Adjectives like "ambitious," "jagged," and "startling" have always defined System of a Down, and their third official full-length is no different. Prerelease, the band described Mezmerize as being the first part -- the first side -- of what's essentially a double album. The records' packaging would even slot together, making the eventual ...
Adjectives like "ambitious," "jagged," and "startling" have always defined System of a Down, and their third official full-length is no different. Prerelease, the band described Mezmerize as being the first part -- the first side -- of what's essentially a double album. The records' packaging would even slot together, making the eventual Mezmerize/Hypnotize whole. Appropriately then, there's an intro to System's first new material since 2001's brilliant Toxicity. On "Soldier Side" Daron Malakian and Serj Tankian harmonize as they do throughout the record, and Malakian's guitar has a mournful, Eastern air. But it's just a lull before "B.Y.O.B.," a thrash assault pierced with rabid and incredulous screams. "Why do they always send the poor?" Suddenly the gears switch, and the song stomps in crunchy half-time as its lyrics riff with a sick grin on cultural ignorance. The government's lying, System's saying, but "Blast off!/It's party time." The vocal exploration between Tankian and Malakian on Mezmerize is a thrill -- they spur each other on like a two-headed hardcore hero. Their intermingling voices make "Cigaro" more aggressive, frantic, operatic, and totally bananas; they'd be triumphant over the break in "Violent Pornography" if they weren't spitting out lines like "Choking chicks and sodomy." The fantastic "Pornography" is a rusty shiv of absurdity, another example of System's ability to effectively skewer society with little more than hyper guitar, blistering percussion, and weird turns of phrase. Their volatile mix of righteousness, wordiness, odd meters, and thrash has balanced System's activism since their self-titled debut, making them "unique heavy music" over the much more problematic "unique, heavily political music." And Mezmerize doesn't fail to be unique. "Old School Hollywood" essays the bizarre experience of a celebrity baseball game ("Tony Danza cuts in line!") over keyboard effects from "Beat It" and a brutally simplistic rhythm, "This Cocaine Makes Me Feel Like I'm on This Song" is more twisted-tongue histrionics and explosive playing, and Tankian and Malakian's harmonies are the catalyst (again!) for making "Revenga" a truly feral epic. System of a Down -- what's another adjective for "awesome"? ~ Johnny Loftus, Rovi