Review Summary: SOAD's least focused album, but it's still listenable.
A good way of judging which half of System's career you'll like more is to give their previous album, entitled Steal this Album!
a good and thorough listen. It's an album of halves, really; if you find yourself like tracks 1 through 8 better, you're more likely to enjoy their first two albums of their career, and if you like the latter half, chances are the latter two albums are more suited to your taste. Then again, System prove with their double album, comprised of two discs respectively named Mezmerize
, that they never do the same thing twice, and despite being a double album, both discs sound almost entirely different from each other.
Essentially, the aforementioned Steal this Album!
can be summed up as the past, present and future of System. And it also served as a foreshadowing to the more straightforward metal sound,which Mezmerize
fully takes advantage of. Despite a soft opening- the beautiful intro entitled "Soldier Side", which showcases beautiful vocal harmonies and a soft guitar melody, the album almost immediately wastes notice jumping right into action with "B.Y.O.B." which greets you with an excellent guitar riff reminiscent of "Thunderstruck" and heavy riffing before Daron Malakian grabs you right by the neck and tosses you into a cacaphonic symphony with his high pitched shriek of "Why do they always send the poor"!"!"!!!". Thankfully. The album manages to almost always keep this metallic momentum after this, with some ballads and soft riffs thrown in there for good measure.
Ironically, the best song on Mezmerize
is a power ballad; the song "Question!" blends in beautiful acoustic guitar work in the verses with Tankian's soft voice with heavy riffage, which climaxes with a heavy as hell repeat of the chorus. Arguably it's one of the band's most dynamic works they've ever done, and it also showcases some beautiful harmonizing from Malakian and Tankian. That isn't to say the heavy stuff isn't good either, because songs like "Revenga" and "Violent Pornography" are typical straightforward rockers from the four piece metal group; the former is catchy and almost funky in a way with verses that are similar to "I-E-A-I-A-I-O" (in how they're practically sung tongue twisters) and a catchy as chorus with some pretty dark lyrics ("My sweet revenge/Will be yours/For the taking/It's in the making, baby...
"), and latter being suitably profane with lyrics that you almost feel guilty for happily singing along, as the music is so catchy and upbeat. "This Cocaine Makes Me Feel Like I'm On This Song" is, as the title may suggest, is non-remorsefully nonsensical and heavy, with super bizarre lyrics ("Gonhorrea Gorgonzola! Gonhorrea Gorgonzola!/Single files of clean feedings!
" and the repeated warnings for you not to eat a fish), and mostly simple instrumentation.
However, the album suffers because it simply lacks a feeling of climax. Understandably this is so because of it being a double album, but the three closing tracks do close the album on a weak note and suffer from being not particularly memorable. Those three songs and "Cigaro" are fun listens, but sadly just float through one ear and out the other, with no feeling of continuity. What's really sad about "Cigaro"'is that it's just simply too short; its awesomely heavy instrumentation and tongue in cheek lyrics do leave you wanting more. And "Lost in Hollywood" is just a boring ballad that is simply an anticlimactic finish, though the "aaaaahing" towards the end does offer a level of uniqueness.
However, it's still System of a Down. Their trademarks are still there. The strange chord progressions, the nonsensical lyrics and the anger that akes up their music are there, but with a different twist. It's still recognizable as System of a Down, and you can still headbang to most of the songs, given you don't take it too seriously. But why would you do that anyways" System's music screams "don't take us too seriously", and their sense of humour is always what has defined them as a band, and you can expect it to show up in a lot of the tracks. But, there was more to come, and thankfully they delivered greatly with Hypnotize
which feels like a grand journey across an epic landscape of sound that only System would have the competence to nail completely.