Review Summary: One of the more obscure releases from the band, and yet, one of the best...
For System of a Down, it has been a wild evolution, no? From their quirky and ultimately greatest album, their debut, it would lay the foundation for everything the group stands for. Promoting their political rants, as well as giving wise and emotional stories of suicide and redemption, System of a Down are the best at what they do. When Toxicity came out, it was highly acclaimed for its success, pleased many people. On the other hand, Steal This Album! took a different approach. Though it was not intended as a return to roots for the band, this album still takes an indirect leap towards that direction, while still maintaining its true purpose: to display what Toxicity couldn't.
Though it is nothing more than a b-sides tribute, STA! is still one of the best releases by the band yet. It holds the potential we couldn’t get enough of Toxicity, as well as heading back to the basics in terms of their emotional music. This album is half-and-half of what the group has done up until this point, and is probably more necessary to own than even Toxicity.
As I stated before, this album takes two grand approaches to their content. From their debut, we see plenty examples of Daron going rhythmic with his guitar, as well as sustaining complex riffs from more
Toxicity-like songs. Or it could be Shavo shredding his ass off all the way through, or even Serj returning to his beloved quirky voice in an attempt to stand out again. Whatever the clear note is, each member does his part in making one of the most necessary albums ever to be included in System of a Down's discography.
As quickly as the album picks up, it only gets faster. The band has always excelled at setting the tone for their album. "Suite-Pee" from their debut was filled with everything the group needed in their tracks, and displayed one of their best performances. While "Prison Song" on the other hand held much potential in Toxicity. "Chic n" Stu" however, is a seriously controversial intro, while serious, and slamming the advertising industry, but still exemplifying a quirky attitude that compliments the whole first half of the album nicely. Aside from referencing to a band that’s not well-liked, one of their albums has a huge similarity to this one. Honestly, some of the best that this album has to offer can be found on the later parts of the album. However, songs like "A.D.D." and "Mr. Jack" are highly recommended. But for the more obvious b-side tracks, "Innervision" and "Bubbles" take the same route Toxicity, and are only recommended if you're looking for an extension to the album. However, songs like "Ego Brain", which is my personal favorite, or even "Highway Song" show huge amounts of emotion, and the ultimate songs worth listening to.
All this mish-mash of songs does have one drawback. This mix between emotion, quirkiness, and seriousness creates tension amongst the album. But whenever this creates a problem, you can count on one of the best songs on the album to break this off. "*** the System" is definitely a high-point for the band as a whole, and offers one of the best moods you could ever face in any of their albums. "36" is another bizarre track. clocking in at just under a minute, this song doesn’t do much in the way of lyrics, or instrumentation. It does however give a mark between what should've been included in Toxicity, and what is clearly fit for this album only. As the album progresses even further into obscurity, the tracks become better, which is the biggest disappointment considering this album doesn’t receive the attention it ought to.
STA! has got to be my 2nd favorite album from the group. It shows everything you'd want from a System album. It has many reinventions of their debut, as well as natural extensions from Toxicity, and wraps this bundle up nicely.