::System of a Down:: Toxicity::
is the second album release from the multi-influenced, often entitled “Nu-Metal" band, System of a Down
. Released September 4th of 2001, Toxicity soared in the charts and would be the number one selling album in the week of September 11, which later influenced much of their more modern work along the subject of war, terrorism, and political controversy.
Containing such singles as Chop Suey!
, the album would soon go multi-platinum in the states and win many Album of the Year
awards. This album is sometimes called their “sell-out"
album because although it featured the same manic lyrics and unusual riffs, it is much more radio friendly and publicly accessible than their first album, System of a Down
. Whether System did sell out or not, Toxicity
would be renowned as the greatest System album to date.
This is a great way to open the album. Prison Song
comes off with a slow start, then John Dolmayan gives a four count on the drum sticks, then the song begins. Serj giving us some light whispers of “They’re trying to build a prison…" Like System of a Down dogged on police officers in Mr. Jack
on their later album [b]Steal This Album![/i], they begin analyzing Americas prison system. While musically it’s a good song, with solid drumming and a nice and effective guitar riff, the lyrics to the song give it that much more of an oomph
factor. This song about the prison system mainly focuses around the war on drugs. As there are millions of people in the USA that illegally take and distribute drugs, that our prisons are getting crowded and we just keep on building them. The song ending to a rather song whisper is a complete change of pace from the rest of the song. As a song, it is fantastic. As an opener, it is phenomenal.
ends and one of System’s infamous lyrical roller coaster’s comes into play. Needles
starts off with a nice guitar riff that goes into higher pitch, as if an A-bomb explodes and John Dolmayan and a rocking, angry guitar riff spreads out all around the land, infecting everyone within a five-mile radius. As for the meaning of the song, it could be many things. But by far, the greatest part of this song is the chorus. Serj giving some crazy, yet entertainingly bouncy lyrics shouting “Pull the tapeworm out of you’re a-s, HEY!"
Daron then coming into play with a little interlude. Some pretty good, or at least accepted vocals. Serj slowly comes in mixed with his voice and that leads into the verse of “My tapeworm tells me what to do…"
. It may be the best hard song on the album.
Now on a more serious note, Deer Dance
is a very politically charged song. With its angrily sung chorus, “Pushing little children with their fully automatics, they like to push the weak around."
This song is apparently about protesters. It has also been assumed that it is about the American-Indian genocide attempts, which don’t mesh well with the lyrics. This is another really hard song, but it would’ve been nicer to see this later in the album as two really hard songs from a relatively diverse sounding band can get a little repetitive, for lack of a better word. Another kind of bouncy and infectious pre-chorus “Beyond the staples center…"
Daron does a really nice job of finding the right sound and speed of guitar to use for Serj’s vocals. Does a good job as a political song.
But then every album (almost) has a dud. Jet Pilot
goes right into action with harsh lyrics and angry instruments. Featuring a kind of annoying chorus, Jet Pilot
is nothing but a repetitive, poorly constructed, annoying piece of blah. From the approximate 2:06 minutes you listen to this song, there is absolutely no way to tell where you are in the song. There are no highlights to the song, no great musical showcasing, and Serj’s voice in constant angry mode is pretty aggravating. This seems to be the only song I really don’t think Serj does exceptionally well in, which is a real bomb as he is the does the best job in the song. I’m sorry if it appears I’m being harsh, but this is a horrible disappointment compared to the three great songs to begin the album off.
Now we’re talking. X
begins with a great opening of Daron’s guitar slowly growing in intensity, and Dolmayan giving a nice building drum roll into the verse. With verses like “We don’t need to multiply…
, the song could be about anything that ahs to do with population. Whether it is about population control, or about cloning, or whether its them saying that mankind doesn’t deserve to have kids after all the bad we’ve done, or even about the American attitude towards immigrants and diversity. Its is a pretty short song, and very repetitive, much like Jet Pilot
(which it is often compared to), but it has a delivery and a lyrical structure that adds much more to the song. Not the best, but it does well as a political piece, whatever the politics are in it.
And just like I said earlier, almost every album has one big dud. But likewise in the opposite respect, many albums have that one song that just blows the rest out of the water. And this one just so happens to be about a Chinese dish. Chop Suey!
might be System’s most famous song. The first single released from the album is pretty much the sole reason it became so popular. There are so many interpretations to the true meaning of the song, that I wont go into detail with meaning on this one. The song opens with a little number from Daron and if you listen close enough, you can hear him say “We’re rolling suicide."
The verse comes quickly and its very hard to understand what he’s saying at first listen. Following the verse, a very calm line about a “self-righteous suicide"
which is one controversial line from the song. It repeats this formula once more and then it gets great. Serj goes on with one of the more ballsy moves in System’s lyrical history, he begins quoting Jesus of Nazareth from right before his death on the cross (Father, into your hands I commend my spirit. Why have you forsaken me?)
It repeats the chorus once more, with more sad sounding vocals, than angrier like earlier. This song features so many of System’s high points in one three-and-a-half minute time-slot. It is a rocking song, it is politically effective, it is emotional, and it’s title has no surface relation to the actual song. Great job.
And we get to another good song. After the easy let off of Chop Suey!
begins immediately with Serj hollering “JUMP! BOUNCE! UP! DOWN!"
