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  • It’s been awhile since System of a Down has come out with a new album. “Toxicity” is still one of my favorite albums that I listen to over and over again, and I was wondering how they could even top that. Well, they came out with a great new album, “Mezmerize,” which definitely shows us that this band still has what it takes. The album brings you a variety of haunting, melodic and hyperactive songs that are bound to stay stuck in your head. It’s not without its flaws, but the album still delivers.

    Basically, if you have heard System of a Down before, then you know what to expect. Crazy and political-driven lyrics that can be hard to decipher at times, although this time around it seems a little easier to tell what each song is about. Songs like “B.Y.O.B.” “revenga,” “cigaro” and “violent pornography will give you an instant dose of road rage should you play them in your car, while there are other songs like “sad statue,” “question!” and “lost in hollywood” that are a little slower and more melodic. The songs are emotional, powerful and sometimes even funny. All of the songs sound different and you’re never feeling like you’re hearing the same song again once you go to the next tune.

    While this is a great album… it could’ve been an EXCELLENT album. What’s the problem? Simple. Daron, one of the other vocalists in the group and who is also credited to a bunch of the songs (musically and lyrically) gets WAY too much singing time on this album. I don’t have a problem with his voice, but in my opinion he does not have what it takes to carry an entire song or a MAJORITY of a song. Leave that to Serj, please. Serj can turn anything into gold. Daron is good for hooks and backing up Serj, and I don’t mind him having more air time on a song here and there, but when you get the feeling that he has more vocal time than Serj… something just isn’t right. I was really disappointed by that, but it still doesn’t make this album awful. It still delivers as being a great new release from the group.

    You may want to listen to “Mezmerize” a few times before you give a verdict on it. I know for me it usually takes me a few listens to fully absorb a System of a Down album. They never immediately get me going, “Oh, this is the greatest!” but that’s okay. It’s more power to them that they make me want to listen to it more and more until I finally get a great grasp onto what the album really is. Not too many other bands I know can do that. You either love them right away or you hate them immediately. The album length is shorter than their previous releases, but you have to remember that “Toxicity” isn’t that long of an album, either. They’re always fast paced with a few slow songs to help balance everything out.

    Favorite songs are, “B.Y.O.B,” “revenga,” “violent pornography,” “question!” “sad statue” and “lost in hollywood.” I really enjoy listening to the album in whole, but those are the standout tracks to me.

    “Mezmerize” isn’t perfect, and if Serj had gotten more air time it would’ve been an outstanding release. Still, it is a great album that shows that the band hasn’t lost their touch. If you’re a fan of their previous albums, then chances are you will like this, too. I can’t wait for the new album next year, and I hope Daron will be more in the background this time around and allow Serj do what he does best. Not perfect, but still a top-notch album with addicting tunes. -Michael Crane

    Posted on December 21, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • There are two things that are bothering me about some of these reviews I’m reading. First one is the complaints that the guitarist sings more. I personally think the two voices compliment each other perfectly. And he does write basically all the music and most of the lyrics anyway. So he has a right to do what he wants in my mind. And speaking of the lyrics, people seem to take things WAY too literally. SOAD’s lyrics are VERY tongue-in-cheek. You have to understand sarcasm and metaphor to know what these songs are about. When they sing “put your hands in the air and wave them like you just don’t care,” they are more or less making fun of that phrase and the lifestyle it encompasses. I think that SOAD uses this way of writing better than anyone since Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys. If you are a fan of System of a Down’s socio-political lyrics and totally original music, check out Dead Kennedys, they did it first. If you are looking for literal straight forward, dim lyrics and tired pop hooks, you might want to try the new 3 Doors Down or Limp Bizkit.

    Posted on December 21, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • It’s been almost three years since SOAD released an album and they are making up for it with what will be two completely excellent cds, Mezmerize and the forthcoming companion piece Hypnotize.

    Spastic, frenetic, insane, rapidly changing tempos, all of these words can describe SOAD at their best. I can’t think of another band out there right now doing the same things. Nor can I think of a band that can go from a screaming rock directly to a polka. SOAD does this and pulls it off, creating original music that is enjoyable to listen to. Where most music is static, songs like the single BYOB and basically every song on this cd are constantly changing. They go from screaming fits, gutteral cries, to catchy refrains and yes even polka. But before you get comfortable with whatever sound they are giving you, they switch it up. This is music to listen to, dynamic, changing, exciting.

