Saturday, 30 April 2011

CD Review: Hypnotize, by System Of A Down (2005)

Released 6 months after Mezmerize, Hypnotize contains noticeably less accessible and more strained material. System Of A Down went on a hiatus that lasted for four years after this release, and Hypnotize contains the evidence that the band had reached a creative impasse.

Theatrical anger only goes so far, and System Of A Down came close to perfecting the message on Toxicity and Mezmerize. With no place to go except self-derivation, Hypnotize squeezes the remaining few drops of juice from the formula, including a few excellent songs, but in general there is an undeniable sense of "where to from here" swirling around the music.

Although lacking in perfect hits, Hypnotize does contain some terrific material. Kill Rock 'N Roll showcases the band's development, with magical harmonies blending with elaborate changes of pace, all driven by inspired Malakian guitar work. Holy Mountains is equally impressive but more straightforward, alternating between a loud gothic crunch sound and emotive Tankian vocals.

Hypnotize ends with a suitably melancholy duo. Lonely Day aims for nothing but simple sadness, ironic or not, and hits the target. Soldier Side is a grand finale to the two-album duo, an anti-war song that tones down the band's theatrics and just delivers a killer mood, ending with an effective link-back to the first track intro theme from Mezmerize.

While Dreaming and Tentative are two more good tracks, the band finds itself in dead-ends on songs like U-Fig, Vicinity Of Obscenity, and She's Like Heroin, with some of the music more appropriate for interludes in soon-to-close off-Broadway shows than serious metal albums.

Should System Of A Down return to the recording studio, they have a solid base to build on, but they will need to migrate to a fresh approach and more nuanced messages to remain relevant. The trouble with in-your-face social anger and loud calls for revolution is that eventually the message wears thin, and with global success the messengers inexorably become part of the system.


Daron Malakian - Guitars
Serge Tankian - Vocals
Shavo Odadjian - Bass
John Dolmayan - Drums

Songlist (ratings out of 10):

1. Attack - 7
2. Dreaming - 8
3. Kill Rock 'N Roll - 9
4. Hypnotize - 7
5. Stealing Society - 7
6. Tentative - 8
7. U-Fig - 6
8. Holy Mountains - 9
9. Vicinity Of Obscenity - 6
10. She's Like Heroin - 6
11. Lonely Day - 9
12. Soldier Side - 9

Average: 7.58

Produced by Rick Rubin and Daron Malakian.
Mixed by Andy Wallace. Engineered by David Schiffman.
Mastered by Vlado Meller.

All Ace Black Blog Heavy Metal CD Reviews are here.

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