System of a Down



by Clumpy USER (29 Reviews)
March 8th, 2005 | 436 replies

Release Date: 2001 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Inventive Circus Thrash With a Middle-Eastern Touch

System of a Down has been converting music fans across the country with their original songs, creative instrumentations and sophisticated lyrics and imagery. The band's awe-inspiring self-titled 1999 debut left me jumping in the aisles, and "Toxicity" leaves me with nearly the same feeling, barring a few misgivings.

"Toxicity" is, by far, System of a Down's most successful record. Singles "Chop Suey", "Toxicity" and "Aerials" earned steady airplay in radio stations across the country ("Aerials" was probably the most popular radio choice, due to its somewhat softer sound), and the CD climbed to number one on the Billboard music charts.

Having said this, "Toxicity" is much more mainstream than SOAD's self-titled debut, featuring somewhat more conventional lyrics, music, and - dare I say it" - a couple of "filler" songs. Nevertheless, I consider it one of the best albums I own, and a must-buy for anyone who's put it off this long.

System's changing aesthetic can be essentially summed up with one name: Arto Tuncboyaciyan (sometimes spelled as two words: "Tunc Boyaciyan" ). The semi-famous Armenian percussionist adds his musical flourishes to a couple of tracks on the CD, most notably the bridge in "Science" and the secret track "Arto". System of a Down is slowly but surely changing from a gothic- and death-metal inspired band to a more ethnically-influenced group (as the interlude in "Bubbles" from their follow-up CD, "Steal This Album" shows).

The CD is still very hard; opening tracks "Prison Song" and "Needles" are among the hardest and most distinctive System songs ever. The CD hits all bases, from political ("Prison Song", "Shimmy", and to a lesser extent, "Psycho" ) to ethereal ("Chop Suey!", "Aerials) to simply silly ("Bounce" ). Even the singles haven't been ruined by their extensive radio play, and I can comfortably listen to "Chop Suey!", "Toxicity" and "Aerials" anytime, due to their overall quality.

Having said this, I must point out one misgiving I have with the CD. First, despite their initial enjoyability, two tracks in particular seem tiresome to me after repeated listenings. System's self-titled CD had no slacking moments, and finding myself skipping tracks on one of my favorite CDs is disappointing.

Overall, though, even if "Toxicity" is only 90 percent as earth-shatteringly awesome as System's first CD, it still stands head-and-shoulders over most of the commercialized garbage playing over the radio waves these days. I highly recommend that music lovers of all types experience this CD.

Track Reviews:
Prison Song:
This song is perhaps the best opening number I have ever heard on an album. Its false start and silence-sparsed heavy beginning is truly one of the defining moments of post-Y2K music. This song is completely addictive, and blows me away every time. The bridge (where Serj roars "All research and successful drug policy shows. . ." ) should be preachy, but somehow fits into the song. The three seconds of quiet, sweet singing ("Oh, baby, you and meeee. . ." ) is a perfect bridge and ending to the song. Politically, the song lampoons Hollywood's decaying morals, the war on drugs, and America's building prison system - what else could you want in a song"
A great hard song - possibly the hardest on the CD. I even had my favorite line from the song ("My tapeworm tells me what to do" ) made into a T-shirt. Daron Malakian contributes his boyish voice to the chorus, proving that he's an able vocalist (in small doses).
Deer Dance:
A slight departure from the immense quality of the first two tracks, "Deer Dance" is still one of my favorites, with its politically-charged lyrics and determined intensity. A great mellow vocal bridge evens out the track.
Jet Pilot:
Here's where the album slacks, if only for a brief couple of minutes. I can't put my finger on it, but something about this track screams "Filler!" It's great filler, to be sure, but the chorus repeats itself a little too often, and the song seems a little unmemorable.
Some have compared this song to "Jet Pilot", but "X" is one of my favorite songs on the CD. This song has great pacing and lyrics, and a meaning that can be different to every listener of the song.
Chop Suey!:
This song speaks for itself. Possibly one of System's masterpieces, Chop Suey manages to be hard, emotional, controversial - everything System of a Down stands for or exhibits.
A great track (I won't use the obvious pun, calling it "bouncy" ). Even if you don't know its sinister hidden meaning (as if it isn't obvious), this humorous song about a man, his pogo stick and a bunch of women all taking turns (ahem) manages to cheer me up every time.
Possibly one of the best tracks on the album, Serj's monkeylike shrieks after every line of (equally-memorable) dialogue make this a great song. Thrashing riffs and great building interludes make this one of my favorites.
Probably the slowest track on the CD (I don't want to give its twist away), Atwa is a simple song, but manages to be great in its own way. Its simple guitar structure (notes played three strings apart, just like "Roulette" ) makes it great for guitarists as well.
This track is a tad less noteworthy in my mind than most of the rest of the CD, but still stands out as having one of the best interludes in music history. Arto Tunc Boyaciyan contributes his masterful percussion and instrumentation skills (and his folk-sounding vocals) to the interlude, giving the track some added depth.
Another political song (I performed this during the senior all-night-er heralding the end of High School), its semi-sarcastic lyrics (First attacking the educational system, then stating "Don't be late for school again, boy!" ) make the song for me. The song is sort of a parody of the American dream and so-called "party" music ("I think me, I want life . . . I want a house and a wife, I wanna shimmy, shimmy, shimmy, 'til the break of dawn, yeah!" ).
Another great single, I read this song as another shot at materialism and self-centeredness. Fantastic guitar work and a great, sudden shift in melodies for the ending make this track enjoyable.
I don't know why - I appear to be in the minority with this opinion - but "Psycho" just doesn't do it for me. The chorus is kind of stupid, the song's focus is too narrow to be significant (cocaine-crazed groupies" Give me a break!), and the song takes itself a little too seriously; it would be much better as another humorous aside, a la "Bounce". Again, "Toxicity" is a tad more uneven than System's debut.
Another classic with great guitar work and, to borrow a cliche, "soaring vocals". Intentionally over-poetic lyrics (reminding me of another great System song, "Ego Brain", incidentally) create a feeling of significance signalling the end of the CD.
Great track. Heavily influenced by Armenian stylings and the creative input of Arto Tunc Boyaciyan (who I assume directed the song), this song is a great departure for the CD. It's different than the rest of the CD, and fans of the song should definitely check out the CD "Serart", a side project with SOAD's Serj Tankian and Arto. EDIT: This song was apparently recorded solely by Arto, with no participation by the rest of the band.
MY RATING: ****1/2 (Unconditional Recommendation for heavy music afficionados.)
Thank you for reading my review. Please vote if you liked it!
Visit Clumpy's blog at

