As if the heavy-metal/art-rock/worldbeat/rap-rock, political/scatological
quartet System of a Down wasn't already unique enough, last week the band of
Los Angeles-based Armenian Christians made history on Billboard's pop albums
chart by scoring their second No. 1 debut in six months, with the final
installment of the double album "Hypnotize"/"Mezmerize" following on the
heels of Part 1's arrival last spring.
"Hypnotize" adheres to the same Frank Zappa-inspired ethic as "Mezmerize,"
which is to say that the musical blueprint is such a complicated,
everything-and-the-kitchen-sink pastiche of divergent styles that there
seems to be no plan or logic at all. But System of a Down's strength is that
it can tie together a Middle Eastern folk riff, a hip-hop groove and a burst
of thrash metal guitar all in the space of four bars by linking them with an
indelible vocal melody or a searing guitar riff. And the riffs on
"Hypnotize" are overall stronger than those on its predecessor.
The album still suffers from the band's central shortcoming, however. Its
explosions of eloquently voiced political outrage -- most notable here on
"Attack" ("Bombs illustrate what we already know/Candles cry toward the
sky /Bracing your plants of a polluted coast/Dreaming of the day that/We
attack!") and "Holy Mountains" (a protest of the pre-World War I
Armenian genocide) -- are undercut by the pointless surrealism or sophomoric
potty humor of other tracks such as "Vicinity of Obscenity" ("Liar! Liar!
Banana, banana, banana ... terra-cotta pie!") and "She's Like Heroin"
("She wants nothing more/Than to be a little whore"). Musically, these
tracks are as gripping as the others, and they deserve a stronger lyrical
Both of these albums represent a significant creative peak in post-hair
metal hard rock, and each is worthy of fans' consideration on its own
merits. But combined into one well-edited disc that was all killer, no
filler "Hypnotize"/"Mezmerize" would have been a stone-cold classic with a
place in the pantheon beside the best of Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and
Rush. Thankfully, we have home editing and CD-burning software to do exactly