on November 22, 2005
A recent article in The Washington Post so accurately assessed that System of a Down luckily, and yet, unintentionally, rode the coattails of the nu-metal era, though it cannot accurately be limited to the definition of nu-metal. Indeed, with the near death of that obviously baseless sound, System of a Down, unlike Korn, Limp Bizkit, Mudvayne, etc., remains a Billboard behemoth because this Armenian foursome possesses a truly unique formula.
The second half of its 2005 output, Hypnotize, to me, is much more of a logical step from Toxicity than the very good, yet still regressive, Mezmerize. Where that album toyed with a more tempered and simplistic formula, Hypnotize is a lethal dose of aggression and mayhem filtered through a refreshing maturity in the songwriting department.
Possibly throwing a middle finger to the critics who question the musicianship of the group, Hypnotize contains System of a Down's most impressive technical performance since its self-titled debut, hands down. I mean, in no way has this become a technical band, but the songs are far more dynamic, the time signature changes more frequent and complex, and the riffs noticeably more intricate. In fact, "Lonely Day" (not one of my favorites) contains a solo from Daron, which should put to rest the critique that he has limited ability while simultaneously highlighting the fact that he obviously does not believe in shameless self-glorification over song quality.
And speaking of Daron, the primary songwriter for the band is featured more prominently on the vocals here, and though this has already tragically and predictably led to tabloid-maniacal fervor over the possible dissent in the ranks (see aforementioned The Washington Post 11/20/05 article), Malakian's added vocal role takes nothing away from Serj's ability to command attention. Instead, the two attain a level of harmonization not present on any previous releases, and the result is SOAD's most impressive vocal performance yet.
This obvious cognizance and intent is what leads me to praise this release as a more fitting heir to the genius of Toxicity. I mean, I do enjoy Mezmerize, but that effort demonstrated standard SOAD originality, but no growth. With Hypnotize, you have the eerily composed and epic nature of "Holy Mountains", the vocal oddities of "U-Fig", the never attained before heaviness of "Attack" and "Dreaming", and the ever-present intensity that was such a strength for Toxicity all coming together as evidence that this band has accurately identified its strong points, and is now ready to expand and exploit them.
Whether it's the to be expected quirkiness of tracks like "Vicinity of Obscenity", or the cohesion of the title track, System of a Down has reaffirmed the widespread accolades it received for its monumental Toxicity. Retaining every bit of unrestrained fury and unmatched personality of that landmark release, Hypnotize also does what Mezmerize could not; provides evidence that this is a band we have yet to hear the best of.
on November 28, 2005
Well, after Mezmerize left me with a great, but ultimately far too small taste of the new direction System is now taking, I of course had to wait impatiently for this second half to be released. I loved Mezmerize, and aside from the somewhat mediocre "BYOB," I thought it could compete face to face with any of System's other albums. It wasn't perfect, in my opinion, as it had some of System's laziest lyrics. But it was still a shocking revelation of how much System has grown and matured. Instead of slowly deteriorating and giving in to the wishes of short-sighted marketing executives like almost every other band from this era of metal, SOAD continues to create art and progress. For a more in depth opinion of Mezmerize, I have written a separate review, but of course this is a review of Hypnotize.
...and to be honest, I was disappointed upon first listen. The songs just wouldn't gel for me, didn't grab me emotionally like the best songs on Mezmerize. But this turns out to be a bit of a grower (albeit it a very fast one): three spins and I was hooked. Sure, it doesn't resemble the self-titled in quite as many ways as Mezmerize did. But it takes those elements that Mezmerize brought back into the equation and develops them even furthur. The frenetic, progressive Mr. Bungle-esque time shifts and dissonances are more seamlessly combined with the melodic sentiments carried over from the Toxicity days to create a new sound of sorts. System is going forward and won't be looking back anytime soon.
One major difference between Mezmerize and Hypnotize is variety - while Mezmerize had a more interesting variety of different sounds ("Old School Hollywood," "Cigaro," and "Question" for example,) Hypnotize shows a more cohesive sense of flow. Many of these songs are the same blend of addictive melody and old school SOAD punk-metal energy. This can work for or against the album, depending on your preferences. Either way, though, it splits this "double album" into two distinct albums. And all for the better... who wants to sit around and listen to the same sound for 80 minutes?
Another major difference is this: Hypnotize is easily the darkest SOAD album since the self-titled. Even my friends who aren't particularely sentimental or over emotional when it comes to music say that this album does something to them... it hits a nerve somewhere. A lot of the best examples are towards the end, like "Holy Mountains" which I see as being a far more mature successor to "Ariels" and one of the best songs on this album. After the comic relief of "Vicinity of Obscenity" comes the ungodly creepiness of "She's Like Heroin." Despite sloppy lyrics, "Lonely Day" is still a haunting melody. And of course there's the full version of "Soldier Side" which sends chills down my spine still after listening to this album for a week.
