System of a Down’s latest politically charged CD fails to Hypnotize

By Emale Gray

Remember “I-E-A-I-A-I-O”? Yeah, I still don’t know what that means, either, but it was one fun song. And that hasn’t been System of a Down’s only hit. “Chop Suey,” “Toxicity,” and “Aerials” also make SOAD’s Hall of Fame. After three albums of greatness and a year-and-a-half’s break, they’ve produced their most politically opinionated album yet: -Hypnotize.

With its oblique analogies and arbitrary melodies, Hypnotize’s predecessor, Mesmerize, set out to guide fans to SOAD’s truth: everything isn’t what it seems in this deceptive world. For example, “B.Y.O.B.” implied that political figureheads are treating war like a party and “bringing their own bombs,” while “Radio/ Video” criticized those who use the media for their own petty needs.

And who knew lyrics like “Everybody, everybody, everybody living now/ Everybody, everybody, everybody fucks” and “My cock is much bigger than yours” make important political points? But with Serj Tankian on vocals, Shavo Odadjian on bass, Daron Malakian on guitar, and John Dolmayan on drums, SOAD came together using their implicit lyrics and musical environs to produce some amazing music, and they aim to do the same on their new disc.

Hypnotize features System of a Down taking their cunning adversaries to war—as opposed to its predecessor Mezmerize, which only called them out for their wrongdoings. “Attack” uses ramped, blaring guitars to advance on the enemy, while vocal harmonies and an alternately laid-back and hectic atmosphere helps to establish the trance-like state of “Dreaming.”

“I felt like the biggest asshole” SOAD begins in the candidly short “Kill Rock ’N’ Roll,” which makes light of people eating “grass” claiming that “accidents happen in the dark.” Fluff provides the groundwork for “Hypnotize,” as guitars pluck away at pianissimo and progress to an unsteady but comfortable ride. The distorted and warped “Tentative” suggests that death is near and that “not even God” can save SOAD from their forthcoming peril. One of Hypnotize’s longer tracks, “Holy Mountains,” uses a monotonous yet haunting chant as its backdrop and condemning lyrics to possibly depict our president’s Christian ideals as hypocritical.

“Stealing Society” doesn’t really bring anything new to the plate, besides randomly mentioning two skies fading and dying (relating to war’s pollution, supposedly). How that relates to the title, I’ll never know. It’s easier to just accept that there is some poetic quality in the song.

Once again, SOAD fail to provide a musical contrast between songs, considering the only interesting facet “U Fig” has is an entertaining chorus line. SOAD wake up out of their long (lackluster) trance in “Vicinity of Obscenity,” with its completely haphazard melodies, going from a power-flowery vibe to a barreling mess in seconds. “She’s Like Heroin” continues this needed melodic amendment, forcing ghastly chords through a catastrophic wreck.

“Lonely Day” dramatically depresses the once pleasurable mood, yet still illustrates a hopeful assurance by claiming even the worst days as a needed experience. Hypnotize ends where its companion, Mezmerize, began—“Soldier Side,” a song that speaks of even God wearing black because “people all grow up to die.”

Though Hypnotize does well lyrically portraying many influential ideas, it lacks quality SOAD musical resolution, although Mezmerize ventured through many complex melodic changes. Stagnation and monotony are ubiquitous in at least half of the songs on Hypnotize and that, no matter how symbolic the lyrics, they cannot compensate for the monotonous melody.