Thursday, 28 July 2011

System of a Down - Hypnotize (2005)

1. Attack
2. Dreaming
3. Kill Rock 'n Roll
4. Hypnotize
5. Stealing Society
6. Tentative
7. U-Fig
8. Holy Mountains
9. Vicinity of Obscenity
10. She's Like Heroin
11. Lonely Day
12. Soldier Side

Mezmerize Part Two – 6/10

Alternative metal giants System of a Down released two albums in the same year. First came Mezmerize, which is arguably their finest album, and second came Hypnotize… their final album before their long hiatus, which has ended a few weeks before I type this. It certainly matches the success its predecessor had, but does it match its quality?

No. Where Mezmerize sounded new, fresh and inventive, Hypnotize sounds like the band going through the very same motions, with a few exceptions of course. The good side is that the album is not really bad either. It’s actually quite ok from a certain angle. It contains the same formula of wacky, psycho metal as Mezmerize, with perhaps a less slick production. Malakian and the guys give us time to adjust with the bombastic “Attack”, which attacks you right in your face with the blastbeat intro. Its verses are very catchy and melodic, but the chorus is once again aggressive and bombastic. “Dreaming” is equally aggressive and bombastic with blastbeats and all, with a catchy hook hidden within. The middle section features an attempt at en epic bridge; something which works quite well. The shared vocal duties of Serj Tankian and Daron Malakian work remarkably well here, and on “Kill Rock ‘n Roll” as well. The latter track is comparable to the last few tracks of Mezmerize, with a very melodic and light ambience throughout. The title track “Hypnotize” is a lot more ambient and to the point than the tracks before and perfectly paints the face this album is about to adapt.

It is at this point that a few tracks start to become tediously dull and would receive the ‘filler-tag’. This tag will be awarded to: “Stealing Society”, which is a rather standard System song with nothing really memorable except for a short Malakian-rap about halfway through; “Tentative”, which actually reminds of the very first album in its intro, but quickly takes the modern System route; “U-Fig” … just another System song without anything memorable, which by the way also has verses that remind of the debut album; and “She’s Like Heroin”, with highly annoying vocals by Malakian. These songs aren’t necessarily bad, but are dull, unmemorable and forgettable. Furthermore we have System going for longer tracks with epic structures, as previously heard on songs like “Forest”, “Lost in Hollywood” or “Streamline”. This time that song is “Holy Mountains”. The track unmistakably has a killer chord progression as the main theme, but sounds a little forced throughout and never really stands out. “Vicinity of Obscenity” is one of the weirdest songs I ever heard and I wouldn’t know how to describe it. I can just say it’s wicked and features many weird and odd themes that are seemingly impossible to coexist within one song, let alone in less than three minutes. It is one of the few good tracks of the album’s second side though. All that is left now is the very commercial and somewhat tedious single “Lonely Day” and the epic album closer “Soldier Side”, with its strong lyrics.

I don’t want to dedicate more time for this album’s review. It’s pretty much System doing what System does. The result? There’s a few outstanding tracks, a couple of nice songs and a lot of forgettable tracks. I wouldn’t really recommend Hypnotize to anyone unfamiliar with the band. You’d have a better start with Toxicity or Mezmerize. If you know the band this album definitely got some gems on it.

Strongest tracks: “Attack”, “Dreaming”, “Vicinity of Obscenity” and “Soldier Side”.
Weakest tracks: “Stealing Society”, “Tentative”, “U-Fig” and “She’s Like Heroin”.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Gothminister - Gothic Electronic Anthems (2003)

1. Gothic Anthem
2. Angel
3. The Holy One
4. Pray
5. The Possession
6. Devil
7. Shadows of Evil Sins
8. Hatred
9. March of the Dead
10. Wish
11. Post Ludium
12. Angel (Club version)

The Gothminister’s Debut – 7,8/10

The first album of Gothminister finds the man still having some kind of one-man-project with a message to all Goths in the world. He boasts heavily to be proud of what you are and to face the darkness within on this first album, which is appropriately entitled Gothic Electronic Anthems.

As you might expect, the album features a strong blend between electronic music and gothic rock. Gothminister’s use of a drum computer adds more to the techno-feeling throughout the album. Especially the first few tracks feature a heavy dance-beat with a strong offbeat computerized hi-hat to begin with. Strong trance-like synths bring an even more techno feel, but are often compromised with a heavy guitar riff underneath. Alexander Brem’s deep, low, crunchy voice makes it sound like another Rammstein-clone, but this act is surely bringing some new sounds to the table. As for the gothic elements; especially in the more quiet parts choirs attend to add more ambient backing vocals and of course the lyrics are all aimed at Goths all around the world. The booklet is filled with text about being proud of what you are and not letting anyone exclude you for being different. And they are told that interest in the dark and unknown will make you stronger than avoiding the unknown, which I guess is true. The fact that Brem calls himself the Gothminister would appeal to some, but would sound very arrogant to others, so this preaching to Goths perhaps doesn’t really appeal to non-Goths like myself, but I respect his vision Happiness in Darkness. It fits the music as well and at least this is not depressive dark metal.

The album kicks off with the peculiarly titled “Gothic Anthem” which kicks some serious ass with the heavy techno-beat underneath and the simple-but-effective guitars. The barbaric voice of Brem gives the song some extra kick a clean voice wouldn’t have been able to. “Angel” and “The Holy One” continue in the same vein, both being really worthwhile and some of the album’s finest tracks. “Pray” finds Brem going all-electronic with an even harder beat, which is a little too electronic for my taste. I find it to be one of Gothminister’s weaker tracks. “The Possession” blends nicely with “Devil”; a more upbeat track with another great offbeat industrial beat. This one has a really nice riff as well, which kind of makes up for the weak chorus. “Hatred” and “March of the Dead” both carry on with the goth/industrial blend, but lean more to the gothic side of the mixture. Then there are ballads. “Shadows of Evil Sins” feature a soft guitar plucking at the background with choirs performing and a dirty, evil whisper on the foreground. Since the song doesn’t really build to anything beautiful, it sounds more like Brem telling a ghost story over a backing track. The man has written way better ballads with “Wish” and “Post Ludium”. On “Wish” we have a beautiful chorus sung by female choirs and a definitive building within the song and a nice instrumental part in the middle. “Post Ludium” features these auto-tuned vocals like in “Pray”, but this time around it blends in nicely with the epic instrumentation. That’s a satisfactory disclosure to the album of anthems.

All in all, Gothic Electronic Anthems is not a bad debut album at all. While Gothminister presents himself as a teacher and preacher, he does know how to write good music with a good blend of gothic and industrial. The man has a vision with his music and that is respectable. This album is heavily recommended to fans of the goth/industrial genre.

Strongest tracks: “Gothic Anthem”, “The Holy One” and “Post Ludium”.
Weakest tracks: “Pray” and “Shadows of Evil Sins”.