Mezmerize System Of A Down
CD Review by Scott "Dr. Music" Itter

Track listing:
1. Soldier Side - Intro 2. B.Y.O.B. 3. Revenga 4. Cigaro 5. Radio/Video
6. This Cocaine Makes Me Feel Like I'm On This Song 7. Violent Pornography
8. Question! 9. Sad Statue 10. Old School Hollywood 11. Lost In Hollywood

System Of A Down:
Vocals, keyboards: Serj Tankian
Drums: John Dolmayan
Guitar, vocals: Daron Malakian
Bass: Shavo Odadjian

Label: Sony / Release Date: May 17, 2005 / Overall rating: 10

System Of A Down is one of the most, if not the most, unique band in the alternative music genre today. With their first release they showed us that they were different and interesting, but didn't bowl anyone over with their ability to write songs. It was their next disc, "Toxicity," that made the world take notice of a band that had an adventurous new sound, with some greatly improved songwriting skills. I think the band reached their highest point with their third release, "Steal This Album," when they used all of the weapons that were at their disposal to create songs that were unique, complete, and well crafted. In all honesty, I didn't think this band would ever surpass the effort put forth with "Steal This Album." I was wrong . . . very, very wrong.

"Mezmerize" is one of the best records I've ever heard from this genre. Where do I start with this thing? I don't think there's anything the band doesn't do with this album. Every song is perfectly written, and the performances are so tight that they hurt. With some heavy lyrical themes of the current war issues, mixed with one of the finest vocal performances the genre has ever seen, this is a phenomenal record. If you liked what SOAD had done on previous albums, prepare yourself to be blown away. If you are new to this band, welcome to the definition of originality in the alternative metal genre. To give you an idea of where the band might be coming from, guitarist/key songwriter Daron Malakian simply places a quote in his portion of the band member "thank you's" section of the liner notes. The quote goes like this: "'In your world you can take a pen and write on a piece of paper and destroy 200,000 people or more and it's ok because you don't have to see it..' - Charles Manson." This is a band with a lot to say, and a really unique way of saying things.

As the record starts off, the band immediately shows its patience with a soft and serene one minute intro piece called "Soldier Side" which segues into the first single "B.Y.O.B." which stands for Bring Your Own Bombs. The lyric play here is pure brilliance. Hearing the chorus of "Everybody's going to the party - Have a real good time - Dancing in the desert - Blowing up the sunshine" set to a light and airy vocal part amidst instrumental chaos, you can't help but think that this is just a perfect song. The metaphoric insinuation of the Allied Forces in the Iraqi desert set in this playful rhythm is songwriting at its very best. The political view of the band is hammered straight through to the abrupt ending with angry shouts of "Why don't presidents fight the war? - Why do they always send the poor?" Powerful, catchy and original. The chugging melody of "Revenga" follows and plays out as another great song filled with artistic flair. It's the next song, "Cigaro," that drops you to the floor though. Starting off with singer Serj Tankian squealing the line "My cock is much bigger than yours," this song explodes into an exquisitely produced frenzy when the chorus gets going. Super-producer Rick Rubin may have outdone himself with this disc. The mix done by metal mixmeister Andy Wallace (Slayer, Rage Against The Machine, Nirvana, etc. etc.) ain't half bad either. It's really a rare occurrence when a band writes perfect songs, plays them perfectly, and has a production team that makes them even better. This is one of those rare occurrences.

As the group cuts into the hook-riddled tune, "Radio/Video," we see the best side of this band. In this song they blend a chorus with a gargantuan hook; with an exotic, jumpy, Caribbean-type rhythm; with an operatic "la la la" bridge of vocal beauty. At times you have to ask yourself if they're serious with all of this quirky jive. Just then you realize that it doesn't even matter because it sounds so damn good. Then comes the song "This Cocaine Makes Me Feel Like I'm On This Song." Any rapid fire, two minute burner that uses the lines "Gonorrhea gorgonzola" and "I hope your stepson doesn't eat the fish," and it makes it work, is pure brilliance I tell you. This leads into another song with a gigantic hook. "Violent Pornography" is one of the more straight forward rock songs you're going to get from this band. Tarkian rolls out the tongue twisting verses with his deep psychotic-edged instrument, and finishes with a chorus that you'll find yourself bopping around to all day long. The next song, "Question!" is another song that is fairly straight forward and well written. These guys are anything but typical, but these two songs are about as close as they will get to writing typical alternative metal songs. "Sad Statue" follows with more sing-along fun. A song with a big political message, and an even bigger hook, this is yet another tune that will have you tapping those toes. And, as we bolt through "Old School Hollywood" we get mention of Tony Danza and Frankie Avalon and another great big hook. This is where the band sets themselves apart from the rest. They get kooky and crazy with the lyrics, and even more bizarre with the vocal styles, but it all works perfectly. Pure brilliance I tell you. As the record winds down with the extreme vocal prowess displayed in "Lost In Hollywood," it really kicks in just how great this record is. With the lines "All you maggots smoking fags out there on Sunset Blvd." being delivered with a British-type punk arrogance, this just might be the best tune on the record. A ballad of sorts, with harmony vocal parts layered over the forthright lead piece, this is artistic recording, producing, and songwriting.

This is a record with a running time of just over thirty-six minutes, considerably short in today's market. Did I notice that I only got thirty-six minutes? Nope. When a band writes 11 perfect songs and puts them in the right order, with sharp production qualities, you just smile and enjoy what you got. I must also mention that "Mezmerize" is only the first half of a double album, the band writes on their website that we can "expect another sheaf of surprises when Hypnotize sees the light of day later this year." "The end of Hypnotize will tie together Mezmerize," Daron promises, "but it's really tough to explain until you hear it. Individually, in my opinion, they both stand on their own, but until you hear the second one you won't know how the two records come together as one. We're not leavin' you dry." Dry? This album alone left me exhilarated, exhausted, and wet with sweat, don't worry. This record is pure brilliance I tell you.

One last little footnote to the uptight censorship entities out there. When you edit the words "choking" and "sodomy" from songs like "Violent Pornography," but leave lines like "Two-fifty up the ass" and "She slipped me out of her mouth" in Bruce Springsteen's "Reno," without slapping so much as a Parental Advisory sticker on it, just remember one thing . . . we low-life metal folk do best at the back of the bus anyways.