Disturbed - Believe - An Album Art Analysis
Album art is a form of media primarily used to brand music in order to sell the product to the public. Album Art is also a way for an artist to portray a certain ideology and create their own mythology. I have chosen to analyse the album art for Disturbed - Believe (2002), which uses the religious symbols from the 4 main religions. The Crescent Moon representing Islam, the Cross representing Christianity, the Star of David representing Judaism and the Pentacle representing Paganism. These symbols are intertwined and blended together to make a new symbol, which has become the band’s logo. My aim is to explore the origin, meaning and perception of each of these symbols and my argument will be centred around the ideology implied by putting all these symbols together to create the band's logo. There are many methods one can use to study or interpret religious symbols and texts. I will be using a qualitative methodology to analyse semiotics. The statement of the album art is directed towards the social implications of religion, therefore I will be focusing more on sociology than theology (Stark, R. 2015, pg 31).
"The symbol that you see elevated above the set behind me is a symbol of universal belief." David Draiman (2002)
The Crecsent Moon
The Crescent moon often displayed on its side with a 5 pointed star is largely viewed as the symbol of Islam, however, historians believe it has been used as far back as 2100 BC to represent the moon god “Sin” with the star representing the sun god “shamash.” The Crescent Moon was used by the Ottoman Empire who were a largely Islam based empire. (Circa 1700’s-1800’s) but it wasn’t actually recognised as the symbol of Islam until 1970. It has since become widely recognised as the symbol of Islam and is used on mosques to symbolise the Islamic faith ("Sin (mythology) - New World Encyclopedia", 2017)
I believe David Draiman chose to use this symbol in his design as a reaction to the events of 9/11. Williams, P. (2013) argues that 9/11 was not the day that changed everything but the day that we became aware how much things had changed. The western world was changing and eastern religions were no longer minority fringe religions. David who grew up in a Jewish, Israeli family in America would have a unique perspective on these events, as a victim of racial and religious discrimination I believe he felt the need to make a bold statement against discrimination (Williams, P. 2013, pg 1-5).
"All the songs on the record revolve around the theme of belief in oneself and in humanity's potential. . . And the right-wing reactions of religious leaders of the world to the events of 9/11 had a lot to do with the original impetus of where this record came from. It angered me beyond any way I could possibly explain. The whole album's about questioning your beliefs to determine what you really can believe in." David Draiman (2002)
The symbol of the cross was not always associated with the death of Christ and has been found in caves as far back as the stone age. During the Roman Empire (44 BC - 476 AD) the cross was used as a form of capital punishment, but after the death of Christ the meaning of the cross changed, The cross was not used as a symbol to resemble Christianity until after the 2nd century, since then the cross has largely been used to depict the sacrifice of Christ. It has become widely known as the symbol of Christianity ("Cross - New World Encyclopedia", 2017).
With the rise of Islam in Christian Countries, there was also a rise in conflict. The conflicts between these religions are not just a conflict of ideology but is a conflict of politics. Freedom of religion is covered in the human rights declaration by the United Nations ("Universal Declaration of Human Rights", 2017), therefore while countries aim to uphold human rights, regardless of conflicting ideologies, there is a need for discourse between these religions. I believe that David Draiman has chosen to combine these images to reflect the need for this discourse (Ipgrave, M. Ed. 2009, pg 107 - 110).
I put forth the argument that America is not a secular country. America was founded on and still aims to adhere to Christian principles “One Nation, Under God” It could be argued that as the percentage of the population who identify as Christian decreases that politics should move towards secular humanism. On the contrary, the Christian right seems to be on the rise in America. This is intrinsically linked to the backlash of other religious ideas within America. I believe that the inclusion of this symbol is implying that one religion should govern a country's political policies or dictate war with another nation over these discrepancies. The logo suggests a move towards a more secular society. (Berg-Sørensen, A. 2013, pg 113 - 114 )
The Star of David
The origin of the Star of David is largely unknown but it is a popular fable that the symbol was based on the shield of the Israelite David, who would go on to become the King of Israel in the book of Samuel and the book of Chronicles in the Old Testament. The star has seven parts. The centre representing the spiritual dimension and the six points represent the six universal directions. This could be interpreted as the six days of creation and the seventh days of rest. In sacred geometry seven is a very powerful number resembling man’s connection to God ("Star of David - New World Encyclopedia", 2017).
Draiman who was raised in a Jewish household and whose grandfather was a Holocaust survivor would have grown up, directly affected by the aftermath of the second world war. I think it is possible that he may be making a comparison to the persecution that the Jews suffered through the second world war and what was happening to Islamic people post 9/11. The conflict between Jews and Muslims is deep rooted, lasting over 1400 years and has increased in the modern era with the conflict between Zionists and Arab Nationalists over holy land. Regardless of this conflict Draiman’s inclusions of these symbols together is calling for peace in the middle east and an ideology of learning from each other in acts of love and unity rather than perpetuating more hate and division (Berger, D 2010, pg 76 - 80).
