Mezmerize and Hypnotize are the fourth and fifth albums by System of a Down, respectively. Released months apart in 2005, both debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, and enjoyed extensive mainstream success thanks to the singles "B.Y.O.B." (stands for Bring Your Own Bombs), "Question!", "Hypnotize", and "Lonely Day". Originally intended as a Distinct Double Album, the records were split to reflect the band's choice to let their audience absorb each individual track rather than giving unfair attention toward the hits.
The album focuses on more alternative elements than their previous Progressive Metal albums, such as soaring acoustics, string sections, and more direct lyrics. In particular, the songs focus more on Lighter and Softer bits with Epic Riffs laden throughout, such as on the non-singles "Radio/Video", "Sad Statue", "Lost in Hollywood", "Holy Mountains", and "Soldier Side". In other songs such as "Stealing Society" and "U-Fig", the album has a more experimental aesthetic than before, especially since they straddle Metal Screams with minimalist guitar pieces.
Guitarist Daron Malakian was the leading creative force on this album and co-produced it along with Rick Rubin. This led to some tension within the band, especially since vocalist Serj Tankian, who had previously composed most of the songs, decided to focus more on his solo career during the production and recording. The band has not released an album since, mainly due to Serj's reluctance to overcompensate and to put out something poor in quality, since it is regarded as a Tough Act to Follow. However, after an extended hiatus, the members have still continued to perform together live since 2009, and each band member has had successful solo careers.
Notably, "B.Y.O.B." won a Grammy Award in 2006 for Best Hard Rock Performance, and remains their only Top 40 hit to this day.
- "Soldier Side - Intro" (1:03)
- "B.Y.O.B." note (4:15)
- "Revenga" (3:48)
- "Cigaro" (2:11)
- "Radio/Video" (4:09)
- "This Cocaine Makes Me Feel Like I'm on This Song" (2:08)
- "Violent Pornography" (3:31)
- "Question!" (3:20)
- "Sad Statue" (3:25)
- "Old School Hollywood" (2:56)
- "Lost in Hollywood" (5:20)
- "Attack" (3:06)
- "Dreaming" (3:59)
- "Kill Rock 'n Roll" (2:27)
- "Hypnotize" (3:09)
- "Stealing Society" (2:58)
- "Tentative" (3:36)
- "U-Fig" (2:55)
- "Holy Mountains" (5:28)
- "Vicinity of Obscenity" (2:51)
- "She's Like Heroin" (2:44)
- "Lonely Day" (2:47)
- "Soldier Side" (3:40)
- Serj Tankian vocals, keyboards, theremin
- Daron Malakian vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards
- Shavo Odadjian bass, backing vocals
- John Dolmayan drums
Welcome to the troper side... there is no one here but me...
- Album Title Drop: Mezmerize is named for a lyric in "Hypnotize", which is on the Hypnotize side of the album: "Mezmerize the simple-minded/Propaganda leaves you blinded".
- Bookends: "Soldier Side (intro)" and "Soldier Side" on either album.
- Breather Episode: Hypnotize in general has a lot of gloomy, slow songs. However, it also includes "Kill Rock 'N Roll", an upbeat number about running over a bunny, and "Vicinity of Obscenity", a piece of Word-Salad Humor which encourages the listener to "beat the meat".
- Downer Ending: "Lost in Hollywood" on Mezmerize is a sad reflection on the way fame eats people up. This directly contrasts with "Old School Hollywood", which is a silly track about washed-up stars trying to maintain their own relevance. On Hypnotize, "Soldier Side" is about the human costs of war and how people's faith in God die along with their loved ones. This contrasts "B.Y.O.B", "Stealing Society", and "U-Fig", which mostly mock the capitalist element to war.
- Epic Rocking: "Holy Mountains", "Lost in Hollywood", and even "Radio/Video" with all its genre shifts throughout.
- Faceless Goons: In the "B.Y.O.B." music video, Mecha-Mooks with words such as "Capitalism" or "Greed" storm a party and transform its members, including the band itself, into the same goons. It's a strange critique on how media forces us to think a certain way.
