The second album from System of a Down, Toxicity was probably the album that brought the most success to the group. This album achieved platinum sales, had three number 1 hit singles, and earned System of a Down a spot headlining Ozzfest. This album is reviewed as a god by many, including me. It is really incredible to experience on a level few other albums are. While on some nu-metal albums, all of the songs sound almost exactly the same (KoRn and Mudvayne, two nu-metal titans, are very guilty of this) System of a Down's songs all sound different and unique within themselves. This album was on nonstop rotation on my stereo until about 2004, and I still like to throw it on and rock out now and again.
Okay. Onto the album itself. I rate songs compared to the other songs on the album, not in comparison to all other songs. I think this is a better way to tell how good a song really is, instead of just rating every song a nine or a ten. Here we go.
Prison Song: 10/10
. Amazing song. The start-stop intro to the song is a wild ride, only to lead into an even better main part of the song. The main riff kicks in about 26 seconds in, and it all falls into place from there. There is the trademark Serj roaring, the frantic chorus, and the slow verses. The lyrics on this song are really a mouthful, unlike anything else I have ever heard. It sounds like Serj is reading an anti-imprisonment essay in parts of this song. But that doesn't take away from its overall quality at all. The song slows down from the frantic pace at about 1:56, when Serj drops the biggest mouthful of a lyric ever "All research and successful drug policy shows that treatment should be increased, and law enforcement decreased, while abolishing mandatory minimum sentences." I just love that line. More frantic riffing ensues, and the song progresses toward the finish. The outro is rather slow, with Serj crooning the final words "Oh baby, you and me."
. Oh yes. This song tops Prison Song with relative ease. A opening similar to B.Y.O.B.'s then the main riff kicks in. This riff is significantly cooler in my opinion than Prison Song's, it has a much more middle eastern air, and is much more frantic. The beat on this song laid down by John and Shavo is just incredible, it shows how SOAD elevates themselves above the rest of the nu-metal bands. The chorus is the real highlight of this song, though. "Pull the tapeworm out of your a$$!" Oh yeah, man. The song slows down at about 1:50, following the same basic formula of Prison Song, and pretty much every other song they've ever done. Not to fear, the song picks up again after a pretty good slow part, and then Serj lets loose with a monstrous growl/roar, which is probably the highlight of the song. The outro is the most frantic part of the song, with the "Pull the tapeworm out of your a$$!" part played even more frantically. And then it's over. Whoo. What a great song. It might be the best real hard rocker that System of a Down has pulled off to this point in their career. You can't really say enough about this. Would be the best song on almost any other album besides this one.
Deer Dance: 8/10
. No playing around here. This song opens with a bone-crunching riff, before lightening up and Serj begins to spin his usual metaphors. Only they're better here than normal, the lyrics on this song really shine. The bone crunching chorus kicks in, with the same basic riff as the opener. This song also slows down, around the 1:35 mark. The guitar part in this slow part is really excellent. The exit from this slow part is maybe the best of it's kind on the CD. All of the instrumentals are turned off, and Serj whispers "Pushing little children, with their fully automatics, they like to push the weak around." And then in the space of a second, the instrumentals are back at full force, and Serj blares the same line at the top of his lungs, really showing his vocal diversity. The song ends in the same way as Needles pretty much, with a brief breakdown of the chorus. All right, all of that sounds well and good, but I gave it an 8, not a 10. The main reason is this: this song lacks the furious intensity of Prison Song and Needles. It seems like they just carbon-copied Needles onto this song, and changed around the vocals and tweaked the riffs. Pretty much the same basic formula. Although it's done pretty well, I still can't give it full marks.
Jet Pilot: 8/10
. This is song where System tried to mix up that annoying formula they were getting into. This song opens very quickly, with crushing riffs and vocals within the first second. Very few slow parts here, and the chorus is pretty much played for the whole song over a repeating riff. A crunchy-crawly guitar smash during the verses is also very cool. A brief guitar bridge at about 1:40, then the familiar chorus resumes and it's over. Every time you hear this song, you want to get on your feet and scream "Wired were the eyes of a horse on a jet pilot! One that smiled when he flew over the bay!" at the top of your lungs. Not nearly as good musically as Deer Dance, but it got the same rating. I like System's attempt to break out of their formula here. I like the chorus, and I like screaming: Wired were the eyes of a horse on a jet pilot! One that smiled when he flew over the bay! For that, this song deserves an 8.
