System of a Down Play Two

Hard rockers ready two new albums, months apart

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Southern California hard rockers System of a Down will release a double album in two parts, six months apart. Hypnotize is due early next year, and Mesmerize will hit late next summer or early fall. The band says the two discs are surprisingly diverse, inspired by Kraftwerk, the Beach Boys and the Zombies.

"We mixed a lot of styles together without making them seem like they don't belong together," says guitarist Daron Malakian. "We're going to give everybody the System of a Down roller coaster, but don't expect it to sound like it has before."

System -- Malakian, singer Serj Tankian, bassist Shavo Odadjian and drummer John Dolmayan -- began writing and rehearsals for the new set in North Hollywood in January. The quartet spent the summer in a Los Angeles mansion with producer Rick Rubin, who has worked with the band repeatedly.

The band issued an odds-and-ends collection in 2002, Steal This Album!, but Hypnotize/Mesmerize is the proper follow-up album to 2001's Toxicity, which hit Number One and has sold over 3.3 million copies in the U.S.

"One of the reasons for releasing Steal This Album! was to close the book on all of those songs and move on," says Malakian. "The whole world's gone crazy over the past couple of years, so that's brought out a lot of emotions and affected our songwriting. We just want to make a great rock record, a record that will be heavy, but heavy in emotion, not just riffs."

As for the always-active Tankian, the System singer took time out this July to organize a benefit for L.A.'s homeless through Axis of Justice, the political action group he formed with Audioslave's Tom Morello in early 2003. Tankian also performed at a pro-labor rally with Steve Earle during the Republican National Convention in New York City in September, and he appears on poet and political activist Saul Williams' new self-titled record.

System of a Down will most likely preview material from their upcoming double-disc release during six performances for the Big Day Out festival in Australia and New Zealand, kicking off January 21st.