In a year that has had radical ups and downs in the music industry, from the … of bands like Drowning Pool and Saliva. We’ve also gotten a handful of classic albums from some great bands (Radiohead, Opeth, Sigur Ros) and a few great surprizes (Fantomas, Primer 55) but Toxicity out shines all of them. System of a Down is the one band where you have to have diverse musical tastes to pin point their influences. Faith No More, Frank Zappa, and the obvious Middle Eastern themes are still present from their S/T debut, but with Toxicity they’ve also developed their own sound. The guitar work is magic, just amazing chord progressions through out the whole album. Daron also does a great job with back up vocals. From his high pitched croon to his death vocals, he contrasts Serj perfectly. Shavo’s bass work is great too, ranging from Tool like plucks to adding extra thickness to the guitars. The drumming is intense and pin point in every song too. Serj has turned into one of the best front men of the 90’s, his range is great. He uses a tiny bit of death vocals here and there but has one of the most original singing voices I’ve ever heard. Songs like ATWA, Deer Dance, Chop Suey!, and well just about all of them show off his variation too. He also writes some great lyrics ranging from political (Prison Song, Deer Dance) to hilarious (Bounce, Shimmy, Psycho) to powerful (Chop Suey!, Aerials) hey spouts off his variation in this field every chance he gets too.The album is nit together extremly well and has a certine amount of flow with it. Prison Song is a great opener with it’s great riffs and variation. Deer Dance is a stand out track with a cool message and a great ending. Jet Pilot shows of an almost thrash edge with cryptic lyrics. Chop Suey! is a good choice of single with it’s soft and heavy passages and even a tad of strings to it. Science has great guitars, and Psycho is one of the more interesting songs on the album. But the best songs are Aerials, ATWA, and Toxcity. ATWA has a very mellow pre chorus but has some of the heaviest moments on the cd with it’s chorus, and Aerials is just beautiful with rad lyrics and a cool outro. Toxcity has great lyrics and the as we come to expect great chorus. This is THE album which is going to influence the next generation of music. So go buy it now what’s keeping you?
Metal Album Reviews[RSS]
I’m not too impressed right now with the current state of hard rock. 95% of today’s hard rock acts sucks because lyrically and musically they are cliched and contrived. This whole nu metal genre reminds me of when hair metal ruled the airwaves back in the early to late ’80s. Then out of the sea of contrived and cliched rock bands that one rare band will stand apart from its peers with an album that shakes the foundations of hard rock. That band is System of a Down with it’s latest album “Toxicity”. I wasn’t immediately impressed with System of a Down when I first heard its first single “Chop Suey”. It was all noise and no substance to me but when I heard “Toxicity”, the gorgeous middle eastern melodies changed my attitude. I bought “Toxicity” through a record club so I could get more bang for my buck as opposed to paying close to $20 for one cd. I was greatly impressed with what I heard on “Toxicity”. I completely hear what many critics heard and why they listed that album as one of the best releases of 2001. The lyrics may lean on the left side of politics which I don’t think is bad. It sure beats listening to the same ol’ BS of “life sucks” from bands like Papa Roach and Slipknot. That old line is so cliched and contrived, not to mention lacks any imagination in songwriting. Musically, this album packs a real punch. Like I said before, I loved the middle eastern melodies that the band incorporated in the band’s music. That and their politically-charged lyrics are what set this band apart from their peers like Limp Bizkit and Slipknot. The title track and “Chop Suey” are just two of my favorite songs on this album. “Prison Song” kicked major butt as does “Pyscho”. I wish hard rock bands would follow System of a Down’s suit, not the ways of Limp Bizkit, Nickelback, and Puddle of Mudd.
Unless you have a grudge against political rock, I don’t see how anyone can trash this C.D. or say it’s overrated. This C.D. is one of my favorites and, in my opinion, was the second best C.D. of 2001 (second only to Tool’s “Lateralus”.) I wouldn’t call it nu-metal– sure, there are typically heavy riffs and drum beats, but the soulful vocals (sometimes soulful, granted they sometimes yell) and meaningful/thought-provoking lyrics make this more than nu-metal. I’d call it intelligent metal. The lyrics aren’t entirely political (although they often are) also deal drugs and groupies, and other issues (over population, and science failing “mother earth”).
