System of a Down’s agenda is an honorable one: social awakening via frenetic thrash-metal. But rather than put their itinerary in plain sight, the band members impel you to dig a little deeper on Mesmerize, couching Serj Tankian’s vitriolic vocals in a clinically hyperactive mix of carnival theatrics, time changes and intricate metal workouts.
Part of a double album (Hypnotize is due for a November release, but both were recorded together), Mesmerize packs all of System’s characteristic insanity into eleven tracks. There’s no filler here; there’s barely space for a spare breath. But amidst the bombast, there are a few moments of clarity, and though fleeting, they’re certainly worth the wait.
“Revenga” assaults from the first ridiculously fast riff, but for about a minute near the end the players cool out and you hear a band supremely confident in its arena-sized intentions. And the disco-funk chorus of “B.Y.O.B.” (“Everybody’s going to the party have a real good time/ Dancing in the desert, blowing up the sunshine”), says in a simple sing-along lyric what a thousand indecipherable syllables, single-note riffs and double-bass drum hits can’t: This band has a clear stance, and here it is.