System Of A Down - Mezmerize

Tim Miller 16/05/2005

Rating: 4/5

It's been two and a half long years since System of a Down's stop gap CD Steal this Album!, an album which was essentially a collection of B-Sides and unreleased material. It was also arguably one of the best releases of 2002, which made the prospect of the next new album proper, on the back of 2001's world-changing Toxicity, simply mouth-watering. And now, at last, it has arrived.

Despite the large quantities of saliva already collecting on the floor, this CD, Mesmerize, is actually just the first of two this year from the Armenian-Americans. The second half, Hypnotize (due around October 2005), is still being kept under wraps, but Mesmerize is everywhere. BYOB adorns radio stations and music channels the world over; the group have been on the front of Metal Hammer, Total Guitar, NME, Kerrang and more in the early part of this year, and everyone, now, will have heard of System of a Down.
This long awaited album, then. Everything SOAD stand for is here: political attacks - “Dancing in the desert blowing up the sunshine” - anti-US government - “Why don't Presidents fight the war, why do they always send the poor?” - Anti-globalisation - “You should have never trusted Hollywood” - and pure weirdness - “My cock is much bigger than yours; my cock can walk right through the door”. In fact, the quirkiness that is so System of a Down is here in abundance on this CD, from their crazy lyrics to whole tracks like Radio/Video, This Cocaine… and Violent Pornography. And, their trademark hard-hitting, skull-numbing metal sound is still here as brilliant as ever. On this album, however, there's something more. Ironically, considering SOAD's anti-globalisation stance, this new ingredient is mass appeal.

Daron Malakian, the chief figure behind much of the song writing for SOAD, now comes to the fore more frequently with his vocals, at times singing solo and others sharing the lead with bearded wonder Serj Tankian. Daron's more plaintive and accessible singing style mixes well with some of the songs here which are, there's no denying it, definitely more commercial than some on Toxicity: Jet Pilot, Bounce, Prison Song for example. On Mesmerise, it is Sad Statue, Old School Hollywood, and Radio/Video stand out as songs to snare the passing interested fan. And snare they will, for they are accessible metal at its best.
There is the almost-ballad Lost in Hollywood, the synth-driven Old School Hollywood, singalong chorus of the album on Sad Statue, and then ironic System of a Down shining on Radio/Video and Violent Pornography. And yes, the furious, rapid, explosive metal is gloriously exposed on Cigaro, BYOB and Question!. Credit is due to Malakian that he can create something as brutal as opening track BYOB and closing track Lost in Hollywood in one album, and achieve, perfectly, what he is aiming for.

System of a Down have returned better than ever: loud, quiet, screaming, whispering, exploding, rocking, scathing, punching and kicking, in an open declaration of war on global economics, military action, America, plastic commercialism. Luckily though, it is System of a Down, and it comes with a tongue firmly planted in their cheek. This craved-for album has something for both long-term and newly initiated fans, and it's a great relief to have them back on the scene.