System of a Down
Toxicity


3.0
good

Review

by John weathered old reviewer Hanson STAFF
August 14th, 2006 | 757 replies | 80,021 views


Release Date: 2001 | Tracklist


I’m something of a System of a Down fanboy. No, really, I am. They’re one of the bands that when I hear someone say “Oh they suck”, I get irrational and start blabbering incoherently about how awesome they really are. Recently, System of a Down (once again, one of my favorite bands), announced they would be disbanding for a good deal of time. This made me entirely too sad. So, in loving memory of the first portion of System of a Down’s career (and, fingers crossed, hopefully not their last), I have taken it upon myself to take a look back on their entire discography, and give a fairly detailed analysis on each of the bands 5 albums (essentially, however, only three distinct phases) now that we have a large scope with which to compare them.

We must start with not their first album, though, but the album that blew them up. Toxicity was close to becoming a cultural phenomenon. It came out when I was in 6th grade, and the middle school I attended was, to be honest, majority African American or Haitian. In the interest of not stereotyping, I’ll say the majority of my school did not listen to metal at all. However, strangely, Toxicity strangely became one of the most listened to bands or artists at my schools, even in the predominantly hip hop circles. While I was rather ticked that System had gotten popular (at that point, they had been the only band I liked that few people had known about in my area), I couldn’t deny how cool it was to see a Haitian family pull up with Chop Suey! blasting in their car.

When the album shines, it does so brilliantly. The single that got them the large amount of fame and accolades they receive now, Chop Suey!, is one of the most brutally beautiful metal songs I’ve, plainly, ever heard. From the hushed sentence about suicide at the beginning, to the pulse-pounding verses, to the piano-laden chorus, and to the eventual burst of emotion at the bridge, the song captures the energy and emotion System so obviously wanted to display on this album. And, however cheesy they may seem now, in a twelve year olds eyes that’s some brilliant songwriting, and even now I can’t deny that its still far more than typical, cliché angst.

The best point on the album is undoubtedly Serj Tanakian. Forgoing his past or future, he was at his overall best here. He was still a little rough around the edges, and he had lost a lot of the playfulness and quirkyness that had made him who he was on their debut, but there were few singers who could touch on the emotionb he could convey in the mainstream MTV audience at the time, and perhaps none with such a unique voice. The lyrics may be simple, but they’re dumb; System packs their tunes with plenty of metaphors and allusions to actually make you think about what they’re talking about instead of taking it at simply face value, which was again a rarity in the mainstream. Songs like Toxicity and [i]Aerials[i] succeeded on the radio likely solely because of the emotion he conveyed and the weirdness of his voice.

In fact, the best songs on the album otherwise are also driven by his voice. A.T.W.A, a seemingly sweet love ballad at first, devolves in a flash to a focused blast of teenage angst, that while not original, is saved by Serj’s delivery. Then there’s Psycho, perhaps the most under-appreciated song on the album. The chorus is insanely catchy, as Serj simply declares ”Psycho! Groupie! Cocaine! Crazy!”, but somehow making it as sing-along-able as a Kidz Bop album. The verses are quite strange, being an almost Indian-tinged break. The final song that really goes anywhere special is Deer Dance. To be perfectly honest, however, its almost ruined by the far too heavy faux-thrash-y chorus that doesn’t mesh with the very groovin’ (and, frankly, [i]bitchin’) verses. The bridge is a thing of absolute beauty, however, being one of the most touching little bits of music System have yet to write.

Unfortunately, the only thing that stands out about most of the other tracks is Serj and the occasional odd guitar lines from Daron. John, however great of a drummer he is live, loses something on record, likely the force with which he actually hits. Shavo unfortunately had already begun to lose any real place in the band, and is relegated to being nearly-useless on the album, as Daron often dominates over his rather simplistic playing. Daron himself, though, began his transformation into a thrashier and more technical style of playing on this album, as opposed to the strange yet inventive guitar parts on S/T and the mostly-written-before-Toxicity Steal this Album!. However, he wasn’t as precise or as good of a player as he was on the later double albums Mesmerize and Hypnotize, and it gives much of the guitar work on this album a very generic feel.