“Prison Song” opens with a hard hitting riff which startled me at first. It then turns to chugging, machine gun riffs and drums, in between which singer Serj Tankien whispers “they’re trying to build a prison.” The song’s “boom-boom” riffs remain throughout the song while Serj’s angry voice sings Rage Against the Machine-esque paranoid lyrics about the government, prisons, and drug money.
“Needles” is as heavy as “Prison Song”, but it has a dark theme and when guitarist Daron Malankian sings two minutes into the song (and Serj later joins him), it turns melodic. It then turns to turns back to hard, chugging guitars while Serj alternates between almost soulful and yelling.
“Deer Dance” is a personal favorite. The guitars are slower, but equally as heavy. Lyrically, it’s about crooked cops shooting little kids. My favorite part of this song is when Serj’s voice comes down after the chorus, he sings the following verse slowly (whispering at some points) until the build up of the next chorus. Here, you’d think there’d be a heavy break down, but Serj and Daron sing a capella for about two seconds. Then, the bone crunching riffs and yelling return to end the song.
“Jet Pilot” is really fast with some good guitar work, but Serj’s nonsense lyrics (which I think are about war) drag this song down a bit. It sounds good, though.
Surely, most of us know how good the hit single “Chop Suey” is. It’s brilliantly combines metal, melody, soulful vocals and thought provoking lyrics. You can put your own meaning to this song; since it’s lyrics deal with religion (Jesus, angels and spirits) and suicide.
I think “Bounce” is thrown in purely for mosh pit purposes. It’s not political, it’s just a fun song to listen to. The guitar chugs fast, and Serj sings a head banging chorus (“Bounce! Pogo, pogo, pogo, pogo!”)
“ATWA” goes from slow verses to fast choruses, with great riffs. Serj shows his vocal range, here.
“Toxicity” has great drum work (the best on the C.D.) with more irresistable riffs and deep, soulful vocals.
“Psycho” builds slowly to another irresistable chorus that you’ll have in your head for days. The guitars and drums hit equally as heavy and simultaneously.
“Arials” is, again, beautiful and heavy. Serj does some more real singing, in between the choruses (where his voice raises.) The lyrics, which compare life to a waterfall, are almost poetic. My favoirte part of this song, though, is at the very end of the song (when you think it’s over). Here, an instrument that sounds like an Indian flute plays a solo for a few seconds, then is joined by soft drumming and chanting. Brilliant.
So, this album is a masterpiece. Again, I wouldn’t call it nu-metal, but I’d recommend it to nu-metal fans, as well as Rage Against the Machine fans, fans of intelligent metal, melodic metal, and thoughtful lyrics.
Many fans awaited this album with a single question in mind:Can SoaD possibly make an album better than their first? Well, the answer has become blazingly clear-YES! From the first jolting chord of “Prison Song” to the final whisper of “Aerials” it is quite obvious that you aren’t dealing with a mere rock band, but a musical force to be reckoned with. So many young bands suffer the “sophomore curse” when it comes to following up a breathtaking debut, but SoaD has managed to outdo themselves and what a pleasure it is to listen to. Always the consummate showman, vocalist/lyricist, Serj Tankian is definately the biggest standout of the group. His voice has matured quite a bit since the first album, and this transformation is very apparent. His dynamic range can only be described as awe-inspiring. He infuses his lyrics with such emotion that the words take on a life of their own. I have read quite a few reviews that dismiss his unusual lyrics a simply psycho babble, but this could not be further from the truth. There tends to be a fair amount of symbolism in SoaD’s lyrics. If you simply take the words at face value all the time, of course some of it isn’t going to make very much sense, but if you take your time to interpret the words for yourself, the meaning becomes very obvious. For example, “Bounce” may at first seem like a silly song about pogo sticks, but upon close listening, you’ll find that it is actually a song about a promiscuous woman. Guitarist Daron Malakian also stands out. In a way, he has the ability to produce music that is just a unusual as Tankian’s lyrics. He can go from heavy (“Science”) to beautifullly soft (the opening of “Chop Suey!”). He also displays a great vocal talent by lending harmonies to Tankian’s melodies on several tracks (“Chop Suey!” “ATWA” “Needles”). During the bridge of “Needles” he sings on his own, and the result is incredible. It seems that he has the ability to convey the