"All you bitches put your hands in the air / and wave them like you just don't care."
-- Daron Malakian, Lost In Hollywood
System of a Down are a political band. Or at least, that's the idea I got from their first two albums. Indeed, back in 2001 it was a rare sight for something as socially and politically aware as Toxicity to crash screaming into the mainstream. Of course nowadays, thanks to 9/11 and the western world's increased paranoia, politically-motivated songs and bands are a dime a dozen. Everyone seems to be jumping on the "Blame Dubuya!" bandwagon, and thanks to recent events, we may have to put up with another 4 years of it. Surely I'm not the only one sick of it all? Need I remind everyone of the travesty that was Mosh?
Well, thank fuck for System of a Down, who are living proof that a protest song doesn't have to be a half-arsed 4 minute exercise in moody tedium. The simple difference between the average SOAD tune and Mosh, is that SOAD know how to write a genuinely good song. And Mezmerize is the best example of a genuinely great rock album since...well, Toxicity came out. It also happens to be madly insane; like someone took The Beatles, Black Sabbath, Beastie Boys and Metallica, created a 50ft super mutant from their collective DNA, and then went on a murderous rampage through LA while screaming "theresnothingwrongwithyou theressomethingwrongme" before taking an enormous dump on SOAD's other albums and subsequently imploding. Like, whoa man.
But then again, did we really expect anything different? SOAD have always had a reputation for being slightly maniacal, and on this album they've really risen to the challenge of maintaining that reputation. "My cock is much bigger than yours / my cock can walk right through the door!" Daron Malakian screams on "Cigaro", a song that has something to do with "Cruel Regulators smoking Cigaro". Ah yes, Daron; not content with simply playing the guitar, he now has as much (if not more) vocal presence than Serj Tankian. He may not be as vocally diverse as Serj, but he adds an extra level of variety to the proceedings that's utterly mesmerizing (see what I did there?). It's his voice that drives the album home, on slow closer "Lost In Hollywood"; a definite contender for best song on the album. He almost sounds like John Lennon.
Not to say that the other songs are at all bad, far from it. After the small intro track "Soldier Side", the first single "B.Y.O.B." (Bring Your Own Bombs) rips open and starts on tearing your ear lobes apart from the inside. Complex, frantic and sporting a ridiculously catchy chorus (as does every other song on this album), it's a wonder you're able to process any of it as it whizzes past and over your head. Before you know it, Serj is shouting "Halleluiah wink! Murdering a shrink!" on the third track "Revenga", yet another perfect example of pop-meets-metal gone 'effing brilliant. As is" Violent Pornography", "Old School Hollywood" (which sports some nifty keyboard synths), and the brilliantly named "This Cocaine Makes Me Feel Like I'm On This Song", a song so utterly bonkers that it even puts Ween to shame.
It really is hard to find a sour moment on this album; you can tell that every single song has been lovingly hand-crafted by people of godlike patience and talent. OK, so the album may only be 35 minutes and 11 tracks long. But hey, that's why God invented the repeat button. Besides, what would you rather listen to; 35 minutes of pure aural bliss, or 50 minutes of garbage with the occasional decent track. Hell, some bands can't even get the short but sweet thing right. Indeed, in a world where Fred Durst is struggling to pay the bills and a band like System of a Down are playing sold out arena tours, you can't help but laugh and feel that everything is right with the world. And then you remember that this is only the first half, and wonder how the Earth could possibly maintain its gravitational balance when the second half lands in September.
- Soldier Side
- This Cocaine Makes Me Feel Like I'm on This Song
- Violent Pornography
- Sad Statue
- Old School Hollywood
- Lost in Hollywood