SYSTEM OF A DOWN are nu metal's Mothers of Invention: they make left turns out of nowhere, segueing from Slipknot to Sublime, and write dumbed-down but sneakily political lyrics about giant cocks and "gonorrhea gorgonzola" and suchlike. Singers Daron Malakian and Serj Tankian play at being hammy meatheads, parodying the snotty Blink-182 whine and the marble-mouthed billy-goat voice Eddie Vedder made famous: "Radio/Video," the second single from the new Mezmerize (Columbia), begins with the refrain "Hey man look at me rockin' out / I'm on the radio." As with Zappa's stuff, the stylistic leapfrogging can be a little annoying--sometimes you just wanna bang your head into oblivion, but these guys like to drop out of a vicious grind and make with the sarcastic touchy-feely power-ballad stuff. They're smart enough to know that their core demographic is maybe not so smart, so they repeat themselves over and over to penetrate the old gray matter--the antiwar song "B.Y.O.B." hammers on the line "Why do they always send the poor?" at least a dozen times. Of course, some people are just too thick to catch on. I heard a DJ on the Zone offer a rebuttal to the song a few months ago, before the station switched to an oldies format: "Duh," he said. "Of course they always send the poor. They're the only ones who sign up. Deal with it, man. Get over it." Hope you can sleep at night, dude.
In a total Sonic Youth move, System of a Down chose Sacramento noise-metal duo HELLA to open a string of dates on this arena tour--one of those what-the-fuck decisions you just have to respect. The most recent Hella album, a double CD on Suicide Squeeze, is split between relentless drummer Zach Hill, who wrote and performed the action-packed Church Gone Wild, and guitarist Spencer Seim, who's responsible for the glammy Chirpin Hard, a loud casino carpet of spacey duck calls and fake-fancy computer stylings. Two additional musicians will flesh out the arrangements live.
Mars Volta has the middle spot on the bill. Fri 9/30, 7 PM, Allstate Arena, 6920 Mannheim, Rosemont, 847-635-6601 or 312-559-1212, $32.50-$45. All ages.