Review Summary: Well, I’ll probably keep it.
So, yeah. Systems of a Down have had an interesting revolution throughout their career. From their widely acclaimed debut, to the even wider, but not as decent Mezmerize, the band have surely outdone themselves in many areas, and failed at others. As far as the act itself goes, the group is definitely puts together music that can be accepted by a wide variety of artists. But as for the product, if nothing more than such can even be considered, the music they create is for a very miniscule population and could very well be disregarded as even a true art. For the sake of considering this album as even close to a 3.5/5 rating, ill disregard the clear fact that System of a Down are deteriorating in musical performance. But even still, I have to admit that this is a comeback if nothing else from the more mature Mezmerize.
To be perfectly honest, if S.O.A.D. had taken into consideration everything that Mezmerize did, and took inspiration from that, then yes, this could've easily been their worst album. But the fact that this album takes a turn for the better on a number of levels alone makes it a more decent listen than even a lot of content outside this short 2 album series. But, putting aside Mezmerize, and pretending that album never existed considering it had no effect on the production of this album in terms of music, this album is still hard to describe. This is definitely the band's most harmonic album to date, and it offers a good sized buffet of tracks. Frankly, as low-ended as a very few amount of times this album tend to get, I find this album easy to listen to all the way through.
When the album opens up with "Attack", the album automatically takes its first plunge into pros and cons. While the overall metal aspect is very much alive and well, the music is already settling uneasily into the major transitions this track alone makes. The typical S.O.A.D. formula is completely flipped backwards in this track. Unlike the usual, this song has a soft verse, and a heavy chorus. This might not matter much, but after the second chorus ends, you're immediately thrown off balance by the switch in sound. Lead guitarist Daron Malakian is also already starting to take over this album. As much as an influence as he has in this album with his vocals and guitar, it is pretty much said everywhere that he’s starting to overstay his welcome. I’m not trying to say he’s doing a bad job, but if you look back on the band’s debut and Steal This Album! You can see the awesome changes that Daron alone has made in his performance.
As far as the upfront vocals from Serj Tankian, they are now left behind. "Dreaming" is an interesting handling of vocals. The chorus is a multi-packing of vocals happening at the same time. As sensible as the lyrics themselves are, the voices are outdoing themselves all throughout the verses. The chorus still returns to normality, and Daron will take away the latter areas of the song alone. Other areas of this album have similar attributes to them that drags the tracks down a bit, but still come out with melodious features that do well in this album. Songs like "Hypnotize" or "Holy Mountains" have beyond excellent vocals from both Serj and Malakian, and the backdrops they are provided with only bring out the excellence. "Soldier Side" is probably the best song on the album. I don't think this song could've been composed any better. The lyrics are absolutely magical, and the ways the vocals are carried out are perfect. Also, Daron manages to hold back in these tracks, including "Vicinity of Obscenity", a very awkward and bizarre sounding track.
It is also apparent that the bass is of little significance. Since Shavo has never been truly skilled, it was already a downside to most albums with the exception of the group’s debut. But in this album, it’s almost as though he was never there. It is hard to determine what exactly is the significance between Daron's blasting guitar and the bass if nothing more than thunderous effect is the excuse. But perhaps that is the only reason. Tracks like "She's Like Heroin" or "Tentative" do manage to make some room for Shavo, but ultimately, this album shows little significance in his direction. The drumming is simple: fast as hell. But other than the simple but fast drum lines, the drumming is also a small part. Overall, this album is all about the vocals. The harmonies presented in this record are pure and kept to perfection.
Overall, this album is magical in origin. Where the inspiration came for this, considering this is unlike anything the band has ever done before is beyond me. But what I can tell from this ethereal but bizarre experience is that for a final stand, S.O.A.D. has managed to astound their audience. Though it is widely accepted that this is their worst album since it contains some of their worst content, I have to disagree. This album takes a much different and much better turn after the slight downfall with Mezmerize.