The Pentacle is believed to be the oldest of these symbols, dating back roughly 8000 years, there is evidence of this symbol throughout history but there is very little information on what this symbol represented or how it was used until Pythagorean mysticism. The Pythagoreans used this symbol as a way to identify as followers of Pythagoras. They used the symbol with the 2 points facing up, which has come to be considered evil ("Pentagram - New World Encyclopedia", 2017).
"There is geometry in the humming of strings, There is music in the spacing of the spheres" Pythagoras 570–495 BC
The pentacle was also used by Christians to represent the 5 wounds of Christ. It has also been used in Judaism but is now widely regarded as the symbol of Paganism. Paganism is an umbrella term originally referring to people who did not embrace the God of Abraham and clung to the old ways. This also includes Wicca a term introduced in the 1950’s to describe the modern witch. The symbol itself can be seen and interpreted many ways, the most popular interpretation is that the point aiming straight up resembles the spirit while the bottom 4 represents the 4 elements Air, Water, Earth, Fire (Barner-Barry, C. 2005, pg 60, 61). In the 1960’s the symbol was adopted by Anton Levay’s Church of Satan. The pentagram is now often mistaken as the symbol of satanism. The five pointed star is also used in the crescent moon and star symbol representing the 5 pillars of Islam.
People wearing a pentacle are often discriminated against by schools and work places due to the misconception that the symbol represents Satanism. (Barner-Barry, C. 2005, pg 128, 129). (Satanism is still protected under the human rights act). David Draiman’s inclusion of this symbol may be seen as a response to this discrimination and is suggesting that pagan or polytheist religions are as viable as monotheistic religions.
The Distrubed Logo
David designed this Symbol in 2002 as a statement that we all have a need to believe and we should not fight we should unite. When analysing semiotics it is important to take into account that a symbol’s meaning is dependant on its relationship to other symbols within a media text (Chandler, D. 2006, pg 18-20). It is also important to note that a symbol may not necessarily mean what we think it means (Chandler, D. 2006, pg 60). In this particular case I believe that the inclusion of these four symbols intertwined could suggest that all religions are the same which might be offensive to people of faith, however from interviews with David Draiman and some research on his upbringing it is clear that his intention is for these symbols to be positioned together to imply that belief should unite us, not divide us.
."There's just something about the quality of religious symbolism in general, each symbol represents a specific belief, a direction. So to sort of universalize that idea or belief, whether it's religious belief, or belief in yourself, or belief in the future of humanity, or in the supernatural, whatever. But it's to have a universal symbol for that belief."
David Draiman (2002)
In conclusion, the album art for Disturbed - Believe (2002) puts forth a solid ideology about how central the idea of belief is amongst mankind. Regardless of what we believe, that we all have ‘belief’ in common. All of these symbols had history and origins that were completely different to our perception of what these symbols mean today. These symbols were used based on modern perceptions, to make us think about the relationship these religions have with each other and perhaps to suggest that we could have a better world if we learnt to respect each other's beliefs.
Barner-Barry, C. (2005). Contemporary Paganism : Minority Religions in a Majoritarian America. New York, US: Palgrave Macmillan. Pg 60, 61, 128, 129 Chandler, D. (2006). The Basics : Semiotics: The Basics : The Basics (2). London, GB: Routledge. Pg 18 - 20 Ipgrave, M. (Ed.). (2009). Justice and Rights : Christian and Muslim Perspectives. Washington, US: Georgetown University Press. Pg 107 - 110 Stark, R. (2015). Sociology of Religion : A Rodney Stark Reader. Waco, US: Baylor University Press. Pg 31 Williams, P (2013). Crescent Moon Rising: The Islamic Transformation of America. Pg 1-5 Berger, D (2010). History and Hate : The Dimensions of Anti-Semitism. Dulles, US: The Jewish Publication Society.
Cross - New World Encyclopedia. (2017). Newworldencyclopedia.org. Retrieved 21 July 2017, from http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Cross
David Draiman — United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. (2017). Ushmm.org. Retrieved 21 July 2017, from https://www.ushmm.org/confront-antisemitism/antisemitism-podcast/david-draiman
Pentagram - New World Encyclopedia. (2017). Newworldencyclopedia.org. Retrieved 21 July 2017, from http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Pentagram
Sin (mythology) - New World Encyclopedia. (2017). Newworldencyclopedia.org. Retrieved 21 July 2017, from http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Sin_(mythology)
Star of David - New World Encyclopedia. (2017). Newworldencyclopedia.org. Retrieved 21 July 2017, from http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Star_of_David
Your Bibliography: Universal Declaration of Human Rights. (2017). Un.org. Retrieved 21 July 2017, from http://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/