System of a Down returns with a second 2005 album
December 5, 2005 —
It's difficult to put a label on System of a Down. Are they remnants of the late 90s nu-metal fad that included such forgettable bands as Limp Bizkit and Deftones? Or are they an Armenian-rock band? Or are they sociopolitical rock in the vein of Rage Against the Machine or Tool?
It doesn't matter what musical genre you classify System into, just know this: they are good. Very good.
The band recently released their second disc of the year, Hypnotize, the second half of a double-disc, following Mezmerize, which was released in May. That CD, which has already sold more than 1.5 million copies, has been critically acclaimed as one of the year's greatest rock CDs. Hypnotize is a worthy follow-up to one of the greatest double discs since The Smashing Pumpkins released Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness.
Even though the two discs share a common theme of war, Hypnotize differs from its predecessor by adopting a slower, more serrated beat. Guitarist Daron Malakian and frontman Serj Tankian blast out intelligent, creative music that makes bands like Linkin Park sound like whiny, overproduced commercial imitators. If Mezmerize was like a stimulant to bring up the listener (with the song "This Cocaine Makes Me Feel Like I'm This Song"), Hypnotize is the narcotic to calm their nerves (with the song "She's Like Heroin").
Unlike Mezmerize, it's not likely that Hypnotize will spawn a song as classic as "B.Y.O.B.," but it's unfair to be critical of a disc simply because it doesn't have the year's most powerful single on it. The first single, "Hypnotize" (go figure) is one of the weaker songs on the disc, with a fairly uninspired chorus and somewhat repetitive guitar work. At the same time, many of the songs are more experimental and complex than the average rock song, which may deny them significant radio play, but endears them to serious music fans.
The album does have some great songs worth mentioning. "Kill Rock 'N Roll" shows the band's irritation at being part of the mainstream music establishment. "U-Fig" invites listeners to go outside and beat "all pathetic flag waving ignorant geeks," in what is probably the album's most sing-a-long tune.
Hypnotize also contains the band's most powerful song since "Chop Suey" was tearing up the airwaves back in 2001. "Holy Mountains," a song which recounts the 1.5 million Armenians massacred in World War I by Turkey, is by far the album's greatest strength. While not the first song the band has devoted to the Armenian genocide (see P.L.U.C.K. from the band's debut album) it is by far the strongest. The Armenian-American band wears their mournful history on their sleeve, and it shows in this five and a half minute opus, which ranks as one of their greatest songs produced to date.
One thing should be mentioned about System. If you listen to a band for more than its beat, and actually listen to the lyrics, you will find System to be, well, let's say, slightly left of center. Basically, if you support President Bush, or have even thought positively about him at one time or another, the band (and hence the CD) is not for you. It is impossible to truly appreciate the intricacies of System of a Down if you are a conservative. It would be like a staunch anti-obscenity activist being a diehard Scarface fan - it just does not make sense.
To anyone else, I cannot offer a higher recommendation for Hypnotize. System of a Down keeps raising the bar for their musical peers, which will hopefully begin to purify the polluted radio stations that seem to recycle the same old crap. Music with a message - what more can you ask for?