. Yeah, everyone's saying this song's a filler. And you know what? They're all right. Repeated guitar, and the lyrics are repeated with very little difference. Also very short. Can't really get into this song very much, it's kind of lame. If STA was really all recorded at the time Toxicity was released, why couldn't they have put on something like Innervision, I-E-A-I-A-I-O or Mr. Jack instead? I would have much preferred those to this entirely unremarkable track.
Chop Suey!: 10/10
. Oh my god. This song is mind-blowing. It was mind-blowing the first time I heard it, and it's still mind-blowing. That closing part... gives me chills. The opening does too. I wont bother to describe this song, you all already know it.
. This song is another filler. It's a funny strategy, surrounding your best song ever with filler. I guess System of a Down hoped that listeners would still be so dazed by Chop Suey! that they wouldn't notice the obvious shortcomings of this song. Same story here: repetitive riffs, shallow vocals, and this song even has a rather long bridge for such a short song. Some weird vocals right after the bridge, the "spread you out" section of the song. I like the vocals better than X, and the guitar riffs are also a little higher quality than X's, so it earns a 5 instead of a 4.
. A definite fan favorite off this album, this song is great. After a brief intro, the riff kicks in full force. The start stop verses are really cool, too. If you haven't heard them, it has a heavy riff, then the riff stops entirely when the vocals come on, then the riff explodes again. What makes this song great is the ear-shattering chorus. The longest song on the album (unless you count Arto as part of Aerials). But it still has the same calculated intensity and great execution as all System of a Down songs do, and definitely never drags on. A great guitar solo starts at 2:20 ands ends at about 3:00. Another chorus begins, but it doesn't have the riff separating the vocals as the other songs do. A nice change of pace. One last chorus completes this song, and the last riff dies out quietly, getting you ready for ATWA. Overall, this song is great. Probably about the same quality level as Prison Song, but while Prison Song was more standard hard rock, this song is much more experimental. I personally like it more than Prison, but my opinion isn't shared by many.
. This song has a really slow opening, and then the first verse starts, still with the same slow, haunting guitar. This opening is not just different, it's downright beautiful. Then the song explodes into the furious screaming chorus with an abruptness that is startling. The first time I heard it, I was ready for a song like Spiders, and the chorus startled me so much I jolted back a little. This song goes verse-chorus again, but at the end of this chorus, the song doesn't quiet back down, the intensity keeps on flowing with a new but no less furious riff. At about 2:10 a great section begins. It has the same lyrics as a verse, but it much heavier, and the same time melodic. The highlight of the song right there. One last chorus, than the song is into its outro, the familiar chorus breakdown that we have heard many times before. Overall, this song probably deserves a 10/10 if it wasn't for my biases. It's a new sound on this heavy album, and musically it's great. But the lyrics salute the mass murderer Charles Manson, and I strongly oppose that pronouncement. Lots of other bands I like worship Satan and s**t like that, but hearing this from a usually levelheaded band like System of a Down startled me. Musically a 10, lyrically a 0. I think the instrumental parts are far more important, so I gave it a 9. If you can look past the lyrics like I was unable to do, this is a song you will enjoy thoroughly.
. Really cool opening. This song, as many of you know, has a middle eastern flair that System songs are famous for. A heavy riff explodes very quickly, then the vocals begin, denouncing science and promoting religion. A really heavy chorus with a great riff. At about 1:25 a long guitar solo begins, with some distant vocals and a cool flute. This bridge ends at 2:05, then another chorus begins, and the "Spirit-moves-through-all-things" begins again, except this time with heavier instrumental parts. Pretty shortly after this, the song ends. Just a side note: this song is mind-blowing live. One of the first songs that really jumped out on me on this album, besides the obvious Toxicity, Aerials and Chop Suey! Probably about the same quality level as Prison Song and Forest, although I like it a bit less. Just a tiny little bit too short.
