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Closing out the second half of 2005 just as its predecessor Mesmerize closed out the first, Hypnotize completes System of a Down’s finest hour to date. The two albums form a lean and nearly perfect whole that places this Los Angeles collective in league with the likes of Smashing Pumpkins and Pink Floyd. System has created an enduring body of work that challenges conventional notions about the nature of the contemporary rock album. More practically, they have given listeners a fine second act that attacks and attacks hard, inspiring as much headbanging as vintage Metallica and as thought-provoking as the Minutemen and the Dead Kennedys. (Vocalist Serj Tankian’s barbaric yawp sometimes calls to mind head Kennedy Jello Biafra.) The album’s first half features the most brutal, perfect and direct rock ‘n’ roll that’s come down the old mainstream this year: ”Attack,” ”Kill Rock ‘n’ Roll,” ”Tentative” and ”U-Fig” lead the charge while ”Holy Mountains” gracefully moves us toward this epic’s final challenging moments. Latter tracks such as ”She’s Like Heroin” (Frank Zappa’s idea of The Three Penny Opera) and ”Lonely Day” fail to maintain the intensity heard early on but not don’t prevent Mesmerize and Hypnotize from coming together as one of the most definitive heavy rock albums of the decade. –Jedd Beaudoin

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  • System of a down has come a long way to this point. All of their career ambitions have come to this point. In my opinion, this is their most jolting and ambitious album (especially since its apart of a double album). It aims to please all of their fans. If your a fan of SOAD’s dark but lively humor you will enjoy tracks like “Vicinity of Obsenity” and “She’s Like Heroin”. If you favor their straight up thrash tracks you’ll be pleased by “U- FIg”, “Attack” and others. If you really dug their epic songs in the past like aerials, you’ll love “Holy Mountains” and “Soldier Side”. They also managed to throw something new into the mix. The song is called “Lonely Day”. It is a softcore ballad and doesnt sound anything like other SOAD songs. Suprisingly, in my opinion they pull it off. Alot of people may disagree with me on this but Daron stepped up to the plate and sung a great tune. Mind you this album has alot of Daron singing (Same as mezmerize) then any other SOAD album. I think Daron and Serj make great harmonys and give off a great vibe and contrast to eachother. As it comes to music on this album it is top notch. Daron and shavo work together perfectly and the drummer of SOAD, John Dolyman, work is also impressive. SOAD has definitly changed from their first album and that is a good thing. But have they changed for the better? I really think so. They get down more to real emotions and their songs are more comprehensive and easier to connect with. A good example of haunting truth of this album is Serj’s gentle cry on “Tentative” as he sings “Where do you expect us to go when the bombs fall?”. No massive rashy screaming. Just simple honest Rock. But dont let this fool you. On “U-FIG” The singing, or should I say yelling is very old school SOAD. You cant barely understand it but you still love it. “U-FIG” also demonstrates SOAD’s ability to complete slow down a song in the middle of a Heavy rock out. They’ve done it before in “Chic N Stu” off of “Steal this album!” and “Radio/Video” off of “Mezmerize”. In “U-Fig” a soulful fast pasted acoustic guitar comes in and completely takes you out of the songs vibe, then BANG! Serj comes right back and screams his head off again.
    Another song that really pushed it to the edge was “Holy Mountains”. This is the “epic” song of the album besides Soldier Side. The verse of this song creeps out your ears when Serjs tweaked a bit voice says “Can…you…feel..their haunting presents?” and his chorus Crys of “We’re Free!”. In all honest this song can give you goosebumps. Another haunting song is the majorly anticipated “Soldier Side”. First preluded on “Mezmerize” as a short intro to this massive double album. It really relates to the now issues of troops overseas. Not neccesarily the political view but the personal, emotional view of all the men and women who have had to leave thier families behind and go out on thier own, all alone. Emotional lyrics such as “Young men standing on the top of their own graves, wondering when jesus comes, are they gonna be saved?”. This is one of SOAD’s best songs of all time. It rightfully deserves this title. This should definitly be a single, and have a video made. A great message could come of this. It is a great way to close out the Mezmerize/Hypnotize double album. This is one of the best rock albums out there today. Its rare to find a band like SOAD that cand do so much with so little. Take advantage of this great album and get what you can from it. Get Mezmerize/Hypnotize and listen to them both. You’ll see what SOAD has to offer. Thank you, and Goodnight.

