Review Summary: System of a Down goes mainstream without losing any of their quality (surprisingly).
Hey man, look at me rocking out, I’m on the radio
This quote, from the song Radio/Video
, is a perfect summary of the changes in System of a Down’s sound. The previously experimental and underground band is now on the radio, playing mainstream music. Mind you, this change isn’t a bad thing-if anybody can write mainstream music well, it’s System of a Down-it’s just that the sound is entirely different. Serj and company now focus much less on delivering the weirdness and zaniness that made their first album so lovable (but don’t worry, Mesmerize
is still a very strange album), and instead opt to have more memorable melodies (which is a good thing). This change is very similar to what was done in the early 1990’s by Metallica, but System of a Down became mainstream without sacrificing anything, unlike Metallica.
The most noticeable change is the frequent addition of Armenian melodies. This is most evident on the amusing Radio/Video
, which stands among System of a Down's best songs, despite bland and unimaginative lyrics. The mixture of Armenian and more standard metal riffs add diversity to the already eclectic sound of System of a Down. Another change, although not as welcome, is the addition of Daron Malakian's vocals. His voice is not as strong as Serj's, but when they sing together, there is a certain chemistry between the two which makes all of Daron's imperfections nearly invisible. However, when Daron sings alone, such as on Lost in Hollywood
, one can instantly notice all of his flaws as a singer.
The songwriting, while definitely made to appeal to a larger amount of people, is still as fantastic as on past albums, and the songs are still as addictive. For example, Question
, with its changes from soft and calm acoustic passages to screamed, operatic mayhem, ranks among the best songs in System of a Down's very consistent discography, and it also showcases Daron’s ability to play fast, technical riffs. Mesmerize
also contains one of the band’s thrashiest songs, B.Y.O.B
, which is filled with lightning fast, tremolo picked riffs accompanying Serj and Daron’s manic screams. While not all of the songs are as interesting as Question
, none of them are poorly written in the least.
System of a Down could always write witty, humorous, or thought-provoking lyrics, but, for some reason, it seems that on Mesmerize
, the band is beginning to lose this talent. Many of the songs have very well written lyrics, such as Cigaro
, which criticizes the American government while talking about male anatomy. Another lyrical highlight, This Cocaine Makes Me Feel Like I’m On This Song
, contains lyrics as confusing, strange, and paranoid as the music. However, some of the lyrics are weak, especially when compared to those on System of a Down’s past albums. Radio/Video
, for example, talks about rocking out on the radio and then about rocking out on the video.
Despite some small flaws, Mesmerize
is still an essential album for any fans of System of a Down, or metal in general.