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!