thursday, october 6th, 2005
big downer.

I think System Of A Down have hit a similar crossroads in their collective career equivalent to that of Rage Against The Machine. It's all well and good to have an agenda, but sadly there are only so many metaphors for "Bush is an idiot, down with capitalist America" one can expend before it gets a little tiring. It's akin to shooting fish in a barrel (though perhaps the fish are a little more cunning, if not intelligent), but at least they make it sound good.

Their new single, Hypnotize, from the upcoming album of a similar, if not identical name has begun playing on US radio. And whilst it doesn't stink to the high heavens, it's certainly an uninspiring entry from a band I've grown to love so dearly.

It combines the mood of a pleasant Sunday afternoon on the front porch with the typical political melancholy the band is now known for, with hearty amounts of political imagery, but the odour emanating from this new beast is one which smacks of radio friendly riffs and an overall unsatisfying experience. Which is a sad, sad thing to say.

To put it bluntly, Hypnotize lacks balls. And balls are very important things when your ultimate aim is "rock the fuck out". It (or rather, they, as having only one nut can be a terrible thing; just ask Ann Coulter) separates the Black Sabbaths from the Jesse McCartneys - the Kamelots from the Guy Sebastians - and indeed, the Joe Ebola and the Children McNuggets from the Swolly Wolly Hula Bula Humble Bumble Bands.

You know how you know a song has balls? Listen to it. If you say to yourself "FUCK YEEEEEEAH!" with either pure excitement or anticipation the very SECOND it starts, then it's ballsy. If you keep waiting for "the good bit" with a sigh, you're in for a big disappointment. There's a difference between being anxious and being impatient. Bet you can't guess which side of the scale Hypnotize fell to.

Serj Tankian would be a very angry man for giving Daron Malakian any semblance of creative control over the vocal aspect of their last two albums. Malakian is by no means a bad vocalist, though his pre-teen warbling can be a little grating on the ears after extended sessions. However, comparing his vocal talent to Tankian's is a little bit like comparing a luxury model Hyundai to a Mercedes Benz. Sitting in the Hyundai is nice, and those leather seats feel so good against my naked skin, but damn it, when you sit in a Mercedes you sure as shit know it's a Mercedes.

And yet, Malakian's influence is seeping through each new record more and more. The backing vocalist has been given a promotion. Perhaps Tankian's getting lazy, or, gasp, turned Republican. What a world. He'll have to shave his beard and trim that bouffant jungle of curls. Straighten up and fly right, that's what I reckon. No more of this political activism... no more of this distortion pedal nonsense. It's all about writing pleasant country songs and singing about Jesus.

All in all, I'm not displeased with the new song so much as I'm unfulfilled. I like it, if only for the fact that it's a SOAD song. But compared to such gems as Forest and Toxicity, Hypnotize is lacking in much the same way as a bad husband is lacking, or the same way as Ashton Kutcher's acting is lacking; it's evident that they're trying hard, but in the end, we're all left rather unsatisfied. Except perhaps the husband - he'd be pretty chuffed.

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