    Posted on March 3, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • Hypnotize, the companion CD to Mesmerize, completes a double album of the best music that System of a Down has ever created. This second half offers stranger and at times much more discordant tunes than Mesmerize. That is what is so good about it though. Hypnotize’s themes are a little bit darker than Mesmerize’s so the music is naturally darker. Many of the tracks are reminiscent of the older tracks of the original album. The sound, however, has evolved immensely with extremely complex guitar riffs, multiple layers of sound and amazing vocal harmony. The accompanying lyrics are also outstanding. You may find yourself headbanging and shedding tears in the same song. It’s hard to describe everything that makes this album so awesome. If you like any of System of a Down’s previous CD’s, then you should buy Hypnotize…NOW!

    Posted on March 3, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • So this is it – the second half of System Of A Down’s Mezmerize/Hypnotize double album (or “two album set” as they call it) – and it’s got a hell of a lot to live up to. Fans of Mezmerize will be wanting more of the same, others will be hoping for music that harkens back to the less eclectic metal assault of Toxicity. Either way, it has to be good enough to justify selling this as two albums, rather than one double – good enough to justify both the cost and the six month wait.

    That’s a lot of pressure – and God only knows how they’ve done it, but System have delivered, and in doing so have given us one of the great rock double albums of all time.

    It all starts with the ritual of interlocking the two specially designed digi-packs together into one casing, which is hugely satisfying in itself. A minute is spent wondering whether you can still get the Mezmerize lyric book into its pocket (you can) before it’s time to step, with trepidation and excitement into the mad, mad world of Hypnotize.

    So – first impressions are that Hypnotize does have more of the classic (read pre-Mezmerize) SOAD sound to it. The machine-gun riff that launches Attack makes way for a suitably epic pattern of melancholy breaks and ferocious speed-metal. Dreaming shifts things up yet another gear with a bonkers ‘if Handel did metal’ vocal arrangement and vintage System sing-a-long chorus.

    The furiously infectious punk blast of Kill Rock n’ Roll leads us to the single and title track which is almost like a pause for breath amidst the rest of the insanity on offer. Stealing Society is another insanely catchy punk anthem, surely a future gig favourite -with the second half of the song riding on a surf-punk wave that puts Green Day to shame whilst remaining determinedly SOAD.

    Compared to Mezmerize, Hypnotize is certainly a bit more melancholy and less wacky overall, with many more serious moments amidst the madness. The influence of traditional Armenian music plays a stronger part than ever before – if anything it’s now a completely inseparable part of the System sound. I could point at U-Fig, Soldier Side or Holy Mountains as examples but it pervades and enhances the whole album.

    If there’s less moments of utter absurdity, then those that remain are easily equal to previous oddities. Serj’s machine-gun “eat-em-eat-em-eat-em-eat-em” on U-Fig and Daron yelling “ass!” throughout She’s like Heroin are inspired moments of silliness, but they don’t even come close to Vicinity of Obscenity, probably System’s daftest song to date. The Gong-play-metal psychedelic goblin yelps of “banana-banana-banana-terracotta-pie!” dance manically into all manner of evil noises before diving into System’s poppiest chorus ever, which comes somewhere between the song from Different Strokes and a Jackson 5 take on the Hill Street Blues theme. Only System could make it work, and it’s brilliant.