    Whether they are critiquing the current war (“Why don’t presidents fight their wars/why do they always send the poor?”) to Hollywood in the songs Old School Hollywood and Lost in Hollywood where they sing about Hollywood eating people up and spitting them back out, they are unapologetically brazen. Unlike some bands that have a political eye but use it only as a theme and don’t directly discuss it, SOAD is brave enough to paint the picture of whatever problems they see. Also, unlike some music, their songs never feel bogged down by their political persuasion.

    On some of their previous albums, there have been songs that seemed to not be as focused as I would like. That is no longer the case on Mezmerize. Each song is more driven and remind me of the excellence found on their previous cds, like Aerials, Toxicity, Chop Suey, Sugar etc. Truth be told, I think Toxicity has some better songs like the aforementioned Chop Suey, Aerials etc than Mezmerize. BUT overall I enjoyed Mezmerize better. As a whole album, I think it’s better. Individually, I enjoyed some of the earlier songs more.

    In a move that is bitter sweet, the cd is only about 35 minutes long. What that means is that there really aren’t any filler songs. Each song is a standout and unique in their own way. It’s a cd you should listen front to back and not skip songs. For the entire 35 minutes your senses will be assaulted by some of the best songs I have heard in a long time. The downside to it being only 35 minutes is of course it leaves you wanting more. More of the originality, more of the crazy lyrics that really do make sense if you just think about them, more of the spastic and frenetic speeds and constantly changing time signatures. It is excellent.

    Like I said earlier, overall it’s their best so far. And if you, like me, want more, Hypnotize is just around the corner ready for release in the fall. I agree with my fellow reviewers that Hypnotize might end up being a much bigger album. You get the feeling, listening to this album that it will be a tasty appetizer to what will probably be the best album of 05. Who knows. Either way, thanks, System of a Down, for bringing originality and freshness back to music.

    Posted on December 21, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • Before I get into the review, I would like to explain exactly what is going on with this CD because a lot of people do not seem to fully understand. This CD is System of a Down’s third CD, not their fourth. In addition to that, it has been almost five years since their last CD, so this is a long awaited release from them. Another interesting fact about “Mezmerize” is that it is actually part two of a two disk set, and not part one as some people had previously thought. Their fourth CD “Hypnotize,” will be released on November 22nd and is actually the first part of the two disk set. The band just decided to release the two in opposite orders. To further explain my point, “Hypnotize” leads into “Mezmerize.” The last song on “Hypnotize” has the same title as the first track on “Mezmerize,” although the one on “Hypnotize” is a full-length song, and the one on “Mezmerize” is merely an intro or transition into “Mezmerize.” Plus, the two cases containing the CDs can be combined to create one continuous case with the artwork linking together, and as far as I know, it is the first CD set to ever incorporate that.

    Some people might wonder why they are releasing two CDs only six months apart from each other, and why those two CDs are being released as a two disk set. It is simply because they had around thirty songs written and instead of picking the best songs out of those thirty and throwing away the rest, they decided to cut it down to twenty three of the best songs because they felt that the majority of them were CD worthy. Also, they did not want to have an album that was too long to listen to all the way through and is why they have cut them down to around forty minutes each; which brings me to my review.

    First off, I would like to say that this review is split into two parts. I have read too many reviews which contained information that I was not looking for, and I am trying not to do that. So what I’m doing is splitting them up into two comparisons. The first part compares the album to the band’s first two albums and the second to other albums in its genre. This way the review will not be geared towards specifically System of a Down fans or heavy metal fans in general, but instead towards both.

    Compared to the band’s other albums, I would give this album four out of five stars for a few reasons. Their first CD simply entitled “System of a Down,” was very heavy and raw. It had an unmixed feel to it which built up its raw intensity. Their second CD entitled “Toxicity,” was more mellow and comical. It did have its heavy moments, but was no where near as heavy as their self-titled debut; which leads me to “Mezmerize.” First of all, it is an excellent album. It is really a combination of their first two albums, and more. The lyrics, as always, are brilliant and entertaining at the same time. They manage to use humorous or just downright strange things which actually end up being complex metaphors. The only problem is that although the lyrics are better, they are a little more repetitive than their previous releases. Second, it is unique from any of their other albums. It starts off unlike their previous two. Instead of abruptly starting off with a heavy riff right away, as “System of a Down” and “Toxicity” did, it starts off with a mellow and melodic intro, which then leads into a heavy second song. The rest of the CD, excluding the last song, manages to keep a very heavy feel while at the same time, incorporating a softer side of System of a Down, and the fast song transitions manage to help keep a fast-paced feel. In addition to that, they throw in some different styles of music such as dance, punk, and even polka. Yes, polka! It sounds odd but it sounds even better with those types of music in it. The strange combination of music that they use with their style of vocals just works, to put it simply. The final track on the CD is mellow, but unlike most bands, is not worse. In fact, it may be one of the better songs on the entire CD. It is a very good ending to a very good two disk album (with “Hypnotize” included). Any System of a Down fan should love this album. Their intensity manages to stay as high as ever, but at the same time incorporates a softer and more experimental side.

