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Tracks from the Past: System of a Down - Toxicity

BY DI STAFF | JULY 19, 2012 6:30 AM

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You know the tune. You just don't know the words.

Wake up / Something something something something makeup / Something something something something shake-up / Something something something something table / Something something something something fable.

I don't know the lyrics to System of a Down's "Chop Suey," either — as legendary baseball manager Casey Stengel used to say, you can look it up — but guitarist Daron Malakian turned 37 this week, so some indecipherable yelling isn't going to stop me from naming the group's 2001 masterpiece

Toxicity this week's entry for Tracks from the Past.

The record went triple platinum on the strength of its trio of singles — the success of "Chop Suey" created similar interest in the title track and "Aerials" — and those three songs continue to receive heavy airplay on hard-rock radio.

But Toxicity's other tracks deserve recognition for their unflinching lyrical content (who doesn't love songs about drugs, sex, and politics?) and distinct styling.

Malakian's guitar floats between delicate fingerpicking and traditional metal-head banging. Serj Tankian performs similar feats with his voice; his vocals are soft and ethereal one minute and harshly incoherent the next.

Drummer John Dolmayan's furious percussion makes him perhaps the most talented pure musician in the group. Shavo Odadjian's bass tends to get lost in the heaviness of some tracks, but he more than makes up for it with his foot-long, braided beard. It's awesome.

The Armenian quartet combined to make a peculiar, almost schizophrenic record in Toxicity — a record that happens to be one of the best metal efforts of the 2000s.

Turn it up.

— by Seth Roberts


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