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.