By Bob Nalbandian


Toxicity is System Of A Down's follow-up to their smash '98 self-titled debut, and proves this band are perhaps metal's new ring-leaders when it comes to originality, intensity, and power. Very few hard rock bands over the last decade have demonstrated such creativity and integrity in their music, along with having the musical talent to back it up, as System Of A Down has shown on Toxicity. Not since Faith No More, Tool, Ministry, and Shining Path (who released a brilliant independent debut in 1992), has a band been able to so cleverly capture a truly unique musical vision that literally can't be categorized in today's music criteria.

It surprised the hell out of me when I heard Toxicity debut on the Billboard charts at #1 (although still debatable) and has gone platinum in a matter of weeks. Fact is, there is nothing on this album that could remotely be considered musically "commercial" yet this band still manages to dominate. In many cases, this band seems to go out of their way to sound as anti-generic and unmarketable (and sometimes downright quirky) as possible. The opening track, "Prison Song," I personally could have done without. But the tracks that follow, "Needless," "Deer Dance," and "Jet Pilot," are not only incredibly unique, but are absolutely bone-crushing! The band meshes several musical styles, from thrash-metal riffs ala Slayer and early Metallica, to hard-core LA punk [Dead Kennedy's, Minor Threat, Channel 3, and old Bad Religion], to middle-eastern melodies. The crunching guitar riffs atop bizarre, off-the-wall drum/bass grooves combined with haunting vocals and superb melodies make this band truly one of a kind. Vocalist Serj Tankian is an amazing vocalist, in that he can sing beautiful melodies, and the next second churn out bone-chilling cries of unprecedented power. "X" and the single "Chop Suey" display brutal guitar riffs and phenomenal drumming from John Dolmayan. The music is fast and furious but their performance is so goddamn tight. Incredible production work from vocalist Serj and guitarist Daron Malakian [who are also the key songwriters in the band], who co-produced the album along with Rick Rubin. Daron's guitar work is also brilliant throughout.

Other tracks worth mentioning are the title track, "Forest," "Shimmy" (with it's cool middle-eastern jig), "Aerials," and "ATWA," a song that starts out sounding like Simon & Garfunkel with its beautiful harmonies (Serj really shines on this track!) and then explodes into a neck-breaking metal anthem. Other tracks such as "Bounce," and "Psycho" are a bit too corny for my tastes, but like in typical punk fashion, most the songs are under 3 minutes long so they never get boring.

Toxicity is a rare case of an album being truly as good as the hype that surrounds it. This is a band that will surely stand the test of time.

Shockwaves CD Reviews Issue 5 Page 2