Here is a band that suffers from being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Back in 1999 when they released their self-titled debut, bands like SLIPKNOT, STAIND and STATIC-X were getting big and since SYSTEM OF A DOWN were heavy, accessible, wrote some catchy tunes and had a band name that began with an “s” they got lumped in with the aforementioned bands and branded as Nu-Metal. Ever since then, they’ve gained a lot of popularity among fans of more mainstream music, but Metalheads often write them off as “just another shitty Nu-Metal band.” This is a shame, since first of all, I don’t really think that SYSTEM OF A DOWN qualifies as Nu-Metal at all and second, Nu-Metal or not, they’re a great band that a lot of Metal fans would enjoy a great deal.
“Toxicity” combines a sense of heaviness with a healthy dose of melody, adding in both abstract and informed political lyrical subjects. The band’s sound is their own, though influences from bands like the DEAD KENNEDYS, FAITH NO MORE, MR. BUNGLE, PRIMUS and SLAYER can be heard here and there. Serj Tankian’s vocals range from nasal singing to shouting/screaming to growls – yes, growls. This album actually has a lot of growls in it, not as main vocal lines but more as punctuations, if you will. Highlights on the record include the admittedly way overplayed single “Chop Suey!,” which ranks as one of the best songs released in 2001 and “ATWA,” which is a perfect mix of the band’s melodic and heavy sides.
Put quite simply, this album is really, really good. It has flow, variety, talent and song-writing well above average. “Toxicity” stands as a documented contradiction to the prototypical Metalhead doctrine that “popular” equals “bad,” or that there is a direct negative correlation between how good a band is and how many people listen to that band. It’s really a shame that so many “true Metalheads” won’t even give this album a chance due to it’s classification as Nu-Metal. They’re missing out, indeed.
Okay, I’ll get off of my soapbox now…but then again, I guess that’s one of the nice things about being a reviewer. VIVA LA SYSTEM AND VIVA LA SOAPBOX! (Online July 17, 2005)