Saturday, August 27, 2005

System of a Down

Woohoo! Headed to see System of A Down and The Mars Volta tonight at The Centrum (or BankCenter of whoever just bought it) in Worcester Ma. Am very psyched to see System - one of my very favorite bands. This will be my first time seeing them headline, I caught them a couple years ago on OzzFest.

Here is a decent article on them from yesterday's Boston Globe.

Pounding out a blistering attack
System of a Down lashes out at Hollywood, war, and hypocrisy

By Steve Morse, Globe Staff August 26, 2005

Hollywood was no fantasy for Daron Malakian. Forget about celluloid heroes or silver-spoon coddling in mansions. Such dreams were not part of his childhood.
''I grew up across from a motel where a lot of prostitutes hung around. And there were a lot of gangs," he says. ''When I think of Hollywood, I don't think of the movies."
Malakian is now a co-songwriter/co-conspirator with System of a Down, a hugely successful group of rock provocateurs that attacks greed, hypocrisy, and self-righteous superiority wherever it sees it. The band headlines the DCU Center (formerly the Centrum) in Worcester tomorrow.
On the new album ''Mezmerize," Malakian takes some head-on shots at his hometown.
Give a listen to ''Lost in Hollywood" (with the warning verse, ''You should've never gone to Hollywood . . . they look at you in disgusting ways") and the slamming ''Old School Hollywood," about Malakian playing in a celebrity baseball game at Dodger Stadium with the likes of Tony Danza and pop-nostalgia singer Frankie Avalon. The verse ''Old school Hollywood, washed up Hollywood" is the nasty summary of it.
''I played for about two seconds in the game," notes Malakian, who is ordinarily a big baseball fan. ''No one knew who I was. They were looking at me like, 'Who is this guy?' But I don't think that Frankie Avalon is the biggest System of a Down fan."
Even though his band has achieved major success, Malakian says LA and its class distinctions still provide plenty of songwriting material. ''I just drive around Hollywood and observe people and make up stories about them," he says. ''You could compare it to Lou Reed singing a lot about street life."
The group was once labeled ''nu metal" and lumped in with such acts as Korn, Limp Bizkit, and Rage Against the Machine. But Rage is gone, Korn and Bizkit have faded, and that leaves System, which has never felt comfortable with glib stereotypes.
''We don't belong to any one scene," says Malakian.
On such CDs as ''Toxicity," ''Steal This Album!" (a play on the old Abbie Hoffman book title), and ''Mezmerize," the band demonstrates an extraordinary ability to write songs that sound unlike anyone else's. Malakian's frantic rat-a-tat guitar rhythms intertwine with singer Serj Tankian's supersonic vocals -- and the result is a strangely controlled chaos. It's then topped by lyrics that might blast the president's war policies one minute, then talk about Hollywood a few songs later.
''A lot of bands sound the same these days, but as soon as you hear System of a Down, you know immediately who it is," says Mistress Carrie, the music director and acting program director of WAAF (107.3 FM), which is presenting the DCU Center show.
''They go from a politically charged, screaming rant all of a sudden into this sweet melodic chorus and you think, 'How did that happen?' " adds Carrie. ''They're an enigma. According to the formulaic nature of the music business, they shouldn't be successful. . . . People are usually afraid to take chances on a band that is that quirky, different, and strange, but in this case, people have really gravitated to them."
System has paid its dues -- playing Ozzfest and doing a tour with Slipknot -- while observers have struggled to describe the band. It was once labeled a cross between Frank Zappa and Slayer. Malakian will buy that, but says, ''Zappa is big for me, but not as big as the Beatles because I really take a songwriting approach. I just really want to stress that."
System tunes have a complexity that betrays a surreal amount of experimentation and craft. ''Every song is like four different songs crammed together," says Mistress Carrie. ''If any other band tried to pull that off, it would sound messy and sloppy."
As for the group's political bite, there's no greater example than the recent single, ''B.Y.O.B.," inspired by a TV ad for the Army. ''It glamorized going into the Army," Malakian says. ''It made it look like a party where everybody was going to have a good time."
The song turns vitriolic with the line ''dancing in the desert blowing up the sunshine"; it never mentions Iraq by name but is a less-than-subtle allusion to it. Then comes the agitprop of ''Why don't presidents fight the war? Why do they always send the poor?"
''Back in the day, when the emperor or the king or whatever waged war, they went to war, too," says Malakian. ''But that's been lost in time."
The new album is meant to be a companion piece to another CD, ''Hypnotize," due in November. The band could have chosen to release them as a double album but opted to issue ''Mezmerize" and ''Hypnotize" separately.
''I feel like people have only heard half a record so far," adds Malakian. ''But we like releasing shorter records. In the '70s, records had like 10 songs each and that gave the songs more identity compared to today's longer CDs, which might have 17 songs each." (''Mezmerize" has 11.)
''I can't say which of the two albums is softer or heavier than the other," he concludes. ''Both are really all over the place, which is how we always are."
System of a Down appears with the Mars Volta and Bad Acid Trip at the DCU Center in Worcester tomorrow, 7 p.m. 617-931-2000.

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