Published Jan 01, 2006Apparently System of a Down don't think you can handle the truth at least not all in one chunk. Fear of overloading fans with their lyrically intense and musically complex brand of politically-charged whip-smart speed metal is one of the reasons they are releasing their new album, Hypnotize, just six months after they unleashed Mezmerize.
"It's a double record released six months apart so that people can digest the first portion before biting into the second," explains vocalist Serj Tankian during a tour stop in Oakland, California. "Our music is really progressive and if you're listening to an hour, hour and 20 minutes back to back it's really exhausting. We don't like listening to long records. It's more enjoyable to us to write short and sweet and it leaves you wanting more. All of that made us not want to put out a double record all at once; however, we had a lot of songs that we wanted to release from the same sessions. We had to do a lot of work convincing the label to do this, but it's something we really wanted."
But make no mistake, says Tankian, the fact that the two records were planned as parts of a greater whole and happen to touch on the same themes of concern and social malaise, and the second record ends with the conclusion of the "Soldier Side Intro" from the first one, they are not to be considered one big "concept" record. Think of it more like 1991's two-volume Guns N' Roses set Use Your Illusion but please, in format only.
"It's not a concept record, it's not a thematic record in any way whatsoever," he says. "Part two isn't trying to answer a question or lend some other part. Had we not released them separately then people wouldn't be asking, How is part two different?'"
Yet there are noticeable differences between the two discs. If Mezmerize was the more up-tempo, quirky yang side, Hypnotize is most certainly its darker, heavier yin. "Mezmerize and Hypnotize are titles that are very alike yet have differences in vibe," Tankian offers. "Mezmerize alludes to a more spiritual sense, whereas, for me, Hypnotize has a more sinister connotation. The songs that danced well together were chosen for each instalment of the double record."
If there is a common thematic thread linking the two records, it is the continued lyrical pounding "The Man" takes in what can be only be called protest songs, albeit a little cryptically at times. "It's very important for us that our music is timeless," says Tankian of the deliberately vague lyrics. "It's a little strange listening to music from the past alluding to a specific person or situation that [no longer] exist. The power of music is in its diverse reach and how people internalise it and relate to it."
Having found massive and admittedly unexpected mainstream success following the release of 2001's Toxicity, the band spent more time they were counting on touring in support. And being a band that don't stop writing, the four years in between meant an embarrassment of riches.
"[Guitarist] Daron [Malakian] and I write music incessantly without even thinking what it's for," Tankian says. "We actually had to cut it down to get it on two records. I think we recorded 33 songs. The rest may appear on future compilations, greatest hits, or whatever, or not. I'd like to not release a few of them ever, not necessarily due to quality but placing. They may not belong on a System record."