System of a Down - Hypnotise

Tim Miller 21/11/2005

Rating: 4/5

System of a Down have done it again. Whether you're a newly captured fan, or one who now adds album number five to your CD ranks, there is no doubt that Hypnotise sees SOAD hitting the heights of Toxicity - and beyond.
Hypnotise is the final part of System's attempt at dominating 2005: the second of two full length albums released this year which sandwich the breathless tour earlier in the summer. To help the Americans, perhaps, in understanding the concept of Hypnotise being part of a whole, the inlay is designed so the two CD cases, Mesmerise/Hypnotise, slot together and become one, a unified glorious document, the old and new testaments to System of a Down's legacy.
Imagine, if you will, a war zone. A body lies in a ruined street, say in Kosovo. Out of view, a machine gun fires heavily into the body to make sure it's dead. The corpse jerks and spasms wildly, being riddled with bullets; musically, System of a Down have opened their album, with ATTACK! Attack switches from slaughtering drums and riffs to gentle, two part harmony vocals, and back again. It's so good, so System.
Now that Daron Malakian has got creating widely-appealing metal down to a t, it is no surprise to hear songs like the title track Hypnotise, Kill Rock 'n Roll and Tentative - loud, brash, but with insanely memorable choruses and hooks. Daron's guitar solos are even more outlandish, too, but without detracting from the overall songs. They don't stand out, as such, but fit in beautifully instead.
Sometimes, being 'so System' means being crazy. Vicinity of Obscenity is bonkers. “Banana banana banana banana terracotta banana terracotta terracotta pie” screams vocalist Serj, while Daron backs him up with manic, childish wailing. Incredibly, this song has another twist: to switch into a pop/funk chorus. When you least expect something from System of a Down, that is when they do it. Dreaming and U-FIG are more examples of organised pandemonium on this album, songs that sound like a bomb threat at a carnival, until you realise you can't stop singing another unforgettable chorus.
Like with all their material, there are political undertones to the lyrics sung for the most part in clever two-part harmonies by Serj and Daron, pointed observations that, somehow, no one except System of a Down would think to make. “Pathetic, flag waving ignorant geeks, we'll eat 'em eat 'em eat 'em eat 'em eat 'em eat 'em”. Well, quite. Lonely Day, on the other hand, is System at their most wistful, elegant melodies in what could loosely be called a love song.
For a change, Hypnotise does feature some of SOAD's more understated songs, such as Stealing Society and Holy Mountains. The latter is a throwback to arguably, what cemented System's proper arrival in 2001, Aerials, but this is no bad thing. Indeed, in some ways, Holy Mountains comes across as the most accomplished song here.
When Hypnotise ends with Soldier Side, the full version of the intro to Mesmerise, System of a Down have come full circle. 2005 has been an epic journey; highs, lows, craziness, despair. System of a Down have been building up to this moment their whole career; these two albums coming together to create their definitive work of art. It fits together like a book, but when it's opened, revealed within is the music that has made 2005 the year of the Armenian-American beast.