few, and I emphasize few, emotions that Tankian cannot achieve. Bassist Shavo Odadjian is definately a very talented bassist. He seems to to far more than just provide a foundation for everyone else to play upon. If you listen to “Toxicity” and concentrate on the bass, you will be pleasantly surprised. As far as lyrical content, “Toxicity” must be one of the most diverse in recent years. Their politically charged material has garnered comparisons to Rage Against the Machine, but I think these comparisons are a little off. SoaD can be very political at times (particularly on “Prison Song” “Deer Dance” and “X”), but they can still have fun with a set of quirky lyrics (“Shimmy” “Bounce”). With Tankian’s incredible vocal talent to work with, almost any type of song is possible. Despite the fact that this entire album is nearly flawless, a few tracks are bound to shine a little more than all the rest. “Prison Song” is a thought provoking criticism of the American prison system and its practices. The combination of a controversial topics and very catchy melodies seems to be the group’s forte. “Deer Dance” is another very political song that basically calls out the wrongs of the LAPD. The meaning of the song isn’t always obvious, but the line that points a definite finger is the “Beyond the Staples Center…” line. “Jet Pilot” just radiates the energy that SoaD possesses. The lightning speed and electric lyrical delivery in a way epitomizes what SoaD is all about. I have seen this song performed live and it is an incredible experience to witness. “X”, at least in my opinion, picks up where “P.L.U.C.K.” left off, telling the story of the Armenian Genocide. “Chop Suey!” is a stroke of pure genius, and everyone already knows that, enough said. “Forest” is probably Tankian at his most dynamic. His voice goes from high to low, and soft to loud almost effortlessly and that makes this one of the best tracks on the album, which is a great complement when the excellence of the rest is put into consideration. “ATWA” is aesthetically the most beautiful song on the album. The intricate melding of Tankian’s melody with Malakian’s harmony envelopes this song in a sort of a melancholic beauty that is unlike anything you have ever heard. The title track is kind of ambiguously political. Rather than pointing out a specific entity that is being criticized like in “Prison Song” and “Deer Dance”, “Toxicity” just describes a situation and sort of lets you pick a specific on your own. My favorite track would probably have to be “Psycho”. To be very honest, the song is simply about cocaine crazed groupies, and is quite a harsh criticism of them. There is a bit of irony in this when you consider that rock bands and groupies basically go hand in hand. The opening of the song is this terrific guitar driven crescendo that ends with Tankian maniacally chanting the chorus of the song. That opening almost drags you into the song and doesn’t let go until the very end. Overall, “Toxicity” is a work of great minds and talent. It is clear exactly how much SoaD has expanded their musical horizons and have mastered their new styles incredibly. I think it would be safe to say that SoaD has their work cut out for them if they ever plan to top this!
I really doubted the SOAD could top their incredible self-titled debut, but they have…and FAR surpassed expectations. This album is such an amazing accomplishment of modern metal that I find myself almost speechless. Serj Tankian is this generation’s Jello Biafra. His lyrics are pointed, political, and biting. He does not flich when giving his opinions, whether it be on the state of modern collegiate education (Shimmy) or the overcrowded penitentiary system of the USA (Prison Song). As a whole work, Toxicity succeeds on EVERY level, the music is raw and hits you like a blast of adrenaline. The best thing about Toxicity is that it plays as a WHOLE album, something that is extremely rare in today’s watered down metal climate. Every track on this cd is strong, it is UNRELENTING and BRUTAL. Some of my very favorites are Jet Pilot, Prison Song, Forest, Aerials, and Toxicity. The song Toxicity anchors the album and is the absolute best thing that SOAD has done so far. Bringing in Rick Rubin was a great decision because the strengths of SOAD have been maximized(Tankian’s ranting, fast and numerous tempo changes, and Dean’s heavy riffing) and the weaknesses simply no longer exist. The track placement on Toxicity is to be commended as well and much credit should go to Rubin. I never thought I would say this but this album smokes TOOL’s LATERALUS by miles (and I’m a huge TOOL fan). Toxicity will hit you like a scud missile quick and deadly, but the remains will be with you for a lifetime. HiGhLy ReComMeNdEd.