Even in many of the other songs, this emotional intensity can be found in assorted choruses and bridges. "U-Fig" seems to have a Dredg-like antsy quality to it and the apocalyptic "Tentative" foreshadows the too-close-for-comfort intensity of the last few songs on the album (and at the same time manages to evoke the meloncholic vibe of Steal This Album's better songs.)
The title track was the perfect choice for single, and it was the first song to grow on me. In many ways it is the oldest-sounding song and could have been a track off of the self-titled if it were not for Daron's lead vocalizing. By the way, while I'm on this subject, I would like to share my opinions on Daron's voice; many people seem to unfairly dismiss new System solely based on his voice. While I will admit that he doesn't have the "nicest" or most well trained voice, I could cite dozens of worse singers in any form of popular music. He may not have the outright beauty of Serj's voice, but he has style and energy that I think benefit this new direction System is going in. Besides, Daron isn't REPLACING Serj, the two voices are simply playing point and counterpoint. If anything, Daron-critics should like Hypnotize more because it has more Serj than Mezmerize did.
People who complain that this album isn't enough like the "old" System need to stop being nostalgic whiners that are afraid of change. System of a Down have changed as a band, matured, developed - and thank God for that! Had they stayed the same to appease the fanatics, they'd be down the drain with all those other nu metal bands. I couldn't be happier with the changes System has made. I will always have a place in my heart for the self-titled, it was my favorite album for a long time and I don't think they'll be able to top it in my book... but I would rather they change and continue to become a different band that makes more cds that are great in their own unique way than drive the same formula into the ground repeatedly until I stop liking them altogether. In art, change is survival. Learn to embrace that concept, or be left behind - your choice.
on November 29, 2005
Hypnotize, the companion CD to Mesmerize, completes a double album of the best music that System of a Down has ever created. This second half offers stranger and at times much more discordant tunes than Mesmerize. That is what is so good about it though. Hypnotize's themes are a little bit darker than Mesmerize's so the music is naturally darker. Many of the tracks are reminiscent of the older tracks of the original album. The sound, however, has evolved immensely with extremely complex guitar riffs, multiple layers of sound and amazing vocal harmony. The accompanying lyrics are also outstanding. You may find yourself headbanging and shedding tears in the same song. It's hard to describe everything that makes this album so awesome. If you like any of System of a Down's previous CD's, then you should buy Hypnotize...NOW!
on March 16, 2006
Ok I guess I will throw my two cents into the mix here. I am forty five years old and I have been listening to metal/rock since the '70s when I was in high school. So I bestow the following compliment with great caution keeping in mind the awesome stature of Hendrix or Zepplin, or any other rock/metal band - you fill in the blank. This was one of the best rock albums I have ever listened to. The music was complicated, well written, carefully orchestrated, and at times mysterious. I cannot remember a rock group that could "switch gears" so seamlessly going from long discordant perhaps 64th note phrases to a sudden group of very melodic half notes - many times in a different key. And in the middle of it all Daron and Serj juxtapose their very different voices to match the storm of music swirling around them. The effect created reminds me alot of John Coltrain's sax runs - a flurry of horizontal, vertical and diagonal notes, but somewhere down the middle is this beautiful humming theme. The best song on the album is Holy Mountains - a mysterious violin laced gut-wrenching seven minute rock symphony which may well go down as one of the finest rock songs ever penned. The first time I heard this song I thought to myself that System could have written an entire album using this single theme a la Tull's "Thick as a Brick" or "Passion Play." In any event this is great music. Enjoy.
on December 8, 2005
Back a few months ago when Mezmerize hit stores, being a rabid System of a Down fan I snatched it up as fast as possible. Mezmerize was also the biggest disappointment this band ever put out in my opinion. I felt that album was lazy and hollow.
I figured that Mezmerize was the future track in which System was heading musically, so as the release date for Hypnotize approached, I was really not that interested in buying it. I then heard the title track "Hypnotize" on the radio and was completely sold. "Hypnotize" was one of the best songs I had ever heard by the band. I ran out, bought the CD and was ecstatic when I heard it first blast out of my stereo.
Hypnotize is, in my opinion, the best System album. It retains the unique hyper and heavy essence of their previous releases, and incorporates the more melodic path the band seems to want to go. It's progression that works, and works incredibly well.
Here's how I rank the songs:
Attack: 3 out of 5 ~ Not the best track on the album, but a great opener, really grabs the attention.
Dreaming: 5 out of 5 ~ One of my favorites, incredibly layered, constantly changing, just fantastic.
Kill Rock'n Roll: 5 out 5 ~ Catchy, short and sweet.
