Considering it took four years to make “Toxicity,” it’s not (or shouldn’t be) surprising that System of a Down had some leftover songs that they wanted heard. What is surprising, however, is that these b-sides were so good. Some songs here, like “Innervision” and “Chic `N’ Stew,” are as good as anything on System’s last two discs. In fact, the band left some of these songs off of their last album not because they weren’t good songs, but because they wanted “Toxicity” to have a different, more serious theme. A song like “Bubbles” wouldn’t exactly fit if it were next to, say, “Aerials.”
These 13 songs don’t have as many powerful lyrics as “Toxicity,” so “Steal This Album” doesn’t have the sharp impact or depth that its predecessor had. But this C.D. is still very fun to listen to! Daron’s riffs are still crunchy and heavy, sometimes (as in track three) almost flattening, and Serj’s vocals are (as always) top-notch. (“Roulette” is probably the best example of his proper, nasal, almost soulful singing.) Plus, even though they’re not AS good, the lyrics are still pretty intelligent. “Boom” is a bold, unabashed anti-war tirade, and has lyrics like “four thousand children die per hour from starvation/while billions spent on bombs/creating death showers.”
Elsewhere, “Pictures” is a fairly odd song with catchy drumming, making it kind of sound like it’s a b-side from System’s first, self-entitled album. Next, “Highway Song” has a good soft-loud-soft dynamic, as well has a good give and take between the guitars and drums. “Ego Brain” seems in the same mold as “Toxicity”’s album closer, “Aerials,” and “Roulette” features acoustic guitar plucking and even some violins. Other highlights include “Mr. Jack,” “I-E-A-I-A-I-O,” and the silly “F**k The System.”
When it was first released, “Steal This Album” served as a nice snack to whet fans appetites for what was to come. Now, since “Mezmerize” was released earlier this year (2005), “Steal This Album” isn’t any less good, it’s just the band’s best album, and not essential for casual System of a Down fans. But if you liked SoaD’s first two albums, you’re sure to like this, as well.