That very feel kills many, many songs, causing them to be far too repetitive and same-y sounding, without anything brilliant being thrown into the mix. The fun songs, in particular, suffer; he stills keeps a modicum of quirkiness for them, but still doesn’t get quirky enough to justify most of them (Bounce is, however, the only song here that’s truly sounds like it would fit on the self titled). Prison Song, a track revered by many a System fan, is plain boring to me. It attempts to be strange and heavy at the same time, and unlike previous songs like Sugar or later songs like Vicinity of Obscenity, it does neither very well, thus leading the albums strongest song lyrically (a rather pointed and truthful attack on the anti-drug efforts of the U.S government) in something of a hole, that not even the shouted [i]”All research and successful drug policy that treatment should be increased, and law enforcement decreased While abolishing mandatory minimum sentences!”

The thing is, half of the album sounds the same in a similar vein. Sure, Forest might have a neat drum fill in the beginning, but even that song isn’t that great sans-Serj’s vocals. Thus, what do we really learn from Toxicity? That Serj was at his best, but not even that can save it from being a too repetitive album. I can’t really write that much really negative about the album, because the negatives are few. But the negatives are absolutely glaring, and detract from even the best songs (Deer Dance and Psycho both sound similar to numerous other tracks on the album, despite their singular greatness), making the album as a whole a disappointment. However, it’s still indubitably the best starting place for anyone (that somehow hasn’t) getting into System. It has the right blend of catchiness and emotion from Serj, and enough interesting guitar licks from Daron, but as a whole, it really just falls somewhat flat.



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user ratings (4497)
Chart.
4.1
excellent
other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
August 14th 2006



16083 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

part 1/5 done. It's a long review, but meh, whatever,

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
August 14th 2006



17920 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

ewwwwwwwwwwww system of a down

Good review.

FortKnoxSucks
August 14th 2006



2 Comments


This is pretty much an average album.

The Jungler
August 14th 2006



4827 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Nice, a little long but good work. Look foward to the rest.

I like this album alot. Serj's voice is definitly the highlight.

Acey
August 14th 2006



2578 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

good review
/votes. this to me is SOAD's best work and one of the classics that everyone should have

The Sludge
August 14th 2006



2169 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

What is this... 51 good reviews in a row?

*throws a vote*

StealThisAlbumof2112
August 14th 2006



26 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

This album is Amazing
I've been a fan since I was in 6th grade as well
I think that they are an amazing band, that creates a new sound
there not Generic at all
This is classic, I think everyone should check it out
I love system of a Down :]


Bron-Yr-Aur
August 14th 2006



4405 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I love system of a Down :]


Really?

Good review lu.

StealThisAlbumof2112
August 14th 2006



26 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

I think system of a Down is a great band
There newer stuff kinda pisses me off though
WAyy too much Daron, not enough Serj
But other then that, they have made some great music
I just hope that they don't break up either and that the side projects are pretty sweet too.

Muisee
August 14th 2006



679 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

This being SOADS's only album I can tolerate for more then ten minutes, a 3 doesn't seem fitting from an actual fan, but w/e, good review.This Message Edited On 08.15.06

Big Tone
August 15th 2006



50 Comments


again another stellar review, one day I hope to be as good as you! *votes*

Oddsen
August 15th 2006



1127 Comments


good review. Is the self titled better than this?

Acey
August 15th 2006



2578 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

IMO, no. but to others, probably

metallicaman8
August 15th 2006



4677 Comments


Nice review. This the only system album I can give above average.

Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
August 15th 2006



16083 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Dude I have like fans or something...o.O
Thanks for the compliements everyone. Giving the album a 3 really doesn't say how much I like it (The only System album I don't uh....well, love on a personal level is mesmerize), this album is really far more samey than any other system record to date.
Oh and Hep Kat stfu and start reviewing for september. I plan to take you tick for tack then.

StealThisAlbumof2112
August 15th 2006



26 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

I would give the self-titled album a slightly better edge, but these 2 albums are border line, both are amazing albuims
but yeah good review Iluvater :]

Angmar
September 25th 2006



2689 Comments


I really love this album.
thier first 2 albums are unquestionably thier best steal wasnt terribly but other 2 are average.


Angmar
September 25th 2006



2689 Comments


system isnt nu metal...

Muisee
September 25th 2006



679 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Doesn't really matter, they are awful no matter what genre you classify them as.

Acey
September 25th 2006



2578 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

i disagree, but agree they can be awful, just only in some spots. Anything with Darron singing is awful. This is actually IMO a well made CD.



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