System of a Down doesn’t compromise

It didn’t take long after the disbandment of Rage Against the Machine for the Armenian rockers System of a Down to take Rage’s place at the throne of the most politically engaging rock group in the mainstream. And like Rage, System of a Down likes to make their presence known. Now with the second release to their two-part album, this band will surely get the attention they’ve been looking for.

Hypnotize, released in May, is a consistently pleasing, hard-edged album. It took risks, but it never needed to leave the shallow end of the pool. Hypnotize is the album that decided to jump of the deep end and never come up for air. It is definitely a “different album.” Pulsating, loud, jagged and almost inconsumable, Hypnotize is deliriously enjoyable and a little too over-the-top for its own good at times. While still keeping with the feel of a System album, Hypnotize sometimes goes overboard. “Vicinity of Obscenity,” for instance, is an exercise not only in self-indulgence but in futility as well. Its obscurity and blatant resistance to any formal arrangement of music makes it often funny and pretty unbearable.

There are a few songs along with “Obscenity” that give the album an almost frightening quality. No doubt some of these songs are electrifying in their vulgarity, but that doesn’t make them nearly as enjoyable as they are attention-grabbing. Songs like “U-Fig,” “Stealing Society” and “Dreaming” feel stiff and out of control.

Negative aspects aside, Hypnotize feels like a means to an end. There’s no doubt that some keen trimming and self-determination could have made these two albums a very strong single album. But one thing System of a Down is definitely not known for is compensating their artistic integrity… even if that means a worse product.

Danny Gordon can be contacted at