Hypnotize: 10 out of 5 ~ Sometimes keeping things simple can produce some powerful results. Tied with "Science" from Toxicity as my favorite songs they have ever done.
Stealing Society: 5 out of 5 ~ I love how this track changes up in the middle to go off with a early punk-ish style.
Tentative: 5 out of 5 ~ Love the chorus and general flow of this song.
U-Fig: 3 out of 5 ~ Good track, but not really as up to par as the others.
Holy Mountains: 5 out of 5 ~ As great as everyone says it is.
Vicinity of Obscenity: 5 out of 5 ~ Probably the most insane thing I have ever heard. Love the funk guitar in the chorus.
She's Like Heroin: 4 out of 5 ~ For some reason this reminds me of something Danny Elfman would do.
Lonely Day: 3 out of 5 ~ Not a bad song, just doesn't stand out as much as the others.
Soldier Side: 10 out of 5 ~ Incredibly good.
on December 28, 2005
I have to say that begining to end this album is a masterpiece. A loud fast begining to a slower more emotional ending. I could not have asked for a better album. I love Tentative Holy Mountain Lonely Day and Soldier Side. Those are my main favorites but the rest of the songs are awesome. I have had this cd for over a month and its still in my cd player.It is the perfect ending to mezmerize and i hope they make an album like this again. But i mostly wrote this to address something most people are mad about. Daron's voice. People, i know Daron is not a perfect singer but he is a unique voice that sounds wondeful on disc. I myself like that daron decided to try something new and exciting. As for the fans that hate both mezmerize and hypnotze for this reason, apparently you are not really a system fan and completely hate change. I still do not understand why you people worry about trivial things. Daron is not replacing serj. if serj left or john or shavo it would not be system of a down no matter how many songs daron can throw on an album. Its called chemistry of a band and they have that in abundance. Totally reccommended(unless your like those mentioned above).
on February 23, 2006
This is one of the greatest, most original and unique albums ever made from one of the best, if not the best groups out there right now IMO. Hypnotize for me is the stronger half of the double album, being less commercially accessible, but with deeper, more complex music and lyrics. I really like the more melodic approach System is heading towards. At the same time it is a lot more experimental with different types of sounds.
Wow does this one grow on you with every listen. I pick up new subtle riffs, beats, or harmonizing each time I listen to this disc. I think it's a shame so many people can't appreciate this album and band. On one hand you have the people who never gave System a chance for whatever shallow reason, but then even worse you have those System fans that don't like the latest stuff because Daron is singing more and/or they're moving away from that harder punk-metal sound.
At first I was on the anti-Daron bandwagon until I realized his voice honestly isn't bad at all, I was just afraid of change as most fans were. Forget all that BS about Daron trying to take over the band and all that drama. System are like brothers, and Serj and Daron are just exploring new sound, together. There is no animosity. Daron's voice adds a whole new element to System's sound, and his singing summons emotions Serj's voice isn't capable of. Honestly, once you get over that immature approach and appreciate the new beautiful harmonizing between Daron and Serj you'll realize just how talented and innovative these guys are.
Anyway, this album has a really trippy sound to it. It almost sounds like they wrote this while on coke and shrooms for lack of a better explanation. This album just has this gloomy mechanical feel. There are fast hard tracks, and really spiritual ones. Every song is passionate, and some extremely odd.
To give you an idea of the music I listen to other than SOAD: Pantera, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Sublime, 311, Snot, Beatles, Floyd, Nirvana, Tool, Soulfly, Black Label Society, Sabbath. Basically classic rock, grunge, heavy metal, some indie punk, the occasional street punk, reggae, even some older rap I can appreciate, whatever, pretty much the goods from every genre and era, you get the idea.
So to those with a good ear for music here's the song by song while I listen to the CD. 9 is the best score possible, but 10 is for the masterpieces.
1. Attack 9/10 - Pretty aggressive song with good harmonizing parts, cool lyrics. Fast and hard, gets you pumped and ready for the cd. Serj's vocals on this one exclusively. Great drumming. Really badass riffing by Daron to fast drums.
2. Dreaming 10/10 - My personal favorite. This song has a hard hitting verse with Serj singing 2 overlapping lines and Daron doing distorted backup on one of them, it's intense and very cool. Nice choruses sounds great with both dudes singing. Sputtering and chugging guitars. The last line in the song sounds so amazing with Serj's voice and Daron doing this beautiful backup harmonizing. Check it out.
3. Kill Rock n' Roll 9/10 - Catchy, poppy format, but with the SOAD touch to turn it into gold. Overall a very solid song.
4. Hypnotize 9/10 - This song has a really cool, unique sound to it. All the bass, tar and drums have a real eastern feel. Otherwise this song has a pretty simple structure, but Serj's voice is excellent.
