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System of a Down

System of a Down

1998

In hindsight, this is simply one of the best alternative-metal releases of the late 90s, and really of the entire decade.  Granted, at the time of it's release, I was definitely a fan and enjoyed this album a great deal, but the scene was also quite cluttered with a lot of other seemingly similar bands, so it was hard to tell who was for real, who was great, who was just good, and who sucked.  At the time, I thought SOAD were good but not great, but in retrospect, they were indeed quite great.  SOAD took the general down-tuned, schizophrenic, catharticly heavy, groove-laden metal sound of the era and put their own infectiously thrashy spin on it.  They also actually delivered it with some intelligence and offered a genuinely unique take on the sound of the era.  This album is just as heavy/fun as anything else released at the time, but it stands out due to it's middle-eastern flavor/subject matter.  They blow a lot of similar bands of their ilk out of the water.  Their riffs and blastbeats will rupture your spleen and toss you into the air with their intensity, and it's really awesome to behold at times.  It's explosive.  So for all the crap so called Nu-Metal got, SOAD were the real deal, and honestly very hard to criticize.  A very good band, and their debut captures them at their heaviest/rawest.  Pretty awesome and still holds up.

8.7

Toxicity

System of a Down

2001

SOAD's self-titled debut was a game-changer in the alt-metal scene.  A lot of bands did the cathartic, down-tuned metal thing well, but SOAD took it up at notch and evolved the genre in the process.  3 years later they issued their long-awaited follow-up "Toxicity" an album that found them expanding their sound into more melodic, but no less eccentric territory.  Whereas their self-titled debut is an admittedly heavier affair, Toxicity is an arguably a more fun and engaging listening experience overall.  Yes, this album made them semi-famous with a couple of left-field alt-rock/metal hits (I still don't get why "Chop Suey" did as well as it did...but I digress...) but this is still a SOAD album through and through, which means it's incredibly unique, quirky, and of course: infectiously heavy.  While this album has more variety in the music and is slightly less abraisive/raw/heavy, the songs here are more memorable, dynamic, and dare I say "catchy" (granted in a distinctly SOAD type of way).  The songs are no less intelligent either, continuing to center around the politics of the day, more specifically American politics as opposed to Armenian atrocities this time around.  This is SOAD's best album, and although the genre of music they get lumped into faded away quickly after 2001, "Toxicity" stands as a triumph of alternative-metal.  A one of a kind album from a great and unique band.

8.8

Mezmerize

System of a Down

2005

An awkward attempt to change their style, a few good tunes, but the 2nd half of the album is incredibly mediocore in spite of it's quirkiness.  Disappointing.

7.4

Hypnotize

System of a Down

2005

OK, I get it now.  SOAD doesn't want anything to do with their crunchy, infectiously awesome chugga-chugga riffs from their first two albums (you know, what actually make them unique and rad in the first place).  No, instead they sound like the want to be a quirky punk-band, with old-school thrash-metal overtones.  And the singing...apparently too many people told Serj he was a good singer.  They meant "unique" Serj.  Waay too much singing here.  His choruses here are downright excruciating at times, and only occasionally amusing, but that's just because of how tossed-off they sound.  I get that Nu-Metal is a maligned genre now, but SOAD had a good thing going, and now they're just embracing their quirky side way too much to the point it's annoying.  And their version of bland, straight-forward thrash leaves A LOT to be desired for me personally.  Yet another reason I gave up on metal in the mid-00s.  Oh well...

7.2

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