"Mezmerize" is the 4th studio album by American heavy metal act, System of a Down. It was released in 2005 on American Recordings and produced by Rick Rubin & Daron Malakian. The line-up for the album was Serj Tankian (vocals), Daron Malakian (guitar/vocals), Shavo Odadjian (bass) and John Dolmayan (drums).
Released just six months apart, System of a Down's "Mezmerize" came before "Hypnotize", and has since gone on to go platinum in many countries. It reached No.2 in the UK album charts, kept off the top spot by Faithless' greatest hits compilation. Is it any good? Let's find out!
Soldier Side (Intro)
The album gets going with a moody and somehow brilliant one minute beginning with "Soldier Side (Intro)". It is a simple yet very effective way to start, with Serj and Daron sharing the vocals in harmony using an acoustic guitar in the background. It sets the tone for the rest of the album perfectly, and the lyrics are about genocide and, specifically, a young man who is lying in the bottom of a mass grave, wondering why this is happening.
"B.Y.O.B." (bring your own bombs) then storms in with an insanely fast riff, followed by Shavo's crushing bass line, and the drums pounding along as Daron screams "why do they always send the poor?" before the song really launches into a frenzied bag of goodness. The song is about how the US government would rather send the poor (in this case soldiers) to fight their battles in the name of oil and greed.
The next song continues the very heavy guitars at a furious pace with tongue twisting lyrics that Serj sings fast, and before you know it the chorus is upon us which is like "B.Y.O.B.", in that it's harmonious and slower than the rest of the song. Like a lot of the songs on this album, the way Serj and Daron share the vocal duties, mostly in a duet seems to work out pretty well. It's a song about being treated like a fool by a former girlfriend and exacting that revenge on her.
This is a song about how the US government comes across as the biggest monster in the movies, or the guy with the most friends, and other meanings for acting like the big cheese, when, in fact, there are others out there just as equal, or in some cases, better. Musically, it's another excellent song played with feeling, but it also sounds like the band is having fun and you shouldn't take them too seriously on this song.
This song begins slow and acoustic but as soon as Serj and Daron sing "hey man, look at me rocking now", you know you're in for a treat. It is a catchy song with Eastern European influences (the band has Armenian roots) and has an almost Ska feel to it. The song was written by Daron about how when the band was starting to make it, his old high school friends called him up and said "you're on the radio".
This Cocaine Makes Me Feel Like I'm on This Song
This rocks in that traditional System of a Down style, more like the SoaD of old than anything. To put it simply, only a song with a song title like that could sound like this. That may not make sense but it will if you listen to the song. The lyrics make absolutely no sense whatsoever, but that's how clever this band is and I like that. This song is reminiscent of "Sugar" off the band's eponymous debut album.
Obviously the subject matter is a little taboo to some, but the song title doesn't exactly mean what it says. It is a dig at the big corporate companies and how they rule your lives with their products or the news stations showing you what they want you see on TV, and how some of the things they show is just as bad as violent pornography.
This is where Serj's vocals are tested to the limit but he passes with flying colours in a song which has many time changes. This could be classed as a ballad, but it would be a push to suggest that. It's a song about the afterlife and what happens when we die. The narrator is asking the questions that everyone wants to know the answers to, but could be asking because he's either dying or knows someone who is.
The song begins with a straight rock riff before Daron mutates it into a classic System of a Down riff. It is about what happened after 9/11 and how the US government used the atrocity as an excuse to go to war. The sad statue refers to the Statue of Liberty which could be crying because yet more of her citizens are being shipped off to war, with many never returning.
Old School Hollywood
This really doesn't sound like anything System of a Down has done before, and is about how Daron once watched an all-star baseball game with washed up actors and the like taking part, people like Tony Danza and Frankie Avalon (who both get a mention in the song). As far as the music goes, the chorus is excellent and will have you singing along in no time at all. It's not the heaviest song the band has ever done, but it's definitely one of the best.
Lost in Hollywood
This track ends the album with Daron singing the lyrics before being joined by Serj in a duet. It's an absolutely storming end to the album which sets it up nicely for "Hypnotize". The vocal harmony is incredible, Daron singing most of it but Serj's backing harmony has a lot of feeling to it. It's a song about how Hollywood ruins the best of people in the way that if it doesn't make you, it will certainly break you.
Some will say this is System of a Down's defining album, and they could well be right. It is not as groundbreaking as "Toxicity", for example, but it still has that air of quality you would like to associate with Serj, Daron, Shavo and John. It is a shame the band went on a permanent hiatus not long after its successor, "Hypnotize" was released. Who knows what brilliance they could have written and recorded in that time.
- Soldier Side (Intro)
- This Cocaine Makes Me Feel Like I'm on This Song
- Violent Pornography
- Sad Statue
- Old School Hollywood
- Lost in Hollywood