5. Stealing Society 9/10 - Oh this one is great. Serj sings real trippy followed by Daron singing a quirky verse, they both do a great job.
6. Tentative 10/10 - Some of the deepest and best lyrics I've heard on the verse, Serj sings it awesome too. Song breaks down into this beautiful dual harmonzing between Daron and Serj, then explodes again. This song is real passionate, so great. Give it a good listen.
7. U-Fig 9/10 - More great harmonizing by Daron and Serj, with a great part with a beautiful chill riff contrasting with screaming vocals. Real great soulful ending.
8. Holy Mountains 10/10 - This is such a great song with a great eastern feel typical of most System's softer, if not most, songs. Real spiritual vocals from Serj that bursts into dual harmonizing with Daron. Very heartfelt and genuine singing about the Armenian Genocide. Serj's voice is just amazing, and Daron's screaming and melodic backup parts are as well. Shavo and John are absolutely GENIUS on this one.
9. Vicinity of Obscenity 10/10 - This is incredibly catchy. Just one of those classics with replay value like Sugar that you can blast anytime. Nuts song choice especially after the emotion of the previous song.
10. She's like Heroin 9/10 - A lot of people don't like this song. I think Daron sounds pretty cool but what makes the song great is Serj's background harmonizing (you gotta listen for it) and some of the best bass. Tension building at the end breaks down into the next one.
11. Lonely Day 9/10 - I think Daron does this one very well, and he goes great with some beautiful guitar and an amazing solo to boot. Heard the song is mocking emo or something, but no emo can pull off this kind of musicianship, end of story. It's a great song simply put whether it's like anything System have done or not. And about the bad grammar, it's obviously for a deeper reason if not to show how people will grumble and moan about it over the songwriting. People fall right for it.
12. Soldier Side 10/10 - Masterpiece. Great lyrics, instruments, very passionate vocals. Could not have closed this double disc with a better song. They should win an award for this one.
Overall one of the best cds ever. My personal favorite SOAD cd thus far. Melody, vocals, and tons of subtle layers of lyrical meaning and music to uncover. Enjoy.
on December 2, 2005
This is by far the best CD System Of A Down has released since Toxicity. They have kept the intensity/humour contrast that is so characteristic of them : among the emtionnally intense songs of this album, you will find Soldier Side, Hypnotize, Dreaming, Holy Mountain, Lonely Day and most definitely Tentative, which is undoubtedly my favourite song off the album, and the closest song to Chop Suey! which is my personaly all-time favourite SOAD song ever. And then there are the funny songs : U-Fig, She's Like Heroin and I would even add Kill Rock 'n Roll.
All in all, great album, I was mezmerized by System's capacity to surpass themselves because I honestly wasn't expecting something THIS great, since Steal This Album! was decent but not excellent, and although Mezmerize was much better than Steal This Album!, it wasn't really anywhere close to Toxicity. But Hypnotize makes you forget those little "downfalls" and gives hope of an SOAD forceful return.
Their lyrics remain very political in many songs, and when they are not, they are plain ridiculous. I love listening to a new SOAD song for the first time cause I never know if it's gonna give me chills or make me laugh. And I definitely chuckled when I heard U-Fig on this one, just as I had laughed my head off when I had first heard Pictures off of Steal This Album!, which Serj going "Pa-pa-pa-PA!" in a really high-pitched tone.
This band has such incredible potential it amazes me. I'm looking forward to new material already, but for the moment, I'm probably gonna keep listening to Hypnotize daily like I have been doing since I bought it on Nov. 22nd. If you are a System Of A Down fan, or if you're only into them a little (which probably means that you liked Toxicity a lot but the other CD's a little less) and are hesitating to buy this CD, I hearten you to buy it, you will not be disappointed!
on November 22, 2005
System of a Down does not disappoint with this release. There is no filler and the album is one great song after another. I found this album to be a little heavier than Mezmerize and the songs seem to flow together a lot better. I really have enjoyed all of their releases so far, but this is one of my favorites. I think the best thing about System's music is their ability to have very different sounding music within the same album and yet it all fits together. They are very dynamic and very diverse with their overall sound. I find they are never boring and always have something new to offer. I can't wait until the next tour. These songs will surely sound good live. If you like anything this band has ever done you will definitely love this one.
on November 29, 2005
Since this is the Dualdisc version, I thought I should review the DVD side.
Put plainly, its not worth the extra money. If you have a nice home entertainment system and have a great sound system for your DVD player, the enhanced stereo version of the full album on the DVD is nice, but the behind the scenes documentary is stupid, and I was very disappointed, and the videos for _BYOB_ and _Question!_ can be found on TV.
If it matters at all, get the regular version for the album art on the disc.