System of a Down

Hypnotize (Sony)

One of the most original bands to gain a bankable following is beginning to sound a little too comfortable in its own self-invented genre. Not that any other band has duplicated the formula: metalcore mosh with auctioneer-gone-mad vocals, followed by incantational harmonies and exotic-stringed acoustic breaks. And few other bands with such Zappa-like contempt for pop culture have landed on MTV. But more than half the tracks on Hypnotize follow the tried and true with professional polish — not a good thing for the band whose punky spontaneity is its hidden ace. When a jabbering, balls-out, obnoxious incitement to eat patriots sounds too familiar and downright casual, there's a problem. Unlike May's sister release, Mezmerize — which was more fun and more clearly political — Hypnotize's best tracks are the less frenetic ones: the title song's meditative, midtempo heaviness, the unclassifiable textures of "She's Like Heroin," and the nearly Queen-ish "Kill Rock 'N Roll." It's time for System of a Down to shock its own system.

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