System of a Down Toxicity
Grade
B+
 
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When it initially hit the shelves in 1998, System of a Down's self-titled debut album caught most music listeners off-guard, mixing standard metal riffs and beats with odd, eclectic tones and previously unused territory within the metal genre. Intimate vocals that that ran the gamut of emotions spouted lyrics that spanned from drug-induced dementia with socio-political commentary. Three years later, the quartet has finally issued their long-awaited sophmore album.

On first play, Toxicity is a rough listen for those who haven't experienced the first album. Songs shift back and forth, going from brutally simple heavy rifts to intimately written interludes, leaving most listeners wondering what may be going on. Serg Tankain's vocals follow this same concept, running from bold, brazen yelling to touching, heart-felt melody. There are equal amounts of speed, heavy riffs, carefully planned performance and a wide range of emotions.

Some tracks of note: Prison Song opens the album perfectly, laying down a brutal tone that followed up by high-energy lyrics and a powerfully angry chorus. Both Forest and ATWA show the wide range that System of a Down is capable of. Also worth listening to is Psycho, with the excellent groove of the chorus, and Bounce, which is just outlandishly funny.

While it is refreshing that System of a Down refuses to go with the standard sound and structure that most "popular" acts prefer to use, I would have to say that some of the elements that are juxtaposed together can be a little hard to swallow at times. Fans of the metal genre should thoroughly enjoy this album. Though, if you like your metal straighforward and predictable, Toxicity may not come to your liking. Anyone who can appreciate talent dished out in intelligent spoonfuls should look into this.

- - Vane

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