System of a Down 

Hypnotize

One of the most original hard-rock bands ever to gain a bankable following, System of a Down 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 Zappalike 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 SOAD, whose punky spontaneity is its hidden ace. When an obnoxious, jabbering incitement to eat patriots sounds too familiar and downright casual, there's a problem. Unlike on this May's sister release, Mezmerize -- both a more fun and more clearly political record -- 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 Queenish "Kill Rock 'n' Roll." It's time for System of a Down to shock its own system. -- Andrew Marcus

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