According to bassist Shavo Odadjian, System of a Down had planned to open Hypnotize — the second half of the band’s Mezmerize/ Hypnotize double LP — with the sweeping instrumental “Hezze.” Instead, the track was dropped entirely from the album and will be released at some point in the future on an EP or single.
“We wanted to start off really heavy,” Odadjian said. And as System’s fans will learn on November 22, when the 12-track/40-minute album hits stores, “Attack” fulfills that mission admirably, with speed-metal blast beats and brutal, start-stop riffage that raise System to new levels of heaviness (see “System Of A Down Album Preview: Band Pulls No Punches With The Pummeling Mezmerize” and “System Of A Down Kick Out The Jams On Hypnotize” ).
There are numerous similarities between the two albums: Both are rife with tandem vocals from frontman Serj Tankian and guitarist Daron Malakian, as well as unconventional and drastic time changes, blistering guitar sections interspersed with placid moments, and tracks that blend seamlessly into one another. But Hypnotize, taken as a whole, is a more thunderous and mystifying LP.
The mind-pulverizing racket of the album’s second cut, “Dreaming,” is highlighted by Malakian’s crisp vocals, which dispense bizarre lyrics like, “For treated indigenously, digenously/ Human right is private blue chip, pry.” Simultaneously, Tankian’s frenzied voice rattles off lyrics at breakneck speed: “We’re the prophetic generation of bottled water, bottled water/ Causing poor populations to die, to die, to die.”
Malakian is the star of “Kill Rock ’n Roll,” on which he proclaims, “I felt like the biggest a–hole/ When I killed your rock ’n roll,” with an almost Bon Scott delivery. The song, which the band has been playing live for months, eventually morphs from jarring, start-stop rhythms into minimal guitars and neo-funk drumming (see “System Of A Down ’Kill Rock ’N’ Roll’ With Volta In SoCal” ). Next up is “Hypnotize,” the album’s first single, which features Middle Eastern-tinged guitars and keen lyricism: “Why don’t you ask the kids at Tiananmen Square/ Was fashion the reason why they were there?”
“Stealing Society” kicks off its fervent tempo with a bassline that sounds co-opted from the Descendents and follows with fierce drumming, frantic guitar abuse and breakdowns galore. “Vicinity of Obscenity” finds Tankian repetitively speed-belting some characteristically nonsensical lyrics — “Banana, banana, banana, terra cotta/ Banana, banana, banana, terra cotta pie” — before the track wanders into disco lunacy, with Serj crooning, “Do we all learn defeat/ From the whores with bad feet?”
The convulsive, fast-paced “Tentative” features an electric cello toward the end, capping off three minutes of spastic vocals and crushing bass hooks. The gentle guitars featured in the triumphant “U-Fig” — which are sandwiched between ferocious riffs — recall Red Hot Chili Peppers axeman John Frusciante’s solo strumming. “Holy Mountains,” which showcases Tankian and Malakian’s powerful harmonies, pummels the listener with bruising drums and guitar licks, but then softens the blow with delicate violins and orchestration.
Malakian handles the bulk of the vocals on “Lonely Day,” with Tankian surfacing for the track’s harmonized choruses; the tune’s complex, intricate riffs leave one wondering just how System are going to replicate it live. Violins are employed once again during Hypnotize’s closer, the politically charged “Soldier Side,” which completes “Soldier Side (Intro),” Mezmerize’s opening track. “They were crying when their sons left/ God is wearing black,” Tankian wails. “He’s gone so far to find no hope/ He’s never coming back.”
Hypnotize will be released as both a CD and a DualDisc, with the latter containing behind-the-scenes footage shot during the making of both records.