Music Review: System of a Down


5-20-05, 10:58am

The latest release from alternative music’s biggest monsters of heavy, anthemic rock System of a Down is titled Mezmerize and is the first installment of the band’s massive two-disc set Mezmerize/Hypnotize. Fans of the band’s multi-platinum hit Toxicity are going to be blown away by this collection of power metal fused with original vocal styles and politically astute and poetically crafted lyrics.

Mezmerize opens with a wistful and depressing memorial to the Army of One, the fantasy image of the US Army produced by media consultants to boost falling recruitment numbers. “Soldier Side” introduces the serious of the topics undertaken on this album – war, death, isolation – but when the next song, “B.Y.O.B.” (Bring Your Own Bombs, a track you can hear if you log on to the System of a Down website) launches its huge crunching guitars and driving beats matched by melodic throatings of Daron Malakian and Serj Tankian, SOAD’s vocalists, a tone of rage and protest and passionate political theater erupts.

Two questions for which the answers are obvious dominate in this anti-war anthem:

“Why don’t presidents fight the war Why do they always send the poor?”

And for emphasis, intensifying repetition mixed with charges of hypocrisy leveled at the rulers who start wars for wealth and motives “dripped in oil.” Bush, the Republicans, and their “media” allies at FOX can slip and slide their responsibility for the Iraq quagmire and blame Newsweek and the “liberal” media for America’s bad image abroad, but their rhetoric is thwarted by the truth that a song like “B.Y.O.B.” speaks to power. System of a Down totally demolishes the facade of credibility built by right-wing dominance and bullying of the media and repetition of “talking points” fabricated by Bush’s handlers.

Rare indeed are the four minutes of truth that is “B.Y.O.B.” that people crave in Bush’s world of lies.

“Cigaro,” too, is a song that satirizes the ruling class as cigar-smoking, braggarts who are “Burning the world’s resources” and dehumanizing and destroying those whom they exploit and oppress.

Other songs like “This Cocaine Makes Me Feel Like I’m On This Song,” “Revenga,” and “Sad Statue” draw out the futility of violence and terror, the corruption of rights and liberty fueled by fear, and the too often pervasive inability to articulate rage and frustration at a system that loves war, greed, and death.

Mezermize is indeed mesmerizing. It ain’t a lie and it ain’t no joke. System of a Down is capable of single-handedly carrying rock into an new era. The only question, is rock ready to follow?

Mezmerize (Sony Music, 2005)

--Clara West can be reached at