    Now compared to other bands or CDs in its genre, “Mezmerize” deserves five out of five stars for the simple fact that it is unlike anything else in its genre. They combine heavy metal, polka, dance music, melodic harmonies, and humorous lyrics while all together keeping a deep and serious meaning and hard-hitting riffs. How many bands have done that? This CD, I think, will change the metal genre as we know it. A lot of bands will be following in their footsteps. Now for this CD, don’t expect a non-stop scream fest with heavy riffs. Instead, expect something different and unique that still has that heavy metal feel, but is more experimental and has more depth and range. A lot of bands’ songs on the radio are good, but the rest of their CD is not. The only good songs are the singles that are on the radio, and the rest just seems thrown together. Well, System of a Down is one band that will not fall into that hole. “Mezmerize” is just a great CD throughout, and its short running time of about thirty-eight minutes makes it easy to listen to and enjoy all the way through; but don’t take my word for it, just look at the billboard charts. It was number one and had the number one single for weeks, and sold over 800,000 copies in its first week alone. That’s more than most heavy metal bands can brag about.

    So, whether one is a long-devoted System of a Down fan, or a heavy metal fan in general, this CD would be a part of their collection.

    Posted on December 20, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • Well, it’s been a long time coming for a new System Of A Down album. A long time. It’s been almost four years since we were graced by the mega-successful sophmore album, “Toxicity,” and if you discount the outtakes/b-sides collection that followed in 2002, “Steal This Album,” this is the first smattering of new System Of A Down material since then. To put things in perspective, “Toxicity” was released a week before September 11th. Now think about all of the things that have happened since then. Wow, how I have missed this group.

    Those expecting things in System Of A Down’s music to change will be sorely disappointed. Aside from increasing air-time from guitarist/co-producer/back-up vocalist Daron Malakian, not much has changed. Instead, the band’s sound seems revitalized and all eleven songs are up to standard. And if you thought they would shut up after Bush was re-elected, that’s your mistake. The lyrics on this album are just as, and maybe even more, political than ever before. Songs like “Sad Statue” and “B.Y.O.B.” carry their anti-war message very bravely and very clearly. “Sad Statue” is easily the emotional apex of the album, with the poignant and memorable line: “We’ll all go down in history/With a sad Statue Of Liberty/And a generation that didn’t agree.” Likewise, the first single “B.Y.O.B.” (Bring Your Own Bombs) throws just as many barbs at our government, with a rather catchy pop-chorus to go along with. Perhaps that line (“Everybody going to the party/Have a real good time”) is an ironic take on the bloated tens of millions of dollars spent on the rather lavish and tasteless inauguration party of George W. Bush that took place just weeks after the Tsunami disaster? I don’t know, maybe I’m just reading in a bit too far. Anyways, if all the political mumbo-jumbo makes your head hurt, or if you actually support our (p)resident, than you can still enjoy this album. Afterall, the two previous tracks are the only ones that tackle politics head on. Take, for example, “Old School Hollywood,” which tells the tale of Malakian’s bizarre appearance at an all-star baseball game with random, slightly obscure/washed-up celebrities like Tony Danza and David Arquette. “Cigaro” and “Violent Pornography” are two other slightly slanted tracks, alongside more traditional System tunes like “Question!” and “Revenga.”

    Front to back, it’s almost flawless. Almost. Like mentioned before, Malakian gets more vocal time, which means, unfortunately, frontman Serj Tankian is pushed into the background, or sometimes completely out of the picture! What’s up with that? I don’t have anything against Malakian, but a big part of who System Of A Down are is credited to Serj’s unique vocal stylings and often poetic lyrics. That’s the only angle this album suffers, but hopefully the follow-up, “Hypnotize,” (due this fall) will rectify that problem. For as good as “Mezmerize” is, I feel a much bigger and grander album is on the way. This seems like just a small taste of what these boys have coming for us.

    Posted on December 20, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now