Review Summary: Arguably the most creative and unique nu-metal album ever recorded.
Nu-metal and creativity are not two words that are commonly associated in 2010. The genre is stagnant, and most of the most influential bands in the genre, such as Korn and Limp Bizkit, have nearly descended into the realms of self-parody. However, the genre was an entirely different beast in the late 1990s. Among others, the aforementioned titans Korn and Limp Bizkit were experimenting with new sounds as they tried to mix rap and metal, two seemingly opposite genres, and the end result was largely successful. Even though many of albums released at this time were interesting, none were amazing. None until System of a Down entered the scene in 1998 and released their most interesting album, System of a Down
System of a Down
is different from all of this band's other albums. This is certainly the accessible and definitely the most progressive of the band's impressive discography, and is additionally the least melodic. On this album, System of a Down play around with many different sounds, which results in all the songs being very distinguishable and different from each other. On songs such as Sugar
, guitarist Daron Malakian flirts around with slow, grinding riffs, while singer Serj Tankian yells disjointedly, while on some compositions, such Ddevil
, Serj's voice jumps up and down octaves as Daron plays lightning fast, thrashy riffs. The band tries something new on each song, but their experiments are all surprisingly successful.
One of the biggest strengths of this album is how skillfully the mood of the music is manipulated. Mind
, for example, is frightening, with the slow, quiet baseline, Serj's hypnotic chanting, and Darons high-pitched, mesmerizing riffs spasmodically exploding into a din whenever the listener least expects it. P.L.U.C.K
, a song about the Armenian genocide, however conjures completely different feelings. Serj's furious screams and occasional growls, along with the lightning fast drumming and down tuned and Daron's yells of 'Watch them all fall down!" convey warlike anger. The quirky Suggestions
is almost humorous, and Serj's (purposefully) overly theatrical high pitched shrieks always bring a smile to my to face.
While all of the songs are fantastically written, there are two definite highlights: Mind
. Not coincidentally, these are the most progressive and experimental songs on the album.
starts with an ominous, brooding baseline which is joined by a very slow riff reminiscent of Middle Eastern music. Serj croons:
Look at each other, Look at each other,
Look at each other, Look at each other
And then the song explodes. Serj screams at the top of his lungs as grinding riffs are played.
Free thinkers are dangerous
claims Tankian, as the song speeds up and almost Slayer-esque riffs enter. The rest of the song bounces between the slow, subdued sound of the intro, the chugging verse, and the thrashy mayhem of the chorus.
is perhaps the oddest song on a very odd album. Serj alternates between high pitched, harmonized shrieks, moans, singing, harsh vocals and monotone vocals. The guitars alternate between calm single notes, melodic leads, and frightening riffs. Onye moment, the song could be a slow chant about nuns and their destructive lifestyles, and the next moment, it could erupt into a shout about clock men.
This is one of the most eccentric and eclectic nu-metal albums ever written and it is very consistently strong. If you ever doubted the genre, listen to this at least once.