Oh, SYSTEM OF A DOWN, you are a fickle mistress.
Unless you’re reading this decades from now, you probably know that “Hypnotize” and “Mezmerize” were recorded together and originally intended to be released simultaneously or as a double disc, but something happened and the band ended up releasing “Mezermize” in May and “Hypnotize” in November, making them only the third band (after THE BEETLES and LED ZEPPLIN) to have two albums hit number one on the Billboard charts in the same year. I loved “Mezmerize”—I thought it was tight, entertaining album with only one bad song amidst good to great songs. I was excited for “Hypnotize.”
Well, “Hypnotize” isn’t bad. It’s an amalgamation of SOAD’s best and worst traits, but unfortunately it’s a little heavier on the mediocre or stupid stuff than on the good stuff. Oh sure, “Kill Rock ‘n’ Roll” is fantastic, while parts of “Tentative” and “Stealing Society” are great, but it’s only parts that stick out, as befitting SOAD’s often disjointed style. “Soldier Side” (which leads into the intro of “Mezmerize”) is a fantastically emotional work…with incredibly condescending lyrics.
That’s right. If you were sad that the political lyrics were cut back on “Mezmerize,” they’re back in strength here with a special wisp of self-importance, self-righteousness and self-aggrandizing we haven’t seen before. It’s like SOAD has taken it to heart that they are an Important Band writing Important Songs. “Soldier Side,” “Dreaming,” “U-Fig,” “Hypnotize,” and “Attack!” are all heavy on politics, while “Stealing Society,” “She’s Like Heroin,” and “Holy Mountains” are critiques of society and/or the drug use within. Agree with them or not, their smugness is getting on my nerves.
But what about the music? As I mentioned above, we’re still dealing with the disjointed, amorphous style we’ve come to know and love from SOAD. That being said, much of this album (“U-Fig,” the first half of “Stealing Society,” “Attack!,” etc.) have more to do with their self-titled debut album, having that slight but palpable Hardcore influence they distanced themselves from on later releases. There’s only one proper slow song on the album, “Lonely Day,” which you can hear on the SOAD homepage. It’s an appropriate musical, if not lyrical, companion to “Lost In Hollywood” on the last album. That reminds me—I hope you liked guitarist/songwriter Daron Malakian’s increased role on vocals on “Mezmerize,” as he’s shows up quite a bit on “Hypnotize” too.
The music is still fun and frenetic, but not as much so as you probably remember. It’s a throwback—it has the political mindedness of the first two albums and sounds more like the self-titled than anything else—usually. I was personally let down from “Mezmerize,” but I know a lot of people prefer this one. “Hypnotize” isn’t the second coming of mainstream Prog, as Rolling Stone would have you believe, but it’s a generally solid album with some ambitious ideas. (Online May 8, 2006)