Review Summary: While it has a few flaws, Hypnotize is definitely a stronger album then Mezmerize and overall a solid record. While not as easy of a listen as Mezmerize is, Hypnotize is still an excellent record that's worth checking out.
March onward. It is still 2005 and System has promised us a double record. The two albums releasing in this same year are the two rhyming words "Mezmerize" and "Hypnotize". Mezmerize was a bit underwhelming, so we can only hope Hypnotize is a bit better. Alas! We've been delivered! Hypnotize is only slightly better then Mezmerize, but that still means it's better. While in my opinion Hypnotize is only slightly better than it's few month old predecessor, it is definitely loathed more by the fans and critics. The criticism could stem from some akwardly misplaced tracks (after the brilliantly haunting Holy Mountains we get the overly quirky "Vicinity of Obscenity" and "She's Like Heroin", then we are smashed with the cheesy bad angst of "Lonely Day". Why?). So of course, there are some mixed emotions to this record, but in my honest opinion, I would say this one overpowers it's sister album. Why? Let me explain.
Hypnotize showcases really strong points to this band. With Mezmerize, we got more of a poppy record that didn't work to it's full. However, with Hypnotize it seems that System quickly redeem some of their lost qualities. For one, Daron's guitar on this record is honestly phenomenal. He's decided to incorporate both the thrashy style of playing and the technical romps to make something truly astonishing. Serj also sounds amazing here. He seems a little more nasally on this album, but he showcases some passionate and vehement vocals. Shavo?Well I guess he does what he does best, make some cool underlying bass lines and not be audible at all. John also performs wonderfully as always, holding these songs together with his force and attack. So do you see? This album really takes everything System has done the best and composed them here. A perfect final record before a hiatus.
But do these songs work? That's one of the most important questions. I'll just get the mediocrity of the album out of the way. The songs work for the most part, but they start to truly slip up. After the brilliantly haunting Holy Mountains, which is truly one of the best songs System has ever done, things get a bit weird. Vicinity of Obscenity is not a bad track by any means. It is definitely a showcase that Serj is still a weird cat. The bands performance is good, but in attempt to keep with the songs feel, it's a strange performance. She's Like Heroin is simply an average song. It's a bit loud and annoying, but the chorus is a bit cool (even if the lyrics are mediocre). Lonely Day, I will admit, has it's moments but it still suffers. The instrumentation is definitely good, and so are Daron and Serj's vocal harmonies, but the lyrics. My god the lyrics. They have to be some of the worst I've heard. Cliche and over-angsty, the song suffers so much and it slowly becomes a mediocre track. This is all saved by Soldier Side, which I will get to soon.
But even when the end of the album gets a bit underwhelming, there is plenty good here. The album's opener "Attack" recalls "Sad Statue" with the very similar riff. The song is a hammer to the face, with fast instrumentation and wrathful vocals. It's a truly insane song with heavy Anti-War themes, it truly picks up where Mezmerize left off. It wistfully moves into the hyperactive "Dreaming". The beginning of that song is all over the place, but the slow part is definitely a highlight and a depressingly good moment to the track. It's worth noting again that Daron is most definitely at his best on this album. His technical playing mixed with odd and diverse guitar lines and, of course, the chugga-chugga thrash riffs make for a noteworthy performance by him. Serj also shows off some very noteworthy vocals, as his performance in both "Kill Rock N Roll" and "Hypnotize" are excellent, as they are good songs. Daron does fine in those songs on vocals, but it's Serj who truly takes the cake. He's really shown some true emotion and his work here is possibly the most touching he's done. His harmonizing with Daron is some of the best moments on this album, and it really shows some wretched beauty that lay here on this disc.
"Stealing Society" is truly an underrated track, but it is definitely a good one. The instrumentation is fine, but the vocals are the high point to the song. I continue to back up my point that Serj's vocals are charged with emotion, even when lacking a bit from previous releases. His emotional detachment really works for the bands sound, and gives them a unique style. Daron does not share this factor, as he is a mostly irritating lead vocalist. It's not to say his voice is bad. When he's singing seriously, he actually does not sound bad. However, he really sounds annoying most of the time. He isn't really accustomed to the music, as we are all used to Serj's greatness, Daron doesn't fit it. However, when he's harmonizing with Serj, it truly sounds wondrous. "Tentative" showcases this well, with charging vocals and phenomenal instrumental performances. The female harmonization with Serj truly makes a brilliantly haunting moment, making Tentative the second best song on the album. The album truly starts to slip a bit with "U-Fig". While it is a cool song, it's a bit uninspired and a bit too hectic to take lightly.
However, any mediocrity can be easily disregarded as this album holds 2 of System's most brilliant songs ever written. Soldier Side is a perfect closer to the record. It's a brilliant ballad with delicate, but extremely strong lyrics. It is a wretchedly beautiful song, and there's just not a flaw I can see about it (other than it's way too short). But then there's the best, Holy Mountains. Holy ***ing Mountains man. This is arguably the best song System has ever written. The song has a slow Aerials-like start, but then wears it's own face. The hard-hitting wrath of the song, mixed with the beautiful and passionately sounds and vocals that all blend together. When the breakdown occurs, the awe-inspiring emotion fills to make the complete song. This is the definitive System of a Down track, and arguably the best they've ever written.
As you can see, this is definitely the best of the two. There are some minor slip-ups in the record. The album definitely flows, but after Holy Mountains, the track placing definitely gets awkward. It's still noteworthy that all the performances are superb. Serj sounds amazing on this record. He sounds a bit more nasally, but his voice is still charged with passion and his performances are some of the most touching. Daron is at his all best on guitar, with his technical playing, odd and diverse guitar riffs and typical thrash lines. His voice, in short, is good, but it definitely gets irritating and doesn't quite fit. Shavo and John are both great too, but Serj and Daron really take the cake. The songs all have their redeeming qualities, and they definitely have their underwhelming qualities, but they all contribute to make this album what it is.
In the end, Hypnotize is a very strong album. The main criticism really stems from those few misplaced songs, and some tracks that could've been improved or just left alone. It also suffers from how short it is, as Mezmerize also does. But in the end, the performances are superb and the album is really solid. Granted, there are some songs that fall short but in the end Hypnotize is still a very strong record. It definitely is the better of Mezmerize as the songs are constructed better and the performances are a lot more passionate. Mezmerize could pass off as an easier listen in the end, but Hypnotize is definitely a stronger album. But in the end, Hypnotize is a solid record overall, and is a good end to System's record releasing career, for now.
Favorite Track: Holy Mountains
Least Favorite Track: Lonely Day