Recent reviews by this author
Man Man Six Demon BagArctic Monkeys Favourite Worst Nightmare
Battles MirroredBelle and Sebastian The Life Pursuit
Eels Electro-Shock BluesGorillaz Demon Days
user ratings (5286)
other reviews of this album
1 of

Comments:Add a Comment 
March 9th 2005


Good review,this is really a great album,I think their best!!

March 9th 2005


Thanks. I find I don't really appreciate an album until I review it.

March 11th 2005


There are also some news about them that i didn't know,so it helped me 4 that too.....:-)

March 11th 2005


This is a great cd, SOAD's best i think

Bass Space
March 11th 2005


good album, i like the 1st 1 tho and they r making another, to be out in may woohoo

April 27th 2005


Yeah! Sputnik fixed the comments on this review! Way to go, Mxtabs!

April 29th 2005


this was a great album and the first one that i got of theirs

April 30th 2005


how many reviews are there of this album now?

May 3rd 2005


this album has got the most creative combination of deth-metal infused with arabian-esque influences. I LOVE IT!

May 8th 2005


I doubt SOAD will ever top this monster of an album.

May 8th 2005


Album Rating: 4.0

I like this...i bought this when i was first getting into metal (course, beginning metal for most is nu-metal), and i still listen to it to this day. Its just that good.

May 24th 2005


A great album by one of the most important bands of today, instant classic.

The Shadow Beneath
June 14th 2005


Directed to Sendor: They topped this album 3 years before they released this "monster" of an album. The self titled is better than this album in so many ways. I'm not saying Toxicity isn't a good album. Because it is, it's a fantastic album, just not as good as the self-titled.

July 8th 2005


Album Rating: 5.0

V nice review, love the album.

November 17th 2005


Brilliant!!! If this album is anything, it is brilliant. Especially Ariels, which is musically perfect. A great way to end the album
awesome review as well dude. I love it

Two-Headed Boy
November 18th 2005


Album Rating: 3.5

a classic

best tracks are Chop Suey, Prison song, Needles and Aerials

November 22nd 2005


SOAD Rules but I dont think that by looking at the direction they are going in now with Hypnotize and Mesmerize that they will ever come close to touching this Masterpiece of an album ever again.

Diabulus in musica
December 7th 2005


Album Rating: 4.5

toxicity rules, SOAD's best album bu far, science is the best song and i dont think that mesmerize is a bad album, it isnt as good as toxicity but it has a lot of very cool songs and lyrics

December 17th 2005


Album Rating: 4.5

Great album. Great band. Great review. Easily a classic.

Toxicity = SOAD > Hypnotize > Mezmerize > Steal this Album!

December 18th 2005


Album Rating: 4.0

^ I agree with that last comment though SOAD is a slight bit better than toxicity or maybe its because ive heard toxicity so many times before.

You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile


Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Site Copyright 2005-2017
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy