System of a Down - Mezmerize

2006-03-29 23:14

Anyone need proof that Serj Jankian (vocals), Daron Malakian (guitar, vocals, most songwriting), bassist Shavo Odadjian and drummer John Dolmayan are still at the top of their game in 2005? You got it right here.

Mezmerize is perfectly titled. It's almost impossible to hear it and do anything but lapse into a state of high-adrenaline delirium. System of a Down combine the speediness of thrash, the gut punch of metal, and the maturity of alternative rock with a punky expressiveness and a virulently anti-mainstream, anti-war stance.

They scorch your ears with 11 tracks and 36 minutes of powerful virtuosity. Against a bouncing, tight engine of guitar, base and drums, lead vocalist Serj Tankian goes flying from octave to octave as if to mock lesser singers with his thrilling acrobatics. At times his vocals remind you of Dead Kennedys' frontman Jello Biafra.

Interestingly, the issues System of a Down attack are similar to the Kennedys'. "B.Y.O.B." attacks the US's warlike foreign policy in Iraq: In 2005, "Everybody's going to the party have a real good time / Dancing in the desert blowing up the sunshine." Back in 1980, the Dead Kennedys said "And it's a holiday in Cambodia / Don't forget to pack a wife". Nothing's changed... except that the man whose wife (Tipper Gore) tried to get the Kennedys' albums banned is now considered fairly left wing !

System of a Down brilliantly avoid the cliches of their chosen rock niche. Echoing Frank Zappa, they adopt metal guerrilla tactics. They abundantly co-opt other pop music styles: Beatlesy rock, reggae beats and something approaching cabaret among them. Queen, anyone? They're much more than a good example of thrash, demonstrating versatility on tracks like their tuneful lament for lost American values "Sad Statue" (of Liberty).

This may lose them some of their dumber, more dogmatic fans, who post comments like this on message boards: "Well this cd sucked. I didn't even feel like buying it i just borrowed and then puked into a toliet shortly after..." (sic)

Sometimes, like some of their fans, System of a Down lose the plot and songs become silly jokes that are only funny once. Like "This cocaine makes me feel like I'm on this song". They've also been known to lapse into obscure moralising - as valid as their homage to Hollywood Boulevard's pretty women may be, it drags a bit. "Old School Hollywood" appears to be about nothing much. Why don't they leave Tony Danza alone, and concentrate on what's important?

A righteous, riotous, rage mixed with shame dominates this album and it's beautiful, even when it's sad. Don't drive anywhere without it. It may be short, but it'll leave you breathless. The good news for those who can't get enough is that the other half of this double CD set is due in September.

*Pop fact! Walmart and other US chain stores demand bands supply them with a family values (clean) version of their album. SOAD did a clean version of Mezmerize. If you think this album is short, you should hear the clean one. I mean, how do you get around a chorus like "My c*** is bigger than yours / My c*** could walk right through that door"? With many moments of jarring silence no doubt.

- Jean Barker


There is no other hard rock band around who can match the audacity, intensity, progressive nature, and accessibility of System of a Down, and with Mezmerize, they've simply topped themselves.
- Adrien Begrand for Pop Matters

They perform with the technicality and panache of legends-in-the-making. Their lyrics likewise stray far away from the insipid rants of the bands they are so often compared to, and whilst often political and almost always thought-provoking...
- Jackie Smit for Chronicles of Chaos

There is little fat and no cotton candy in these thirty-six minutes. Everything on Mezmerize hits and splits with viciously honed purpose...
- David Fricke for Rolling Stone

Part thrash metal, part alternative rock, with punk politics and pop sense, System of a Down have stormed up the album charts despite their Walmart-unfriendly sound*. Mezemerize is their fifth full album since they began their career in the Southern Californian underground in the mid 90s and released their first album, called System of a Down.

Jack 2005/06/20 12:29 PM
Brilliant This is an amazing album. Really way ahead of most music in this genre.
Chris Ashton 2005/06/20 9:59 PM
Mezmerize Brilliant, there album classic blink 182 (latest) - self entitled
Natalie 2005/12/28 10:12 AM
A masterpiece! This album is truly a work of art and is worth the listen!! My Chemical Romance - Three Cheers for sweet revenge
Yolande 2006/01/11 3:01 PM
System of the Dawn Nice, Nice, Nice Pink Floyd, Brick in the Wall
Marthinus 2007/05/29 4:36 PM
A Classic Brilliant Album. Love it!
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.