System Of A Down – Toxicity – Review

System Of A Down

Toxicity (Columbia/American)
by Scott Hefflon

System of a Down are the “brainy, political” nü metal band. They’re “quirky, jerky” like Dead Kennedys were, and when they shout “hey!” at the end of each line, you get that it’s more Russian folk dancing than “duh, like Oi!’n’shit, punk!” Maybe that’s overstating, but there’s a reason why these guys are top of the nü metal shitheap. While they work in newscast snippets and make proclamations and “drive points home” like no one has (thank God) since Rage Against the Machine launched a thousand shitty rap metal bands, they work in more and more and more stuff than you can keep up with (’60s hippy harmonies here, ’70s rock tip-o’-the-shaggy-head there, Middle Eastern yip and finger-cymbal tinkering here’n’there, hell, I can’t rattle the stuff off fast enough!). Oh, and they beat the shit outta you.

All this is to say they can scream and bellow and nyah-nyah in childlike falsetto all they want, they still throw at least eight dynamic parts into each song, and that’s seven more than the bottomfeeders, not that they outta be the reference point, ya know? Changing up the pace, whiplashing and pinballing rhythms to always keep the uninitiated off balance, much like being on the back of a bike flying down the highway, passing cars left and right – you feel the weight shift beneath you and you help lean into it, but you often have no idea which way you’re about to swerve until the skilled driver in front of you makes that decision. This demands trust and talent (or it’s gonna be a short ride), and while you kinda get a feel for how things are going to go, assumptions are dangerous. The rush gets the blood racing, and the images flying passed seem to sing with a melody that only increased velocity can bring out.

Kids, don’t try this at home. (The driving thing or the band thing, cuz SOAD are better than 99% of you’ll ever be, ok?)