Skip to main content

100 Albums: "Mezmerize" by System Of A Down

Kurt is going through his favorite records. Read the explainer or view the master list.

Artist: System Of A Down
Title: Mezmerize
Released: 2005
Genre: Armenian speed-metal

When you absolutely need some Armenian speed-metal, accept no substitute. System Of A Down blends thrashing guitars with rich vocal harmonies from singer Serj Tankian and singer/guitarist Daron Malakian (who also does a lot of the writing). Add in Middle-Eastern melodic scales and a healthy dose of progressive politicking and you've got something unique, aggressive and at times oddly beautiful. Mezmerize was the first half of a double-album released in two parts--the second half, Hypnotize, came out six months later. Mezmerize is an album that is tightly tied to a specific time and place for me. It came out when I was living in L.A., which is also where the band members live and grew up, so it was littered with references that felt literally close to home. The first time I listened to the song Lost In Hollywood, I was on a bus from Hollywood to Echo Park. The song references the streets Sunset Blvd, Santa Monica Blvd, and Hollywood Blvd, which were all driven on or crossed by the bus I was on while the lyrics informed me that "you should have never gone to Hollywood." It was downright eerie.

This is SoaD doing what they do best and making it seem effortless: alternately crooning and screaming about politics and philosophy over impossibly fast chugging metal riffs. The centerpiece of the album is B.Y.O.B., a pointed indictment of the war in Iraq that is intro'd by a snippet of a song called Soldier Side that would be reprised on the following album. That's really it for politics, though, with much of the rest tipping into metaphysical meanderings. The album's only other single Question! wonders aloud "Where do we go when we die?" and Sad Statue posits that "forgiveness is the ultimate sacrifice." But then you have obtuse songs like Old School Hollywood that talks a lot about baseball and mentions Tony Danza and Frankie Avalon--in reality a reference to a celebrity baseball game that Malakian, Danza, and Avalon had all played in. Malakian also talks about his real-life neighbors Danny and Lisa in Radio/Video without any context or explanation. In a way, it feels like being dropped into someone else's story. It's intimate but distancing at the same time. And, because you can't have a heavy metal album without at least one darkly humorous song, we get the excellently titled This Cocaine Makes Me Feel Like I'm On This Song.

I don't want to say that Mezmerize is SoaD's masterpiece, because it was only intended to be the first part of something larger. The end of the album, while satisfying, is a little abrupt. And at only 36 minutes, it's a very consumable record. It amuses me that the "double" album of Mezmerize/Hypnotize is short enough to fit on a single compact disc. But overall it's one of their more personal and vulnerable efforts, even as it flashes from meditative to teeth-rattling and back at breakneck speed.

Further Listening: The follow-up and conclusion to Mezmerize was also the band's swan song, Hypnotize. It's... okay. I kind of hate Lonely Day, which was the centerpiece single for that one, but the song Hypnotize is pretty excellent. I much prefer their breakout album Toxicity which has the band's most recognizable single Chop Suey!


Popular posts from this blog

My Recent Experience With Daily Science Fiction

Update: On March 3rd, they re-issued my story with a blanket apology to the subscribers for the error. In terms of fixing the original mistake, this feels both thorough and sincere. They have still not reached out or responded to me personally. If and when that changes, I will note it here.

Update: On March 21st, Jonathan apologized via email for the mixup. As far as I'm concerned, the matter is now settled.

If you follow Daily Science Fiction, then you probably saw this morning's email that started "Major glitches on the spaceship DSF" and you may be wondering what some of that was about. Well, this is what some of that was about.

So I recently had a story accepted by Daily Science Fiction called Marla Corbet: Living (With The Invaders). (I never got around to a formal announcement, so if you'd like to read it, you can find it here. It's a very silly thing about an ersatz Martha Stewart. And human hair. And alien poop. You'll love it.) It was accepted on …

"Writing Lots!" by Dawn Vogel

Hi, I'm Dawn, and I'm doing guest post here on Kurt's blog. I write fantasy, steampunk, YA, and pretty much anything else that looks shiny for a moment. You can learn more about me here! Today, I'm talking about how I write as much as I do.

I've been writing since I knew how to do so, but I've been writing with an eye toward publication for about eleven years. As I've gotten more comfortable with the craft of writing, my productivity has increased dramatically. In the first six years I was writing seriously, I wrote fewer than twenty short stories, all told. Over the next three years, I increased my output and wrote about a dozen stories a year (with an occasional poem mixed in). Last year, I wrote 38 short stories/flash and 6 poems. This year, I've already surpassed that, and it's only September.

In analyzing how I've increased my output so dramatically, I've found three main keys to my prolific writing: 1) planning, 2) stolen moments, and 3)…

100 Albums

Hello all!

In an attempt to keep the old blog from atrophying, I'm going to try out a project a friend of mine did a few years ago and spend the year writing about some of my favorite albums. So over the next 50 weeks, you can expect a couple entries a week until we get to 100. Or until I run out of steam and give up. Whichever comes first.

The only rule I'm giving myself here is to limit things to one album per artist. If that would preclude other favorite albums from making the list, I'll note it, but I don't want the list to be completely overrun by Radiohead and the Beatles. I'm going to start at the top of the list (that is, with my #1 favorite), but the ordering is not super rigorous--especially beyond the first twenty or so.

I'll put a master list on a page that's easily accessible from the front and I'll probably throw in some supplemental stuff, like albums I loved as a child but can't really listen to anymore for various reasons or albums …