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"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.
The album begins with a moody and somehow brilliant one minute beginning with "Soldier Side (Intro)". It's 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, with 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. I remember being in Walmart when I first got a chance to listen to this song, and the taster only played the chorus which is a slow, almost pop music style ditty, and I refused to believe it was System of a Down until the post-chorus began. 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.
"Revenga" then continues the very heavy guitars at a furious pace with tongue twisting lyrics that to this day I still have no idea how Serj sings that 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, I do love the way Serj and Daron share the vocal duties, mostly in a duet which 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.
"Cigaro" is up next, and, not wanting to get too much into the lyrics because you probably wouldn't want me to if you knew what they were, it's 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.
"Radio/Video" 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's 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".
How do you start to review something like "This Cocaine Makes Me Feel Like I'm on This Song"? Good question! It's not my favourite song off the album, but it still 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 reminds me a lot of "Sugar" off the band's eponymous debut album.
"Violent Pornography" is one of my favourite songs off the album. Obviously the subject matter is a little taboo to some, but the song title doesn't exactly mean what it says. It's 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.
"Question!" is where Serj's vocals are tested to the limit but he passes with flying colours in a song which has many time changes. I think 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.
"Sad Statue" begins with a straight rock riff before Daron mutates it into a classic System of a Down riff. This is an underrated song on the album but I love it. It's a song 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" really doesn't sound like anything System of a Down has done before, but it's my favourite song off the album. It's a song 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" ends the album with Daron singing the lyrics before being joined by Serj in a duet. It's an absolutely stonking 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.
In summary, I absolutely love this album. I had just moved to the US when I bought this album and can remember sitting in my apartment playing it over and over, day after day, week after week, month after month, just waiting for the six months before its successor was released because, I thought, if this is so good, "Hypnotize" will be even better. Was I right? You'll have to wait until I review that album before finding out. Right now, though, I'd say grab "Mezmerized" and prepare to be awed.
1. Soldier Side (Intro)
6. This Cocaine Makes Me Feel Like I'm on This Song
7. Violent Pornography
9. Sad Statue
10. Old School Hollywood
11. Lost in Hollywood
My rating: 9/10
This has to be my favorite album by System! They are amongst my favorite bands anyway, but this album is just amazing. It is the start of the Mezmerize/Hypnotize double album and begins with Soldier Side (Intro). This is rather a quiet song that leads on to the great BYOB, a fast up tempo song that was featured on a guitar hero game. The songs chorus has, as far as I know, been sampled by many other artists.
This leads onto Revenga, which has an awesome breakdown in the middle, and then onto Cigaro XD . Cigaro is possibley the funniest track on the album and will have you singing along in no time :P
Radio/Video is one of my favorite system songs and the middle part of the track is great.
This Cocaine Makes Me Feel Like I'm On This Song is good old crazy System music, but hey, that's why we like them isn't it?
:P Violent Pornography is a great song, that will have you singing along despite the dodgey lyrics as its so very catchy.
Question! is such a great song, and you have to admit that the bass line of the song is pretty sick :P
Old school Hollywood is unlike any other system of a down song, and contains an element of dance in it. I am suprised to say that I really find it catchy.
Lost in Hollywood is a great song to finsh off the album and leads on to Hypnotize.
System are to many an acquired taste but to some they are almost a religion!
All I can say is that if you haven't listened to this album then you should, as its like nothing else you will have heard. It offers great variety and once you get used to the unusual styling that System use to their advantage so well, you will wonder why it took you so long to take the plunge and buy the album.
I can only rate as I find and this gets a full 5 star rating. It deserves no less!
What else can I say to convince you to get this album! It's amazing and if you don't have it, you need it.... that is of course if you like funky, angry, quirky metal :)
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Soldier Side (Intro)
6 This Cocaine Makes Me Feel Like I'm on This Song
7 Violent Pornography
9 Sad Statue
10 Old School Hollywood
11 Lost in Hollywood