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.