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System of a Down – Mezmerize

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System of a Down returns with a new album Mezmerize, or maybe that should read “part of a new album” since this is the first disc in a two-disc set that will be completed when the Hypnotize disc comes out this fall.

The sound of Mezmerize is slightly different from previous albums. It is still immediately recognizable as SOAD, but guitarist/songwriter Daron Malakian takes a more prominent role with the vocals, including lead on a few tracks. The disc packs quite a wallop into 36 minutes with its thought-provoking lyrics and its angry, relentless assault on the injustices of the world.

Mezmerize opens with the slow, acoustic “Soldier Side – Intro” a play on the suffix “cide.” Then the album descends into the sonic madness that is their first single “B.Y.O.B.” This anti-war song is chaotic and schizophrenic, constantly changing tempos and styles, going from speed metal to funky, dance floor groove to a punk rock mosh pit. Daron shrieks at the beginning “Why do they always send the poor?” and this question is repeated maniacally throughout so the war isn’t forgotten when “Everybody’s going to the party”.

Other strong songs include “This Cocaine Makes Me Feel Like I’m On This Song”, which captures the rush and agitation brought on by the drug, and “Radio/Video”, which brings to the forefront the Armenian roots of the band. It begins hard, fast and loud like most of their others, but after the first chorus, Middle Eastern rhythms play under the second chorus. The first and second choruses along with their musical styles are repeated; then the bridge increases the tempo of the Middle Eastern rhythms. It would be perfect for whirling dervishes.

The quality of the music even makes up for the times when I don’t comprehend the story behind the lyrics. In my defense, a lot of the songs’ lyrics are long, repeated choruses with no verses that could provide extra information. If you don’t know what the song is about, it might be tough to decipher the story unless you read an interview where Daron and Serj explain themselves.

For example, “Violent Pornography” rails against “the kinda of shit you get on your TV”, but the only example of the “shit” is “choking chicks and sodomy”, which is more prevalent on the Internet. The remedy they offer is “Turn off your TV”, but if television is the problem, there other ills they could point to as well.

I don’t need my hand held when it comes to lyrics, but some clues to point me in the right direction are always helpful. It’s not a knock against the band because there’s plenty of rock ‘n’ roll with indecipherable lyrics that I have sung along to because of how good the music was. I only bring up the point because some of their songs have very intriguing lyrics, like the well-written line, “Eloquence belongs to the conqueror” from “Sad Statue,” which make me want to understand a song’s story.

The only major misfire is “Old School Hollywood.” It opens with keyboards, a vocoder and Daron singing about playing in a celebrity baseball game at Dodger Stadium. All I could think about, other than it’s too bad Dr. Demento radio show isn’t around anymore, is who the hell cares? This album is filled with serious political tracks that provide food for thought, making this mocking look at a show business event that Daron took part in completely incongruous. Some old guys didn’t know who he was. Boo freakin’ hoo! You’re a rock star. I don’t know how I’m supposed to connect with this. Besides, the song is not even controversial. Daron calls out Tony Danza who “cuts in line” in front of him by calling him “washed-up.” Ooooh, that’ll show ‘em.

The album closes with an acoustic ballad “Lost in Hollywood,” a song that covers some very familiar subject matter about how tough Hollywood is because a lot of people who come out to realize their dreams get used up and spit out. The music has a nice melody and shows a potential musical direction for the band even though the lyrics are clichéd.

Even though the album ends weakly after starting so strong, Mezmerize has me curious to hear what Hypnotize has to offer this fall, but it better be over 44 minutes or fans might wonder why the need two albums. They might get turned off and see it as being similar to the marketing scam of that split the horrendous Kill Bill into Volumes 1 and 2.

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About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS
  • Ryan Macneil

    S.O.A.D is a great band. It took me a long time to actually get used to them tho. I couldn’t stand the vocals at all. But once I aquired the taste, i began listening to every song and most of them I like. Almost all there songs are different from each other, none sound alike. This new cd they put out is a good one and I can’t wait fer the next one theyre putting out for this fall.

  • Jason Flurgey

    ruff cookie crisp?

  • BRICKLAYER

    I love SOAD, and dig this record, but Daron’s larger vocal role on this one is a bit too much for me personally. That’s just my pesonal opinion and my taste in what I like about this band. I prefer Serj’s vocals to take front and center, with bits of Daron sprinkled in.(even lobbied Mrs. Bricklayer to use “Serj” as the name for Bricklayer 3.0, but got vetoed) I agree with you about splitting this into 2 discs also, may end up seeming a bit chintzy, but of course I’ll buy the second one the day it comes out.

  • nameboy

    soad epitomize rebellion right now, and integrity and righteousness; their booklet is printed with soy inks on recycled paper! All the ways you diss them are completely unfounded. i am the master of rock and i belive this album is all great, and daron is a really great, really passionate singer, and the splitting of the album is just because they also represent originality, they are merely trying something new. i beleive in them and also believe the next album will probably be even better than this.

  • BRICKLAYER

    Dude, I did not realize you were the Master Of Rock! I humbly bow to your superior taste, wit, style and good looks! Seriously! Oh, and you are right about the soy ink. i just ate the booklet, and it went down smooth! All the protein, and Vegan friendly to boot! Mmmmmmm….cd booklets.

  • hhhhhhhh

    if only i could fly to neverland and be pleasured by micha

  • http://livinblog.blogspot.com/ Joe Battista

    I respect the fact that SOAD has a lot of fans, but then again so does Michael Jackson! Woo hoo hoo, shamon!

    All kidding aside, Kill Bill wasn’t horrendous.

  • The Theory

    I really like the album, too, though I agree with Brick about Daron’s vocals. Oivey! Shuddup and play the guitar, man…

  • JESSICA

    I think system of a down is an amazing band and I will ALWAYS be friggin obsessed with them and I follow them 110% and I cant believe what you LOW LIVES are saying about them!! Their new album is amazing and yes I do like every song on that album!! sooo if you dont like them you dont have to listen to them theres other music for the losers that dont like them!!!!

  • http://krnr.tk Hexidecimal

    Album rocks, check out KRNR.tk for system gigs, reveiws, news, tabs and downloads…..

  • http://none Jeremy

    Love the new album, and daron’s increased vocal presence is amazing. Quite a voice…

  • Charlie

    —– I think system of a down is an amazing band and I will ALWAYS be friggin obsessed with them and I follow them 110% and I cant believe what you LOW LIVES are saying about them!! Their new album is amazing and yes I do like every song on that album!! sooo if you dont like them you dont have to listen to them theres other music for the losers that dont like them!!!! —–

    Heaven forbid there be even a little timy bit of dissenting opinion…

  • http://www.imcoolerthanyou.com Kelly

    system of a down rules… enough said, so shutup and conform.

  • trentreznor

    dude system of a down is a sweet band but ya’ll who are down with system of a down proboly should also listen to skindred, nonpoint, dope, orgy, deftones, bands like that that are better than system of a down there just never played on the radio FUCK RADIO