-metal aren't really the group's strong suit and can feel a bit awkward, although they do have a certain rhythmic acuity missing from some similar bands' attempts. But even if it has a few less-than-compelling moments, The Sickness overall comes off as the work of a band who really doesn't have far to go to achieve total control of its sound and compositional skills, and that makes it a terrific debut album.