Featuring some hard vocals, and instruments as well, Bounce
is just all over the place (pun intended). The song is definitely the most raunchy if I do say so myself. The lyrics clearly say that he is on a date with a girl with many friends. Then he begins comparing his WOOHOO UTENSIL
to a pogo stick, claiming that they all want a ride, but theres only one pogo stick, so they have to take turns. Although the lyrics are downright naughty and the song a little repetitive, but nothing too serious enough to take away fropm the integrity of the song, it is still one of the better humorous songs on the album.
This next song was a favorite of mine for a very long while. Forest
begins with a really great bongo (or very small tom-tom) intro, compliments of John Dolmayan. Then the heavy riff-fest begins. After every line of the verse, Serj releases a crazy yell, that is rather enjoyable. The chorus is very melodic and sounds very good to the ear, especially with the addition of Daron for harmonics. This is definitely one of the better hard songs on the album, and my favorite. The variation from the angry vocals to the soft whispers is rather impressive.
Then we get to the soft song. ATWA
is probably the best slow song System has done right along with Spiders
from their self-titled debut. Like Chop Suey
, there is many different interpretations as to what the lyrics suggest the song might be about. One theory is that Serj is speaking as Charles Manson and his view of the world (You don’t care ‘bout how I feel. I don’t feel it anymore; Hey you, see me. Pictures, crazy)
. This theory comes from the organization that Manson created, A
nimals. But the chorus that goes “All the world"
seems strangly ironic. All in all, this slow song features some of the album’s best vocal work. The slow and steady bass and drumming along with the simplicity of the guitar makes for a really nice powerful “ballad". Definitely a highlight of the album and a favorite amongst fans.
is all about how wrong science is. Chances are many science teachers (especially college professors) would have an extreme hate for this song because of the main lyric “Science has failed our world."
But the next line in the chorus says “Mother Earth", so maybe its not that science has failed our world as in the people, but that science is ruining the planet as a planet. Which is very possible because there is so much pollution and also nuclear testing…it’s a possibility. Other than that its pretty much a mediocre metal song. Nothing really sticks out here. Generic riffs, decent drum work, pretty good bass, and more of that craaazy Serj.
Ok, now who here uses condoms?
*a few people raise an arm*
Ok, good. Was it because you heard this song?
*one person in the back shakes his head, realizes he’s alone and leaves with a tear in his eye and an empty space in his soul*
is one of System’s safe sex songs. They don’t preach however, which if you’ve ever gone to high school, you’ll know how big a relief that is. With lines comparing education and fornication, its pretty hard to miss the plot. Plus the addition of “Shimmying till the break of dawn." Behind the lyrics and message lies a song. It’s here somewhere. I think I filed it under “Great Metal"…There we are! This is a really great metal song. With very good riffs and the constant changing from the riff to the slower part when Serj speaks, this is another highlight.
The title track is another one of the better tracks on the album. Toxicity
is a fantastic rock song in its purest form. The guitars are probably the greatest, or most unique, in here. Singing about the overgrowth of the homeless and poor community, Toxicity
touches on this area better than anyone else I’ve seen or heard. The great emotion coming from Serj’s perfectly formed vocal chords. John always changing his style while keeping the same tempo and sound. Shavo with some really nice bass complimenting the guitars ans Serj flawlessly. And then theres Daron who I’ve already made a point to say does a fantastic job.
Groupies. Loved by metal heads, hated by just about everyone else. The song Psycho
speaks all about that. The song sings about how groupies are psychos. Its almost like “She’s like Heroin"
in the sense of selling yourself for something you don’t need. About cocaine addictions and sex addictions, System gets the whole scene down. Featuring one of the coolest sounding solo’s from the album, psycho does a great job of getting the point across. Really like the pacing of the song, as it goes from rough verses, down to a holler which really does a great job of adding for variety. A lot of people seem to love this song, and for good reasons.
The last song, and also a single, Aerials
has some of the coolest vocals I’ve heard from Serj. Nobody can understand quite what this song means, but who really cares. Some more really fantastic guitars are featured along with some of Shavo’s best bass on the album. John here to spice up stuff here and there, but although this is a fantastic song, its not one of his more creative. The track ends with a great Armenian song, written by a man named Arto who has worked with Serj and created a little side project known as Serart, which is Armenian folk music. Anyway the album ends with a bang, and some hometown music from the boys does a great job of adding a lot of different sounds and really helps with the variety of the album, as if we didn’t have enough of that as is.
Serj Tankian - Vocals
Probably his best album vocally. He does a great job of varying his yells and whispers. His difference throughout the album is noticeable as he never makes the same sounds twice on a different song. Plus it is a real improvement from the first album.
Shavo Odadjian - Bass
This is also probably his best album as well. Coming out with some great bass work, he compliments Daron exceptionally well, and on the parts where Serj is the main focus, you can really hear the harmonization between the two.
Daron Malakian - Guitar
Unbelievable. He always brings something new to the table and never makes it unbearable. He is a really talented guitarist and it really showed. His skills helped this album a lot, especially on the singles. Plus he does a fantastic job of keeping in being unique, but oddly similar enough as to when you hear something new from him, you can notice where he’s coming from.
John Dolmayan - Drums
An amazing drummer that deserves every amount of praise given to him. His abilities really show on songs like Chop Suey!
and Deer Dance
. This man is one of the fastest drummers I’ve seen and being so fast, he always seems to be right on beat with the rest of the band. Really impressive.
-The Goods & The Bads-
--Most of the songs are classics.
--Expands on what they can do.
--In a sense it is
a sell-out album. But it is still incredibly delicious.
--Who thought of Jet Pilot