Monday, December 17, 2012

System Of A Down: Hypnotize (Review)

Review of System of a Down's "Hypnotize" originally written in 2006.

The quick review of System Of A Down's "Hypnotize" is that this album is a masterpiece. This group of very talented and extremely intelligent individuals have just put themselves into the history books. The message shared is to educate ourselves, to learn that we are free, and to resist corporate laws disguised as protection from invisible enemies. This is done eloquently in operatic form by two vocal talents, each with dual personalities, and delivered with force while riding on a crest of layered music. If you want to know what the band is feeling, what they are going through and what is going to happen to us as a society, if we do not do a 180-degree turn and stop this madness, then listen to the brilliance. Loop individual songs so that you get to know each one intimately. All the songs are connected and when put together tell a grim story about us, and the world we have created. Buy this album, download it, read the lyrics, listen to the rhythm, and put it all together because "Hypnotize" is reality hitting you by the side of the head with a two-by-four. Truly one of the greatest albums ever created.

That was the quick version of what "Hypnotize" is really about. However, the only way to do justice to this work is to do a little in-depth analysis on just one of the main themes presented.

Simply put, what System Of A Down (SOAD) have created is one of the best and most beautifully produced albums ever to be release. It is also one of the most relevant albums to have ever been released in our time or any other time in history. It captures the anger, the pain and the frustration associated with the stupidity and ignorance that is the corporate war machine. It leaves us with the realization that aside from the power hungry vermin, the corporate profiteers, and the religious fanatics there is no one else profiting from the American Military Complex and the death and destruction that it is unleashing.

Two songs in this album require special recognition. The first is "Holy Mountain". Many people have been assuming that this song is only about honoring the Armenian Genocide committed by the Turk's during World War I. If that were the end of this story then we would not be living in this reality. "Holy Mountain" is not just about a genocide that happened in the past in which the perpetrators of the crime deny any responsibility, it is also about a genocide that is happening right now, while the perpetrators deny any responsibility. In "Holy Mountain" we are a rare witness to the depths of the pain and anguish that must reside in the victims of oppression. This song is desperately screaming and pleading with us to understand that history is repeating itself. Genocide is happening right now, in our name and with our support. So please wake up.

The second song that needs special consideration is "Soldier Side". We are reminded of the true cost of war. The fact that it's not others that we are killing, but ourselves. For each one of us that is sacrificed to this chaos, a part of us dies. SOAD reminds us that no matter what the crime or innocence, nor the level of stupidity or ignorance, no one deserves to be effected by this suicidal insanity.

The songs mentioned above are only two of the variables in "Hypnotize" that have allowed it to reach this level of excellence. The first song on this album sets the tone and prepares us for this audio experience by shattering the illusion of a divine cause in waging war using "the cold insincerity of steel machines". The indiscriminate destruction caused by our continual attack on what we do not understand is shown to be "the philosophy of displaced minds". The rest of the album builds from this initial moment by developing a unique personality for each song, which in turn connects the remainder of this work in an intricate symphony.

Even the transitions from one song to the next, throughout the album, reflect and amplify each individual song. One of these profound moments occurs from the beginning of "U-Fig", implying You-Figure-It-Out, to the mesmerizing rollover into "Holy Mountain".

In "U-Fig" there are two voices in conflict. At the beginning, the warmongers are calling to the masses to "come join the cause" and "melt in the sun", and "hide in the sky". The voice used to portray these entities is of a vile excuse for a human being, reminiscent of fascist leaders. After the initial two verses the voice of reason kicks in and suggests that we, that's "you and me", should do something to silence these "pathetic flag waving ignorant geeks". The conflict and the play in the lyrics between the two sides are amplified by the intricacy of the music. The angry chaotic beat of the war cry is silenced by a beautiful calming mandolin like guitar riff which in turn is shattered again by the chaos created by these "murderer(s)". This play continues into a beautiful climax where it is suggested that by standing up and resisting, perhaps "it'll show your mind that you have a mind".

There is an urgency in "U-Fig" which is brought upon by the realization that "we're out of time". The reason for this urgency and the consequence of our apathy is explained in the genocide that is magnificently depicted in "Holy Mountain". The rollover into the opening words, "Can you feel their haunting presence?" forces us to acknowledge that "they have all returned". Not only the same "liar(s), killers(s)" and "demon(s)" responsible for so much pain in the past, but also the victims, seeking retribution and justice.

"Hypnotize" is not twelve individual songs but one continuous story looped within itself to convey one simple message which has been the core teaching of SOAD from the beginning of their collaboration. All that they have required of us from the start, with the release of their first album, was to really "look at each other" and realize, that according to our government, "free thinkers are dangerous", and that is why "they" are spreading "blame" and "hate". One simple verse from their second album "Toxicity" explains the ultimate purpose of these creatures; "They're trying to build a prison, for you and me to live in". Hence "Hypnotize" is not really the second part of a double album, but the fifth album of one glorious production called compassion.

The depth of the lyrics with their brilliant imagery alone is among the best in the music industry. How many people in the world have ever felt frustration so powerful, or woken up with a cold sweat in panic, because they were "dreaming of screaming"? Unfortunately, many in war torn countries have, just like the families and friends of some of our dead. Young and old, man and women, the weak and the strong, no one is immune and no one is spared from the devastation. With three simple words overlain on top of hypnotic music they have captured the horror of loss.

To the rest of the music industry, the following message is shared. SOAD just "killed your rock and roll" and all those "sexy people" selling the past and the distorted products of the corporate entities. Welcome to the relevant world and the new rock that spits in the face of greed.

As SOAD puts it, we are "breathing each others lives", and if "we fall, we all fall". "We're the prophetic generation of bottled water" "causing poor populations to die" and we're about to "bring the dark disaster". The "murderer(s)" have "mesmerize(d) the simple minded" while "propaganda leaves us blinded". At this moment there are "two suns fighting" and we're "watching them both fighting" and "seeing them both dying". "Superstition (is) taking all of us for a ride" and "we're going down in a spiral to the ground" because "no one's gonna save us now".

How magnificent it would be, if "Hypnotize" with all its glory was turned into a musical. Can you picture the stage? An arena with two sides in a death match. The corporate war machines with their brainwashed sheeple "eat(ing) all the grass that (they) want" versus "you and me" and the survival of humanity. How could SOAD fail in raising awareness if they use imagery and music overlain on top of their lyrics to help educate the masses and set right what has gone wrong? I watched twenty thousand people sing their words and raise their fists in defiance during their performance of "Mesmerize" in Vancouver, and I for one will be there again for "Hypnotize" and beyond.

This album would have made John Lennon proud, incorporates the wrath and truth of Black Sabbath's "War Pigs", and echoes the words of Langston Hughes and Nina Simone in "The Backlash Blues":
But the world is big
Big and bright and round
And it's full of folks like me
Who are black, yellow, beige and brown.
Mr. Backlash, I'm gonna leave you
With the backlash blues
Brilliant, magnificent and intoxicating. Hypnotic music to awaken the life within.

January 2006

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