System Of A Down – Mezmerize Review

Originally written by Drew Ailes

When I was hanging out with this group of guys I used to smoke pot with, I was exposed to a wide variety of radio rock/metal. From Crazy Town to Nonpoint, I heard the worst of the worst. One day, in my friend’s mid-eighties model Chevy Citation, I was being subjected to the usual playlist of bands like Tool, Rage Against the Machine, and Powerman 5000, when suddenly something shockingly heavy and eclectic came out. Maybe it was due to how stoned I was, but I found myself sitting in this automobile enjoying a song by a band I had panned as total shit due to their fanbase of chain-wallet wearing assholes who wrote things in white-out on their backpacks. That song, as a matter of fact, was “Sugar”, by System of a Down.

I hid my love for this band from most of my friends and acquaintances until one of the only people who shared the same interest for metal as I do confessed to listening to Toxicity nonstop. So yeah, feel free to make the predictable joke of “what is this, nu-MetalReview.com?” Feel free to discredit any review I’ve ever written due to my unbridled love for this Los Angeles-based group. But know that above all things, if you’ve failed to tap into this band, you’re the only one missing out.

From what I’ve read, Mesmerize is the first of a double-album being released by the band and produced by Rick Rubin. The follow up, or second half, Hypnotize is slated for release in September.

The album opens with “Soldier Side”, a slowly plucked tune which features the dual vocal talents of lead singer Serj Tankian and the backup talents of Daron Malakian in a perfect prelude to the first real song, “B.Y.O.B.” My opinion of the track is about as divided as the song itself, which oddly goes back and forth between aggressive thrash(!) riffing and a slower and kind of wavering chorus. The most marked change on Mesmerize is the more pronounced and frequent usage of Daron’s higher-ranged vocals. It’s safe to assume that the majority of their fans have no problem in the least with this aspect, but admittedly it takes some getting used to. “Revenga” sounds more like it came off of their first album, with it’s quick, abrupt, and staggered vocals during the verse, except there’s the random appearance of…well, a professionally produced atmospheric black metal melody. Despite the variance, it’s all still original and resembling of System of a Down more than it calls attention to the styles they’re taking influence from. There’s even accordion on “Radio/Video” for anyone who still doubts the eccentricity of this band. Although their choice of instrumentation is admirable, the song contains the only flaw worth griping about – the backup vocals sound overly produced and synthetic. A few songs later, after a short acoustic melody, “Question!” unleashes a short but thick dose of stomach-quivering chords before establishing about the closest thing these guys can come to a sullen but soothing atmosphere. Beautifully sung, it’s unfeigned and adroit equally in it’s lullabied melodies as it is the heavier off-the-wall sections. “Old School Hollywood”, which I’m predicting will end up as a single, with it’s vocorder effects, phased keyboards, and upbeat rhythm seems to be an obvious tongue-in-cheek attack on the current electro-inspired craze that spiked in popularity over the last few years in L.A. and perhaps on the city in general. “Lost in Hollywood”, with it’s clean guitar strumming and pensive vocals, closes out the album on a purposeful and forlorn note.

It took me a little to warm up to it entirely, but Mesmerize is surely a worthy addition to S.O.A.D.’s discography, and strikes a blow for popular metal. They’re where they are today because of their ingenuity, and it’s encouraging to see that which each release, they cement their reputation as a band that refuses to cave in and compromise their sound to appeal to an even wider audience. One of the more successful and well-recieved heavy metal acts of the last decade, they’ve proven once again that it’s possible to incorporate savvy quirkiness into the realm of the mainstream. When I was hanging out with this group of guys I used to smoke pot with, I was exposed to a wide variety of radio rock/metal. From Crazy Town to Nonpoint, I heard the worst of the worst. One day, in my friend’s mid-eighties model Chevy Citation, I was being subjected to the usual playlist of bands like Tool, Rage Against the Machine, and Powerman 5000, when suddenly something shockingly heavy and eclectic came out. Maybe it was due to how stoned I was, but I found myself sitting in this automobile enjoying a song by a band I had panned as total shit due to their fanbase of chain-wallet wearing assholes who wrote things in white-out on their backpacks. That song, as a matter of fact, was “Sugar”, by System of a Down. I hid my love for this band from most of my friends and acquaintances until one of the only people who shared the same interest for metal as I do confessed to listening to Toxicity nonstop. So yeah, feel free to make the predictable joke of “what is this, nu-MetalReview.com?” Feel free to discredit any review I’ve ever written due to my unbridled love for this Los Angeles-based group. But know that above all things, if you’ve failed to tap into this band, you’re the only one missing out. From what I’ve read, Mesmerize is the first of a double-album being released by the band and produced by Rick Rubin. The follow up, or second half, Hypnotize is slated for release in September. The album opens with “Soldier Side”, a slowly plucked tune which features the dual vocal talents of lead singer Serj Tankian and the backup talents of Daron Malakian in a perfect prelude to the first real song, “B.Y.O.B.” My opinion of the track is about as divided as the song itself, which oddly goes back and forth between aggressive thrash(!) riffing and a slower and kind of wavering chorus. The most marked change on Mesmerize is the more pronounced and frequent usage of Daron’s higher-ranged vocals. It’s safe to assume that the majority of their fans have no problem in the least with this aspect, but admittedly it takes some getting used to. “Revenga” sounds more like it came off of their first album, with it’s quick, abrupt, and staggered vocals during the verse, except there’s the random appearance of…well, a professionally produced atmospheric black metal melody. Despite the variance, it’s all still original and resembling of System of a Down more than it calls attention to the styles they’re taking influence from. There’s even accordion on “Radio/Video” for anyone who still doubts the eccentricity of this band. Although their choice of instrumentation is admirable, the song contains the only flaw worth griping about – the backup vocals sound overly produced and synthetic. A few songs later, after a short acoustic melody, “Question!” unleashes a short but thick dose of stomach-quivering chords before establishing about the closest thing these guys can come to a sullen but soothing atmosphere. Beautifully sung, it’s unfeigned and adroit equally in it’s lullabied melodies as it is the heavier off-the-wall sections. “Old School Hollywood”, which I’m predicting will end up as a single, with it’s vocorder effects, phased keyboards, and upbeat rhythm seems to be an obvious tongue-in-cheek attack on the current electro-inspired craze that spiked in popularity over the last few years in L.A. and perhaps on the city in general. “Lost in Hollywood”, with it’s clean guitar strumming and pensive vocals, closes out the album on a purposeful and forlorn note. It took me a little to warm up to it entirely, but Mesmerize is surely a worthy addition to S.O.A.D.’s discography, and strikes a blow for popular metal. They’re where they are today because of their ingenuity, and it’s encouraging to see that which each release, they cement their reputation as a band that refuses to cave in and compromise their sound to appeal to an even wider audience. One of the more successful and well-recieved heavy metal acts of the last decade, they’ve proven once again that it’s possible to incorporate savvy quirkiness into the realm of the mainstream.

Posted by Old Guard

The retired elite of LastRites/MetalReview.

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