The Angry Scotsman
The second half of the band's double album, "Hypnotize" pretty much occupies the same area as "Mezmerize". Its short, schizophrenic songs are packed with thrash metal, mellow middle eastern tinged movements, whackyness and enough political/social rage to fill 10 punk albums. As usual, the album's lyrics are cryptic, multifaceted and open to interpretation, (though usually filled with biting social and political commentary). Like "Mezmerize" this album is heavy but not the heavy of old school System of a Down. Along the exact same lines, this album also features more varied songs and less adherence to "poppy" song structures in much of the band's older material. However, this album is not quite as strong as its counterpart. Partially due to a slight lack of originality, though it's still a very good album.
The album opens with "Attack" similar to "B.Y.O.B." in that it's a very intense, no real debate anti war song, (can't get anymore in your face then "Attack all the homes and villages, attack all the schools and hospitals"). Thrashy, blast beat laden song with a few moments to let you catch a breath.
"Dreaming" is another intense song varying from mid tempo thrash to blast beat intensity (John was always a decent drummer that could mosh out, but really lets it fly on these latest albums). Similar song to above, but with a maddening trio of vocals in the chorus and a display of how Daron's singing can be very nice when restraint is used.
"Kill Rock & Roll" is a good song really redeemed by the nice middle section. Also by this point you'll notice that even more so than before Daron has lead vocals and there is almost always there is a harmony with him and Serj.
Things pick up with "Hypnotize" a slower, cleaner song with great guitar/vocal work. More high soaring vocals from Daron, some really cool drumming from John, and an awesome Eastern section with 4 layers of guitar. Powerful song.
"Stealing Society" is not a bad song at all, but just nothing new. Which is fine, but a little uninteresting and it's just a rare example of a weaker song on a SoaD "major" studio album. The exact can be said of "Tentative".
"U-fig" changes things up, a stop/go chaotic song that hits you like a whirlwind and with some of the crazier Serj vocals out there!
"Holy Mountains" the five and a half minute epic (Yeah, for System 5 and a half minutes is an epic). A very powerful song about a topic close to the hearts of the band, the Armenian genocide. Focused on Mt. Ararat, a symbol of pride and nationalism to Armenia, (and also "holy" as it's the supposed landing place of Noah's Ark)it paints a movie like picture of the genocide. People fleeing to the mountains and running "back to the river Aras" to escape. The song chastises the Turkish government (presumably) for maintaining it was all part of the general chaos of WWI and an "act of warfare" started by the Armenians. Then asking if they feel the "haunting presence" of what I take as murdered souls "resting on the mountainside".
I also wondered if perhaps the song has a more outright political motive, such as retaking lost land or at least the mountains. Regardless, it's a moving song that has a great flow, awesome drumming, some of the best vocals on the album, (including passionate cries of anger). A song I used to not really like back in 05, but later grew to become my favorite on the album, and one of my all time favorites by System.
"Vicinity of Obscenity" follows and what a 180. A silly, whacky song that is impossible to make any sense of. Pretty cool, and the noisy feedback outro leads right into "She's like Heroin" another Daron dominated song that has one of the more humorous moments, progressively shouting "ASS" louder! Quick song that builds to a long thrashy ending. About doing anything to get some cash for heroin, I always thought there was a dual meaning about being in love and feeling like you'd do anything for that addiction...
"Lonely Day" a very nice, clean song that is again dominated by Daron. His vocals are more restrained so they are much nicer then his high pitched soaring ones (though even those aren't too bad). Features a rare System of a Down guitar solo. A beautiful, melodic and powerful song. Really nice. While generally criticized, (and occasionally praised) for it's simple message, a lonely day as usual I think there's some more to it. The last 2 albums seem to have a flow throughout, and given the song to follow I think this one may have to do with going away/being at war. Regardless, very moving song.
"Soldier Side" is another powerful and emotional song, dealing with war and the sadness of leaving for war. "Young men standing on the top of their own graves, wondering when Jesus comes are they gunna be saved?" and the wonderful Serj/Daron harmony singing "They were crying when their sons left, god is wearing black. He's gone so far to find no hope he's never coming back" can't help but move you. Another clean guitar driven song that builds to an epic climax. Another great vocal display, and it ends with the starting melody of "Soldier Side-Intro" from Mezmerize. Thus completing (or re starting?) the cycle.
Another great album from System of a Down that has no real faults or flaws, though a bit standard for them. This should not be taken as bad, (not at all) but just another System album makes it tough to distinguish from the rest and indeed, aside from Holy Mountains, Hypnotize and the final 2 songs...the songs from this album don't really jump out at me. Still, a very good album the band left us with before their hiatus.