What a year it had been for System of a Down, even before this CD was released. Mezmerize, the first half of this "double-CD" was released in May, and was completely amazing. The single "B.Y.O.B." got constant airplay on modern rock radio for quite a while. The video for "Question!" was even aired on MTV sub-stations constantly. To put it simply, the band was on top of the rock world.
So, this leads us to Hypnotize, the second half of the releases, which was held in high hopes that it would be as good as its counterpart. So is it?
The vocals on the album are divided between lead singer Serj Tankian and guitarist Daron Malakian. Daron didn't sing much at all before Mezmerize, which is why many people prefer Serj's voice to his. Serj is clearly the better vocalist, but Daron's vocals are welcome at most points as well.
Daron can play the guitar better than he sings though. He uses many fast, heavy riffs on the album, which definitley pull you in. The guitars on the softer songs also sound quite good.
The basswork on this album was apparently done by Daron Malakian as well. This is because, Shavo Odajian, the normal bassist, couldn't understand parts of it, and learned it to play it live. This doesn't mean the bass on this album is that bad, but you can't hear it most of the time anyways.
John Dolmayan is the drummer, and he has shown on past works that he can work a double-bass, and do some fancy work with his sticks as well. His true talent can be seen on the slower parts, where you notice his parts more alone than going along with the heavy guitar riffage.
TRACK BY TRACK REVIEW
Attack (3:06)- The song starts out with an extremely heavy, fast riff from Daron, which is soon matched by the drums. The verses are very soft and melodic. Serj does the majority of the vocals on this song, within Daron accenting on the verse vocals. The bridge has a catchy riff in it as well. Not a bad opening to the album. (3.5/5)
Dreaming (3:59)- This sounds like a song that would be off of their self-titled album. Very nice fast intro riff. Very good lyrics on this song as well. The bridge-like part about halfway through the song is definitley the highlight of the song, but overall it is a very strong track. (4/5)
Kill Rock 'N Roll (2:27)- The shortest song on the CD and quite possibly the catchiest. There was one thing that definitley keeps me from giving this song a higher rating. It was much better sound quality live, and it makes me wonder if the guys put 100% into it on the recording. Lyrically, nothing special, but it definitley pulls you in. The chorus is very nice all around. (4/5)
Hypnotize (3:09)- The first single released from this CD, and the first highlight. The guitar in the intro will be stuck in your head for a very long time (I believe it was a week for me). Serj puts on a very strong vocal performance on this song, as does Daron on vocals and guitar. The drumming is quite simple throughout, but gets a little more interesting on the last chorus. Definitley an album highlight. (5/5)
Stealing Society (2:58)- I'm actually going to go out on a limb and say this a pretty good song. The beginning is another heavy fast riff, with Daron yelling "Yeah" and "Oh right" in the stops. The vocals that Serj brings to the table aren't his best but are still enough to shine in the song. Also, the drumming is very solid on this track. The part where Daron sings is where the song loses it just a little bit. His vocals on this song aren't spectacular at all. But the drumming sounds even tighter there, so it makes up for it in a way. Good song. (4/5)
Tentative (3:36)- One of the more political pieces on the album. Serj's vocals aren't as amazing as they usually are during the verses, but the chorus to this song is a masterpiece on all of the instruments and with the vocals. SOAD has always had very strong political lyrics, and it doesn't stop here with lyrics such as "Where do you expect us to go when the bombs fall?" in the interlude. It's not the strongest political song on the CD, but its still very good. (4/5)
U-Fig (2:55)- Nice guitar intro, with nice accenting work on the cymbals. The lyrics are very different. The vocals in the chorus are very different, but the way they are structured overall make it very catchy. The melodic guitar sounds very nice as well. (4/5)
Holy Mountains (5:28)- Longest song on the CD and one of the best as well. It is reminiscing on the Armenian genocide, which may be a main reason it seems like so much was put into it (all of the band members are Armenian-Americans, who raise awareness for the genocide). Everything sounds great, especially the combination of lyrics and vocals. Serj and Daron's combined screams of "HONOR, MURDERER, SODOMIZER" hit you very heavily. Serj's vocals are quite possibly the strongest on this track. Truly an amazing song. (5/5)
Vicinity of Obscenity (2:51)- One of Serj's crazy lyrical ideas, in the same vein as "This Cocaine Makes Me Feel Like I'm On This Song" except lighter. Serj utters the word "terracotta" forty-nine times in total. The instruments aren't that bad though, and it will get stuck in your head right away. (4/5)
She's Like Heroin (2:44)- This is probably the weakest song on the CD. Daron sings it, but its the way he sings it that makes it weird. During the first two verses, he sounds very different at some points. Music is very basic on all instruments. Not a horrible song, just nowhere as good as the others. (2.5/5)
Lonely Day (2:47)- The lyrics on this song are downright horrible. If they were better, this would actually be a very good song. Daron needed to just write better lyrics for this song. He focused a lot more on the guitar for this song. Quite possibly the best solo on the CD (which isn't saying too much, other than the fact that it sounds cool) and the melody guitar sounds great. Ends on the siren that was in the Soldier Side Intro. (3/5)
Soldier Side (3:40)- I think the main reason has to be that we in America are experiencing it right now, but this song hits even HARDER than "Holy Mountains" did. Best lyrical and vocal combination on the CD. The music, especially the guitars in the first, the drums in the second half, and the notable bass throughout, sounds amazing. They saved the best song of the double release for last. It may very well be the best rock song of the year. Hopefully, it will be the next single. (5/5)
In conclusion, this album was exactly as I expected. It was the same style as Mezmerize. The use of Daron's vocals followed what the first half did. If you loved Mezmerize, you will love this album. If you hated Mezmerise, you will hate this album. The only thing that I think might make this half an inch better is the amazing effort of "Soldier Side". This was System of a Down's year. No doubt.