. I don't understand the hype around this song. It screams: Filler! at me. A slow opening, before bursting into a hard riff. Lyrics attacking our education system are another negative (as if we aren't doing our best with the funds provided). One of the very few opinions of System of a Down that I don't agree with. Certainly better than the obvious fillers X and Bounce, but not too high above their quality level.
. All right, I know I said I wouldn't give every song on here a 10/10, but it's so hard not too with all of these great songs. Every time I hear this intro, I get chills down my spine. A heavy riff erupts, then a guitar solo similar to the opener before any lyrics. Serj begins to talk in cryptic metaphors on this song, and they are some of the best on this album. Just right: Not too hard to decipher, but not too easy. Then the loud, and yet still melodic chorus comes, and it is excellent. The next verse is probably the best on the album. "More wood for the fires, loud neighbors. Flashlight reveries caught in the headlights of a truck." I don't know why, but those lyrics really strike a chord with me. Then another chorus begins. The choruses on this song are a lot longer than most SOAD choruses, but no less great. At 2:40, a frantic guitar solo begins, before erupting into a crushing progression of riffs, then you are thrown right into the middle of the chorus, with the intensity turned all the way up. A different guitar riff appears at the end of this chorus, and then Serj is screaming "When I became the sun, I shone life into the man's hearts." Then the song comes to an abrupt end. This album's second single, it is probably the least accessible to the mainstream of all three. The fact that it did so well is really a testament to System of a Down's musicianship. This song is probably in a three way tie for second best, with Needles and Aerials. It's so hard to choose which of those three is the best, but this song definitely might be it.
. You know, I just don't see it with this song. System of a Down sounds like they were high when they wrote the lyrics, they don't have the depth and complexity of most of Serjís lines. A good opening/intro, probably the best part of the song. A furiously fast chorus, but not a great one, with Serj repeatedly yelling "Psycho! Groupie! Cocaine! Crazy!" Then he begins to babble about flowing eyes, and stopping in midair. I just don't get this. Then comes a brief slow part in the middle, with frequent breaks in the slowness to scream the chorus. The song then erupts into another chorus. Yet another long, slow verse with frequent breaks to scream the chorus line. It starts to get boring here. Then a lazy guitar solo comes out of the sludge, and that lasts you until the end of the songs. I don't know why people love this song so much. Not severely terrible, but this song was shallow in a way no song on their debut was. Up to this point, the debut album is probably beating this album in overall quality, the consistency of the S/T is beating the flashes of unbelievable brilliance this album shows. It takes one last classic to push this album up to a 5/5 rating.
. Great bass playing by Shavo on this song. A slow, chilling intro builds up to 0:35, where the lyrics begin. Slow riffing, and unbelievable vocals that I certainly don't think are about a lonely kid (see the video, it gives you that impression). I think it is about death, life, and the afterlife. The chorus is great, but not as good as the verses. Also, on this album the verses are louder than the chorus, which is a nice touch. The riffing here is just mind-blowing, slow, plodding, and impossible not to like. At 2:20, the intensity gets turned up, and a unbelievable riff progression begins. The "Aerials, in the sky" part begins here. The riffs... oh my god. The song slows down again at 3:00. A kind of moaning by Serj and Daron at the end, the harmonizing is done quite nicely. Then the song is over. One of System of a Down's handful of true masterpieces. Actually, I changed my mind from before. This song is better than Toxicity and Needles, and is the second best on this album. The fact that this song is even second best on this album is why nothing else can touch this. Not any Tool classic, not the S/T, and definitely not any of that other nu-metal. The best album ever. Period.
If you don't have this album, you really can't say you like metal. I don't know how people are saying S/T is better. So many classics on this album. So much greatness. System of a Down is my favorite band, and this album (only their second!) cemented them in their place. After this album, they started to go slightly downhill, and are now on a long hiatus. I feel kind of nostalgic listening to this album now. Definitely a classic.
Best three songs:
1. Chop Suey!
Yes, I know it's generic, but it's so true.
Worst three songs:
There you have it. Itís my review of the best album ever. I hope you enjoyed it.