Double album sets have often been seen as an indulgence by an artist or band overcome with their own confidence in their creativity and abilities. With the rare exception of a concept record like THE WHO's "Tommy" or PINK FLOYD's "The Wall", even acclaimed collections like the SMASHING PUMPKINS' "Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness" or GUNS N' ROSES' massive "Use Your Illusion 1 & 2" are seen as solid single albums hidden in a sprawling, excessive package and surrounded by filler.In the case of SYSTEM OF A DOWN, the band deflected the "double album" stigma by releasing their magnum opus in two pieces: "Mezmerize" came out in May, while the second half, "Hypnotize", arrived at the end of November. Both releases are clearly the product of the same recording sessions, and the band insists that they form one complete work. Yet, oddly enough, "Hypnotize" is the lesser of the two. Many of its musical themes sound like rehashes of better songs on "Mezmerize", and the tunes themselves simply aren't as good or powerful as those on the earlier album. Still, this is SYSTEM OF A DOWN, one of the most original heavy rock bands to come along in the last decade, so even a weaker record by the band (like its 2002 collection of "Toxicity" leftovers, "Steal This Album!") has plenty of interesting and sometimes brilliant moments. The title track is effortlessly catchy, while "Tentative" has the somber, haunting quality and powerful hooks of previous SYSTEM classics like "Aerials" and "Sad Statue". In fact, it's the slower songs here that are the most memorable, such as the album's penultimate track, "Lonely Day", a poignant meditation on death. Some appealing surf influences crop up on songs like "Stealing Society" and "She's Like Heroin", but the most generic tunes on the album are the thrashier ones like "Attack" and "Dreaming". Several old and new SYSTEM trademarks are still in abundance on "Hypnotize", such as the band's abrupt swings between political lyrics and bizarre food metaphors (like "Banana terracotta terracotta pie" on "Vicinity of Obscenity") and the increased vocal presence of guitarist Daron Malakian, whose voice here is not as annoying as it was on "Mezmerize". Clearly the least interesting of all four (or five, if you count "Steal…") of SYSTEM's albums, "Hypnotize" is not a fatal blunder by any means but just proof that even the most creative and unique of musical acts can occasionally come up thin. Taken as a whole, "Mezmerize/Hypnotize" still fares better than most projects of the same size: I'd say there's a great album and a half here when all is said and done.
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