- Hooker with a Heart of Gold: "She's Like Heroin", which fetishizes having sex with a more than cooperative hooker who's willing to let her client crossdress. One of the weirder tracks of the album, admittedly.
- Intellectually Supported Tyranny: "Sad Statue", which references in part how conquerors who commit vile acts are often more intelligent and "eloquent" than the average person:Conquest to the lover and your love to the fire
Permanence unfolding in the absolute
Forgiveness is the ultimate sacrifice
Eloquence belongs to the conqueror
- Kids Rock: Somewhat disturbingly, during the final chorus of "Cigaro", a bunch of kids can be heard screaming the lyrics.
- Lyrical Dissonance: "Kill Rock 'n Roll" is about how Daron ran over a bunny while going to work one day. Despite this, the song itself is very silly and lighthearted, with a strangely moving bridge.
- Lyrical Shoehorn: "B.Y.O.B." has really oblique verses; most of the words fit together just for the sake of rhyming. However, the words do sound very profound especially with the song's anti-war subtext.
- Mood Whiplash: "Holy Mountains" fades into the sexual "Vicinity of Obscenity" and then the even more sexual "She's Like Heroin". Then Hypnotize closes off with two of System's softest, most depressing songs, "Lonely Day" and "Soldier Side".
- Musical Pastiche: Several reviewers have suggested that "Lost in Hollywood" is the band's tribute to Radiohead's "Street Spirit (Fade Out)".
- Non-Appearing Title: "This Cocaine Makes Me Feel Like I'm on This Song". Considering the fact that this song is a weird Anti-Drug song, this makes the title all the more ironic.
- One-Word Title: "Revenga", "Cigaro", "Question!", "Attack", "Dreaming", "Hypnotize", "Tentative", and of course the album titles.
- Protest Song: "B.Y.O.B." It's about how the media treated the war in Iraq as lighthearted fare instead of accepting the war's basic disregard toward human dignity in the area.
- "U-Fig" builds on this, mentioning how military recruitment ads are really divisive propaganda.
- Questioning Title?: "Question!" zig-zags this.
- Song Style Shift: Most of them, but "Question!", with all its crazy time signature changes (5/4, 9/8, 6/4, 4/4, 3/4) takes the cake.
- "Radio/Video" has intense choruses, soft verses, then a really soft and then loud chorus, a reggae-style verse, and a solo.
- Surprisingly Gentle Song: "Lonely Day", "Hypnotize", and "Lost in Hollywood"; neither have the extremely jarring Song Style Shifts System is pretty much notorious for.
- Through the Eyes of Madness: The music video for "Question!", which first shows life metaphorically as though it is a play: a young couple falls in love before the woman eats a berry, dies, and gets carried away by Horsemen of the Apocalypse. It then shifts to show reality; the woman died during childbirth, and the baby is born to symbolize the renewal of life.
- We Have Become Complacent: "Sad Statue" mainly revolves around how our generation has grown complacent to the toxic influences society has on us, and how we cannot accept that we might be the last generation of civilization as we know it.
- Wham Line: "Tentative" has Where do you expect us to go when the bombs fall? "Sad Statue" has the bridge "What is it in us that turns a deaf ear to the cries of human suffering?"
- Word Salad Lyrics: "Vicinity of Obscenity" is deliberately nonsensical; according to Serj, Dadaism was the primary source of inspiration for the song.
It's a non-stop disco
- "Violent Pornography", seemingly about how sex and violence in the media makes us desensitized to these issues in real life, has this strange lyric:
Betcha it's Nabisco
Betcha didn't know, woo-hoo
- Would Be Rude to Say "Genocide": Justified in "Holy Mountains", which almost directly references the Armenian genocide (which the band is understandably vocal about, given that each member is Armenian). The song talks more about how difficult, but ultimately achievable, it is to move along from such a horrible mass killing. While it does call the perpetrators many things ("Demon" and "Sodomizer" being the standouts), it's more about how you should Earn Your Happy Ending by remembering it and calling attention to it, but not being bound by the chains of the past.