System of a Down - _Mezmerize_
(American / Columbia, 2005)
by: Jackie Smit (8 out of 10)
For a band who were lumped in with one of the most loathed and reviled subgenres in this music's history, System of a Down have been treated rather generously over the years here in CoC. In fact, some may recall that their last proper studio outing, 2001's _Toxicity_, scored an extremely solid 9.5 out of 10. That this glowing write-up came courtesy of one of the site's true underground black metal champions speaks volumes for the Los Angeles-based collective's cross-over appeal. And why not indeed? As much as the media attempted to hang the nu-metal tag on them, and their skeptics endeavoured to write them off as a flash in the pan with the odd good idea, the truth is that System of a Down are a highly talented group of musicians whose music ranges from intelligent to ingeniously clever. They perform with the technicality and panache of legends-in-the-making. Their lyrics likewise stray far away from the insipid rants of the bands they are so often compared to, and whilst often political and almost always thought-provoking, their tongues are never not planted very firmly in their cheeks. Heck, on _Mezmerize_ they even manage to lend artistic credibility to lyrics like "My cock is much bigger than yours / My cock can walk right through the door".

Yes, _Mezmerize_ is a curious beast indeed. Already destined for platinum glory, one would expect (given the commercial success of _Toxicity_'s softer moments) that this record would be littered with radio-friendly tidbits that the masses could lap up in the same way they did Metallica's "Nothing Else Matters" over a decade ago. You would however be dead wrong, because, as much as System of a Down mix it up with just about every music genre you can imagine, there's actually very little in the way of outwardly mainstream fodder to be found here. Instead, for the most part _Mezmerize_ harks back to the first record for speed and aggressive punk abandon, throwing everything from Armenian folk ("Radio / Video"), R 'n' B ("B.Y.O.B.") and even some good old fashioned Eighties electronica ("Old School Hollywood") in along the way, and leaving the album's single ballad for last. Even here however, the band come across as sincere and honest, rather than MTV-baiting.

It's at this point that you realise just how rare a commodity System of a Down is in our day and age. _Mezmerize_ may not quite hit the peaks of its predecessor, but it's nevertheless a testimony to System of a Down's integrity as songwriters. Faced with repeating a formula for guaranteed success or coming up with new and innovative ideas, the band have followed in the stubborn footsteps of the likes of Faith No More, and are all the better for it. Which only leaves the rest of us to hope that the remainder of the music world is taking notes.


(article published 23/5/2005)

11/24/2005 J Smit 6 System of a Down - Hypnotize
10/19/2001 M Noll 9.5 System of a Down - Toxicity
10/1/1998 J Webb 8 System of a Down - System of a Down
5/19/1999 A Wasylyk Fear Factory / System of a Down / Static X Nile's No Show, Not Nice
1/16/1999 M Noll Slayer / Sepultura / System of a Down Facing the Slayers, Down in the Grave
7/8/1998 A Bromley Slayer / Clutch / System of a Down Slayed, Once Again
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