System of a Down: Mezmerize
System of a Down: Mezmerize
For a brief period half a decade ago, Limp Bizkit was the biggest hard-rock band in the world. With its obnoxious name and image, along with endlessly obnoxious frontman Fred Durst, Bizkit received more hatred and negativity than Durst could ever spew back in his lyrics’ infantile rage. Following guitarist Wes Borland’s departure, the band was quiet for a couple years, and post-Sept. 11 Durst’s public appearances became more reserved and solemn, trading in his trademark red backward baseball cap for . . . a black backward baseball cap.
The Unquestionable Truth (Part 1) is the first EP in a promised series, and the first release since Borland’s return. Instead of trumpeting the comeback of the band’s original lineup, however, the EP has been intentionally released with absolutely no promotion or fanfare. The seven simply titled songs provide a sober and sludgy c0ntrast to Bizkit’s once cartoonish rap metal, with Durst wimpering more than rapping or screaming as he weighs in on topics such as the Catholic church sex scandals (“The Priest”), the media (“The Channel”), and fading fame (“The Story”). Bleh.
In recent years, System of a Down, a Southern California quartet of Armenian-American metal oddballs, has rapidly grown from a cult act to a serious contender for America’s biggest hard-rock act. And now, at the height of System’s popularity, it intersects with Limp Bizkit at its nadir. System’s 36-minute-long third album, Mezmerize, is only slightly longer than Bizkit’s EP, and is also the first part of a series, with a second album from the same sessions due out this fall. System covers many of the same hot-button topics as Durst, but with lyrics and music as warped and unexpectedly whimsical as Bizkit’s are solemn and labored.
System is often pegged as a political band, but in roughly the same sense that the Minutemen were, offering a leftist platform of enraged rants in the form of silly and often vulgar slogans over a relentless rush of nimble musicianship. It’s hard to accuse a band of taking itself too seriously when their catchiest hooks consist of phrases such as “it’s a nonstop disco, bet you it’s Nabisco” (“Violent Pornography”) and “my cock is much bigger than yours/ my cock can walk right through the door” (“Cigaro”).
System of a Down stays in speedy, spastic overdrive for most of Mezmerize, while sneaking in enough disarmingly pretty melodic passages to break up the monotony, in the process distilling the band’s music to its heaviest and most entertaining qualities. As the lyrics take steady aim at tired targets such as Hollywood, pop music, and the president, the music darts from one extreme to another, and shifting mood and tempo several times within a single song. Mezmerize may be too abrasively weird to expand System’s fan base, but it’s already reached such an unlikely summit that it can’t ask for much more than satisfying its cult.