System of a Down: Toxicity (2001)

“All the world I’ve seen before me passing by…”

Toxicity is a crazy album. It’s a bit like sitting through a tornado. On meth.

I first became aware of System of a Down during my freshman year of high school, when Paulie Pizzwald (the original Alpha Male) was kind enough to pick me up and drive me to school, along with 5-7 additional family members. I’d hop into the back seat and we’d blast Spiders and Sugar off of their self titled album. When Toxicity came out, I was amazed that this frenzy of sound was actually getting played on the radio.

Listening now, in 2015, I notice a few things that didn’t really register in my 16-year-old-brain in 2001. These tracks are not just choppy bouts of metal juxtaposed with beautiful sections of melody. The lyrics themselves are super political, and many of the issues raised are still major concerns today. (They’re trying to build a prison.) This album carried a message that was as restless and demanding as the riffs it contained. Coupled with the fact that this message was delivered by Serj Tankian, one of the most unique and distinct frontmen in rock history, and the album really is an interesting listen.

Whether you’re into this genre or not, Toxicity is a case study of how music has been used to express discontent with the status quo over the years. It wasn’t the first album to do so, and it certainly won’t be the last. Happy listening.

Suitable for: Nothing short of rebellion.

Appropriate Playback Device:  Discman attached to your car stereo via the tape deck.


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