Seventeen years after its release, Gaming editor Nicholas Burton argues that System Of A Down’s second album has yet to be matched
Within the genre of heavy metal, we’ve had two truly original bands reveal themselves during the late 90s, who changed the genre of metal with their own unique riffs, drum rhythms, and singers. Of course, I am talking about Tool and System Of A Down. After reading the name of this article, you already know this is about the game-changing breakthrough album Toxicity, by System Of A Down. What more is there to say that hasn’t already been said about this incredibly original album? C-tuning metal riffs mixed with Armenian folk songs, what possibly couldn’t work?
The brutally short fourteen songs on the album impressively stand out of their own accord, each containing different strengths. Whether it’s the chorus of ‘Chop Suey’, the groove of ‘Deer Dance’, the brutal and unforgettable ‘Prison Song’, or the epic scale of ‘Aerials’ (my personal favourite System of a Down song of all-time), each are memorable in their own unique way.
The track order means the album paces beautifully, but expect one of the heaviest rides listening to Toxicity in its entirety. Daron’s catchy riffs blend wonderfully with Serj’s high-octave singing, while Shavo’s bass and John’s drums exist together as if have always been one and the same. It isn’t just the technical assemblance and excellent production that makes this album stand out from the rest of metal and music in general. It is the originality and creativity that bleeds from every second of music, assisted by the legendary producer Rick Rubin.The lyrics, either nonsensical or genius (you decide), create an ambiguity and element of individual interpretation that keeps the music fresh to this very day. The album still stands as a testament of what a band can achieve when they create an original piece of art.
It’s surprising that System Of A Down were able to bring out an album which contains a song about the problems of the US prison system. Them then becoming one of the biggest rock bands in the world demonstrates the realisation that people have when they listen to their music. Headlining festivals around the world, System Of A Down are where they are now because of the platform that Toxicity provided. Bands are still trying to create something as influential as System Of A Down’s Toxicity, but few have come close in the intervening seventeen years. I still love hearing the opening notes to ‘Prison Song’, and adore hearing the end to the incredible ‘Aerials’. If you love rock but you’re looking for a change of pace, then look no further. System Of A Down provide one of the most original back-catalogues of the 21st century. Toxicity rules.