As abstract as System of a Down's music is, the band believes all 11 tracks on the new Mezmerize would fit on rock radio.
"I don't really think about singles too much, but everything is written very much with a song structure," guitarist/singer Daron Malakian said. "There is something very poppy about almost every one of those songs."
So when it came to choosing the follow-up to "B.Y.O.B." (see "System Of A Down Don't Know What Mezmerize Is All About, Either"), System looked to others, including radio programmers who were, conveniently, already playing "Question!"
The song, the only one on Mezmerize with lyrics solely written by singer Serj Tankian, is a haunting, Tool-esque metal track that contrasts big screams and an ever bigger guitar solo with quiet acoustic-guitar parts and Tankian's spoken word.
"Are you dreaming?" Tankian sings. "Dreaming the night/ Dreaming all right/ Do we, do we know/ When we fly/ When we, when we go/ Do we die."
As with most System material, the bandmembers would rather let listeners determine what the song's about than say it themselves.
"It's kind of cool to not fully know because then you can take a fresh approach and just feel the emotions rather then the logic of what is going on," Tankian explained. "And that's really powerful."
There's no word yet on "Question!" video plans or whether System will release a third single from Mezmerize or wait until the album's second part, Hypnotize, hits stores in late fall.
Although fans have to wait for it, Hypnotize is recorded, mastered and ready for release. Malakian recently sequenced the songs himself, which like Mezmerize, he said was the hardest part.
"I try to think about it like if I was either mixing this for some friends to listen to and they will never hear it again or what's going to keep people interested and what's going to keep me interested," he said. "Sometimes it works to have a song that ends on a certain note and then go into another song that begins with a similar note, but at the end of the day, it's just about flow.
"Think about records that you listen to, and say that band put their best song towards the end or something," he added. "I think you want to get a good impression right off the bat, but you also want it to flow. You don't want to listen to two songs and say, 'I don't like it.' That's why sequence is so important."
Malakian hopes fans will come up with story lines for the two albums, although he insists there's not really one. Mezmerize ends with "Old School Hollywood" and "Lost in Hollywood" back-to-back "just so people will ask," he said.
"The records do kind of bookend each other [though]," Malakian said. "Once you hear the second record you will hear how both of these records come together as one record, and I think four or five years down the line ... people are going to look back on this System record and see it as one record, and that has something to do with the way it begins and the way it ends."
Although Rick Rubin co-produced the albums with Malakian, he is not involved in the sequencing, the guitarist said.
"He is more involved in me and Serj vocally and with individual songs," Malakian said. "He is like the song doctor. You walk into a doctor and you say, 'Well I got this and that wrong with me,' and he says, 'Well, take this and that and in a week you will start feeling a little better.' It's kind of the same thing with Rick. We play a song and he says, 'It needs more dynamics here or the chorus isn't as great as it can be or something needs to be better.' ... That's mainly what he does with System of a Down is give that objective opinion and we go back and we make those things happen in our songs."
System of a Down are currently wrapping up their European tour and will return to the States for a trek with the Mars Volta that kicks off August 4 (see "System Of A Down/ Mars Volta Tour Dates Announced").
For more on Mezmerize/Hypnotize, check out the feature "System of a Down: Doubleheader."