Melodic Monstrosity

In cultureShock, Entertainment by Erich Cella

The musical maturity of System of a Down (SOAD) has propelled them to the forefront of the alternative metal heap and silenced the critics who had labeled the group as a loud screeching disorganized swell of noise.

That’s not to say that these tortured artists lost their maniacal sharpness and uncontrollable propensity to rattle skulls and get your adrenaline flowing, since they are still as chaotic as they have previously displayed on earlier releases. The evidence appears in the meaty momentous rhythmic assault that is apparent with the wall shuttering romp “Attack,” which contains the power and political strife to energize the listener and feeds their salivating angst.

This album is more of a follow up to the brilliantly produced platinum breakthrough success “Mesmerize,” that hit the shelves earlier in the year, and “Hypnotize” continues on with that similar vibe. The surprising emergence of guitarist, Daron Malakian, as a vocal presence on the last two records has given the band a split personality and a versatility that was severely absent from the first few releases.

Many of the hardcore followers may take issue with his high pitched wails and emotional comfort he’s taken license with, but it only adds to the raw aggression and gives the band moments of serenity and self actualization. It’s very difficult to scrounge around a corporately run record store and discover a group that has resonance and something to say while possessing the ability or talent that they have obtained.

SOAD has evolved through their existence and are only discovering how transcendent they could become but with their humble personalities and love of making quality tunes, they might get in their own way of them realizing how huge they could become.

The combination of haunting harmonies and frantic guitar pummeling is a blissful reminder of how a band can redefine a genre and give you a fresh listening experience. Serj Tankian has no problem sharing the spotlight with his fellow band mate even though he possess a superior vocal ability and can challenge for the crown of best rock singer.

That’s not to say that Serj is completely overshadowed or shutdown from making his explosive contribution, but doesn’t have to dominate as the face of the group. “Holy Mountains” is the most seamless example of the muscle and the delicacy of the harmonizing on the disc and is most representative of how flexible they could be. The obesity of their reverberation is a gateway to their beautiful melodies and surprisingly hearty hooks.

The anger and aggression seems to be a facade perpetuated by the band and might rub new listeners the wrong way but to a patient and understanding ear; the sugar lies within the structure of the song and pulls your heart right from the depths of your rib cage. The abrupt but decisive shift in the rapidity of the tracks is a trademark of SOAD and gives the listener a burst of energy after a much needed lull or vice versa.

“Stealing Society” is a schizophrenic rock canvas as it erupts from the beginning, scales down to a pop rock opera and transcends to a surfer style or beach boys anthem with a bit of a sarcasm and displaced obscenity. The guitar crunching style takes somewhat of a back seat to the experimentalism and willingness to open up and present the vulnerability to their audience.

As someone who wasn’t a fan of their music at the outset, I have become a giddy crusader who wants to build up this band’s growing reputation and propel them to immortal status. The bandwagon is reaching capacity as of late, but with the attention span of the A.D. D. generation, it’s what have you done for me lately and the fame bubble can burst at any moment.

That might be too far fetched with the work ethic of this feisty bunch and the fact they tend to connect with people on many levels. They know how to inspire the hearts and minds of the impressionable spirits of any generation as we move through these tumultuous times.

SOAD has been loosely associated with bands such as Faith No More, Soundgarden, and Helmet, but has grown into its own influential beast and might help other bands without an identity gets their feet wet. Their Armenian backgrounds add a unique flavor to their sound and it lets them get away with writing adventurous jingles and sweeping melodies.

This total disregard for hard rock formulas and boring conventions inspire others to mix genres in order to formulate an interestingly unexpected hybrid of music. It is also very refreshing to see a genuinely outraged and disgusted group of American citizens who sing with their souls, while embodying the activist mantra that is so sorely absent from today’s collection of millionaire and camera hogging artists.

They don’t hate their country but know it has a long trek to make in order to free itself from the notorious reputation of being the world’s biggest hypocrite. This gives the band the edge and gives them license to maintain a lack of respect it has for abusive authority and SOAD has learned how to connect with the misguided young adults who have no release for their frustration.

The hard hitting lyrics launch an attack on Hollywood and the publicity hounds that leave footprints on the red carpet in order to build up their undeserved celebrity image. They also harp about the negative role of television in our lives and the apathetic lifestyles we create for ourselves so we can have a clean conscious about how our actions affect the biosphere around us.

The uncompromising assault on the role that drugs play in society and the despicable exploitation of sex and violence are the unflinching nemesis that’s at the brunt of their cold vengeance. These lyrics seem to strike a chord with millions of people and add to their growing appeal but also serve as a perfect compliment to their non derivative music or unmatched intensity.

At an all too brief but concise 40 minute mark SOAD were still amazingly able to compress their message and accomplish their goal of penetrating the listeners psyche. It’s not about the length of the record that’s important but it’s absolutely imperative that you encourage people to connect with it and these four men have mastered the art inspiring their fans, while inspiring newcomers. There has never been a shortage of testosterone in the music but also never lack humility and they have never forgotten where they came from.