System of a Down - _Toxicity_
(Def American, 2001)
by: Matthias Noll (
I despise nu-metal. I couldn't care less if any of those so-called singers had parents who didn't want to buy him a second TV set at the age of seven and therefore traumatized him for life. I'm sick and tired of hearing them trying to exorcise their made-up demons during a rapped verse and a catchy chorus that always seems to happen over the same three chord riff that makes all those baggy-trousered middle-class kids "fuck da shit up" or "jump da fuck around". I think it was Scott Ian who called all these Linkin Parks, Papa Roaches, etc. out there "Backstreet Boys with guitars", and I couldn't agree more. Calling them metal is blasphemy, a disgrace! However, hidden in this stinking brown mass, there is a diamond called System of a Down. On _Toxicity_, their second album, they unleash a unique mixture of vicious, hectic metal riffing (metal, not nu-metal), sometimes almost thrashy in style, insane rhythmic shifts between quiet and raging parts, and throw in a dose of oriental scales and melody lines. Intensity-wise, this record is not a letdown even if I listen to it in between grindcore and necro black metal. Almost miraculously, the band manages to blend all their ingredients into songs that actually work. In addition to great musicianship and songwriting skill, System of a Down's main strength lies in their singer. He shifts between dozens of always appropriate styles, occasional death grunts, proclamations, almost slapstick-like parts and great, clean singing, while his voice always maintains a hypnotic quality that equals Jello Biafra. Actually, I find quite some similarities between early Dead Kennedys and System of a Down when it comes to the unconventional nature of their material, although SoaD are far heavier, more metallic and, in general, more insane. Amongst all the madness, chaos and heaviness, this album features some of the most heartbreaking melodies I've heard in quite a long time, brought across with a dedication which, strangely enough, reminds me of Manowar's Eric Adams in tunes like "Bridge of Death" or Messiah Marcolin on _Nightfall_. Forget your prejudices; don't give a fuck if jerks like Pantera or Fear Factory like this band or if they look nu-metal. SoaD have set the benchmark for innovative, heavy, breathtakingly great music in the year 2001. And no, they don't rap, neither Fred Durst nor Corey from Slipknot make guest appearances, and they didn't even invite Max Cavalera to contribute any of his moronic lyrics.
(article published 10/19/2001)
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