System Of A Down
11. Cube Rt
Surprisingly much better than I expected, System of a Down takes the general approach of the Korn/Stompcore metal and actually does something interesting with it. Perhaps it is a testament to the band's talent or all around creativity, but this is one of the few discs that step outside the exceptionally stale world of "rap-metal" or whatever Spin Magazine might be calling it. Vocalist Serj Tankian has a varied and strong attack, that is reminiscient of Mike Patton and Jello Biafra being crossed. "Suggestions", one of the most intriguing songs, shows him mixing up his attack over a driving rhythm platter. Unlike other bands who simply play heavy chunky riffs and think that is enough, the guitar lines are emotive and creative. On occasion, the songs are reminiscient of older Tool, with a tense vibe to make things interesting. I would actually think this is a band that little Korn fans might graduate to after hitting sweet sixteen. The album has been reissued with a bonus four song live CD recorded in decent quality. System of a Down has finally proved that there is something of interest in this "nu-metal" world.
Review by John Chedsey
Review date: 07/1999
1. Prison Song
3. Deer Dance
4. Jet Pilot
6. Chop Suey
I go about listening to nu-metal much in the same way that Gary Glitter went about in downloading his beloved child pornography. That is to say that try as I might to use the utmost discretion while listening to the radio whilst driving, I canít help but see the smirks on the glowering visages of my fellow driversÖand I off I stalk in a joyless reverie to Cuba (or wherever the hell that pervert Glitter now resides). Actually, that never happened, as I happen to utterly vilify virtually all of the nu-metal I have heard. However, as with every style of music, there are indeed glowing exceptions within the genre that just never cease to put a smile on this skepticís sullen face.
I can but hearken back to 1998, to the time when my love affair with System of a Down first began. With their self-titled release, SOAD proved to me that a band could take a totally stagnant and utterly bland genre of music and do something interesting with it. Injecting their native Armenian influences and a Mr.Bungle-esque sensibility that bordered on outright plagiarism into blindingly fast, aggressive, politically-charged metal, SOAD created a sound that was indeed all their own, despite the fact that there were parts that sounded so much like the aforementioned Patton Dynasty that it bordered on outright thievery (Bungle-guitarist Trey Spruance has made it quite apparent that he vilifies virtually every band that his band and Faith No More spawned after their precedence). Fast forward to 2001, and that self-titled debut still sounds as refreshing as it did in 1998, and a new album is released.
I must admit that at first I was a tad let down by Toxicity upon initial listen. The music is decidedly less wacky and more straightforward than on their self-titled debut (much to the surprise and happiness of Americanís CEO Rick Rubin, that money-monger). However, it must be mentioned that all of the greatest albums of all time are the ones that slowly grow on you over time until you end up falling in love with them. I can safely say that Toxicity, while not being an entirely mind-blowing release, is an excellent follow-up to the debut and is wholly more wonderful and better than any of the utterly pointless and disgusting drivel you could possibly find on MTV.
While being more streamlined then the debut, it is all the more apparent that Serj and the boys wanted to focus more on memorable and solid songwriting than on being entirely avantgarde. That isnít to say that Toxicity isnít totally weird, as the occasional jazz breaks, acoustic guitar passages, oddball time signatures, and tasteful usage of middle-eastern scales exemplify. Special mention must go to Serj Tankian, for providing yet again another exemplary, impassioned, and wholly original performance. Mike Patton would be proud (actually, that probably isnít true, as the reclusive and inimitable God of Vocalizations has probably slagged Tankian several times in various interviews).
It is indeed true that System of a Down has an enormous and beloved fanbase, but this said fanbase loves this band for all the wrong reasons. There is so much more to metal than merely being heavy. Underneath the raging cacophony of instruments melody, passion, and ultimately, art should lay, and System of Down personifies this notion to a T.
Review by Alec A. Head
Review date: 04/2002