    The final three songs of the album are all from the pen of guitarist Daron Malakian, the key architect of the Mezmerize/Hypnotize project. The pace gradually eases down, and the album comes full circle – the very end of Lonely Day echoes the build-up to B.Y.O.B., and the beautiful Soldier Side returns to the refrain that opened Mezmerize all those months ago. It’s a familiar trick but when the songs in question are this good it works a treat.

    It’s a suitably epic close to twelve fantastic songs, and it’s a fantastic close to an incredible double album. Against all odds, the completed Mezmerize/Hypnotize project is actually greater than the sum of its parts – in fact it quickly becomes impossible to think of it as anything else than one epic piece of work.

    As a result, reviewing Hypnotize on its own is pretty much an irrelevance. Mezmerize/Hypnotize is the sound of a band that has shaped its own distinctive sound so well that they could record an album of folk music or seventies funk and it would still just feel like System Of A Down. I’ll go even further – this is perhaps the finest, and most important heavy metal album of the twenty-first century so far. Only history will confirm or deny that but really, what are you waiting for? This is the sound of the past, present and future of rock music, all stuffed into a ballistic missile cruising at 200mph over the Black Sea – and it’s headed right over here. Enjoy.

    Posted on March 3, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • Well, after Mezmerize left me with a great, but ultimately far too small taste of the new direction System is now taking, I of course had to wait impatiently for this second half to be released. I loved Mezmerize, and aside from the somewhat mediocre “BYOB,” I thought it could compete face to face with any of System’s other albums. It wasn’t perfect, in my opinion, as it had some of System’s laziest lyrics. But it was still a shocking revelation of how much System has grown and matured. Instead of slowly deteriorating and giving in to the wishes of short-sighted marketing executives like almost every other band from this era of metal, SOAD continues to create art and progress. For a more in depth opinion of Mezmerize, I have written a separate review, but of course this is a review of Hypnotize.

    …and to be honest, I was disappointed upon first listen. The songs just wouldn’t gel for me, didn’t grab me emotionally like the best songs on Mezmerize. But this turns out to be a bit of a grower (albeit it a very fast one): three spins and I was hooked. Sure, it doesn’t resemble the self-titled in quite as many ways as Mezmerize did. But it takes those elements that Mezmerize brought back into the equation and develops them even furthur. The frenetic, progressive Mr. Bungle-esque time shifts and dissonances are more seamlessly combined with the melodic sentiments carried over from the Toxicity days to create a new sound of sorts. System is going forward and won’t be looking back anytime soon.

    One major difference between Mezmerize and Hypnotize is variety – while Mezmerize had a more interesting variety of different sounds (“Old School Hollywood,” “Cigaro,” and “Question” for example,) Hypnotize shows a more cohesive sense of flow. Many of these songs are the same blend of addictive melody and old school SOAD punk-metal energy. This can work for or against the album, depending on your preferences. Either way, though, it splits this “double album” into two distinct albums. And all for the better… who wants to sit around and listen to the same sound for 80 minutes?

    Another major difference is this: Hypnotize is easily the darkest SOAD album since the self-titled. Even my friends who aren’t particularely sentimental or over emotional when it comes to music say that this album does something to them… it hits a nerve somewhere. A lot of the best examples are towards the end, like “Holy Mountains” which I see as being a far more mature successor to “Ariels” and one of the best songs on this album. After the comic relief of “Vicinity of Obscenity” comes the ungodly creepiness of “She’s Like Heroin.” Despite sloppy lyrics, “Lonely Day” is still a haunting melody. And of course there’s the full version of “Soldier Side” which sends chills down my spine still after listening to this album for a week.

    Even in many of the other songs, this emotional intensity can be found in assorted choruses and bridges. “U-Fig” seems to have a Dredg-like antsy quality to it and the apocalyptic “Tentative” foreshadows the too-close-for-comfort intensity of the last few songs on the album (and at the same time manages to evoke the meloncholic vibe of Steal This Album’s better songs.)

    The title track was the perfect choice for single, and it was the first song to grow on me. In many ways it is the oldest-sounding song and could have been a track off of the self-titled if it were not for Daron’s lead vocalizing. By the way, while I’m on this subject, I would like to share my opinions on Daron’s voice; many people seem to unfairly dismiss new System solely based on his voice. While I will admit that he doesn’t have the “nicest” or most well trained voice, I could cite dozens of worse singers in any form of popular music. He may not have the outright beauty of Serj’s voice, but he has style and energy that I think benefit this new direction System is going in. Besides, Daron isn’t REPLACING Serj, the two voices are simply playing point and counterpoint. If anything, Daron-critics should like Hypnotize more because it has more Serj than Mezmerize did.

    People who complain that this album isn’t enough like the “old” System need to stop being nostalgic whiners that are afraid of change. System of a Down have changed as a band, matured, developed – and thank God for that! Had they stayed the same to appease the fanatics, they’d be down the drain with all those other nu metal bands. I couldn’t be happier with the changes System has made. I will always have a place in my heart for the self-titled, it was my favorite album for a long time and I don’t think they’ll be able to top it in my book… but I would rather they change and continue to become a different band that makes more cds that are great in their own unique way than drive the same formula into the ground repeatedly until I stop liking them altogether. In art, change is survival. Learn to embrace that concept, or be left behind – your choice.

    Posted on March 2, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • A recent article in The Washington Post so accurately assessed that System of a Down luckily, and yet, unintentionally, rode the coattails of the nu-metal era, though it cannot accurately be limited to the definition of nu-metal. Indeed, with the near death of that obviously baseless sound, System of a Down, unlike Korn, Limp Bizkit, Mudvayne, etc., remains a Billboard behemoth because this Armenian foursome possesses a truly unique formula.

    The second half of its 2005 output, Hypnotize, to me, is much more of a logical step from Toxicity than the very good, yet still regressive, Mezmerize. Where that album toyed with a more tempered and simplistic formula, Hypnotize is a lethal dose of aggression and mayhem filtered through a refreshing maturity in the songwriting department.

    Possibly throwing a middle finger to the critics who question the musicianship of the group, Hypnotize contains System of a Down’s most impressive technical performance since its self-titled debut, hands down. I mean, in no way has this become a technical band, but the songs are far more dynamic, the time signature changes more frequent and complex, and the riffs noticeably more intricate. In fact, “Lonely Day” (not one of my favorites) contains a solo from Daron, which should put to rest the critique that he has limited ability while simultaneously highlighting the fact that he obviously does not believe in shameless self-glorification over song quality.

    And speaking of Daron, the primary songwriter for the band is featured more prominently on the vocals here, and though this has already tragically and predictably led to tabloid-maniacal fervor over the possible dissent in the ranks (see aforementioned The Washington Post 11/20/05 article), Malakian’s added vocal role takes nothing away from Serj’s ability to command attention. Instead, the two attain a level of harmonization not present on any previous releases, and the result is SOAD’s most impressive vocal performance yet.

    This obvious cognizance and intent is what leads me to praise this release as a more fitting heir to the genius of Toxicity. I mean, I do enjoy Mezmerize, but that effort demonstrated standard SOAD originality, but no growth. With Hypnotize, you have the eerily composed and epic nature of “Holy Mountains”, the vocal oddities of “U-Fig”, the never attained before heaviness of “Attack” and “Dreaming”, and the ever-present intensity that was such a strength for Toxicity all coming together as evidence that this band has accurately identified its strong points, and is now ready to expand and exploit them.

    Whether it’s the to be expected quirkiness of tracks like “Vicinity of Obscenity”, or the cohesion of the title track, System of a Down has reaffirmed the widespread accolades it received for its monumental Toxicity. Retaining every bit of unrestrained fury and unmatched personality of that landmark release, Hypnotize also does what Mezmerize could not; provides evidence that this is a band we have yet to hear the best of.

    Posted on March 2, 2010 - Permalink - Buy Now