Tuesday, December 13, 2011

December 13: System Of A Down, "Toxicity"

Artist: System Of A Down
Song: "Toxicity"
Album: Toxicity
Year: 2001

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN (will open in new tab)

Few will argue that the past two decades of recorded music has suffered massively in terms of originality and creativity when compared to other eras.  Whether it is due to bands no longer feeling the need or want to "try something new," or the music industry wanting nothing more than copycat bands, "great" albums seem to be released with less frequency as the years pass.  However, in the ultimate irony, when one of these "great" albums or bands does manage to find its way into wide distribution, the majority of the so-called "music press" often completely miss it, with the contents of the album in question being so amazingly brilliant, that it goes right over their collective heads.  In the past twenty years of music, no band better represents this idea than System Of A Down, as their first recordings were not given the ample credit they deserved; and in many ways, one can point to the band as the most pivotal band in any genre over that time span.  Playing in mind-bending time signatures with an urgency and power that is impossible to ignore, System Of A Down completely rewrote the books on what was possible within the world of hard rock and heavy metal, and due to their wonderfully original sound, they manged to gain a respectable amount of mainstream acceptance.  On every song, the group gives all they can to their unique blend of sounds and styles, and there may be no finer an example of the genius that is System Of A Down than their 2001 single, "Toxicity."

It is within the opening notes of "Toxicity" where System Of A Down quickly separates themselves not only from their heavy metal peers, but from every other band from all other genres across the board.  As the song begins with a uniquely beautiful guitar progression from Daron Malakin, there is instantly a tension present, and this is pushed quickly to a frenzied level as the rest of the band crashes in after this melody.  The group wastes no time in getting into "high gear," as the energy on "Toxicity" is far beyond that of any other recording one can find anywhere.  While there is certainly the more "standard" growling sound of heavy metal within the instruments, there is also a clear level of musicianship that is far beyond that of most other performers.  Drummer John Dolmayan is nothing other of spectacular throughout "Toxicity," as he spins the song into sounding like it is being played in a number of different time signatures due to his superb fills and cadences.  Moreso than almost any other drummer, Dolmayan is mixed rather far to the front of the mix, and this helps to emphasize the almost dizzying spin he puts on the song.  The band is rounded out by bassist Shavo Odadjian, and it is the menacing groove that he injects into the track which gives it a uniquely fantastic sense of balance.  The combined sound of System Of A Down is unlike anything else ever recorded, as their is a clear, controlled beauty within the musical mayhem they create, and one cannot help but listen to the song again and again.

While the sound that the musicians-strong within System Of A Down create was certainly nothing short of revolutionary, there is no arguing that the voice of Serj Tankian stands as one of the most iconic of the past few decades.  Much like the music over which he sings, there is a commanding presence to his voice, an yet at the same time, it is evident that there is much to be learned from the words which he sings and shouts.  Unlike a majority of other heavy metal singers, there is no question that Tankian has an excellent vocal range, and he understands how to properly use it across "Toxicity."  It is the way that he is able to create a sonic diversity even within his shouting that is often so captivating, and yet it is clear that he only raises the level of his voice when it "fits" properly within the overall musical context.  Working against the more common beliefs of "how" heavy metal works, one can argue that it is during the more restrained, softer vocal moments where the truly great moments of tension are formed, and the shouting is where one can find the release.  Yet at the same time, there are only a handful of current performers that can hold their own against Tankian when it comes to lyrics, and those found on "Toxicity" are some of his finest.  Releasing some of the mot pointed and powerful social criticism of his generation, it is the way that the words ring across the track that provides the ideal finishing touch to a truly masterful recording.

Even after more than a decade since its initial release, "Toxicity" still fails to receive the full credit which it is unquesitonably due.  Quite literally, there is not a note or beat out of place anywhere on the track, and one would be hard pressed to find a song from any genre of the past decade that can top this phenomenal recording in totality.  It is the way that "Toxicity" is able to sway back an forth, then dive head-first into a controlled chaos that sets them so far apart from other bands, as few other groups are able to execute "both sides" of heavy metal with this level of consistency and perfection.  There is a clear understanding within all of the band members that "volume does not equal power," as System Of A Down builds the overall energy of the song through every movement of this track.  The fact that one can also find diversity within the way that the guitars sound shows their full level of creativity, and there is no denying the reality that it is this mixture of sounds and styles that breathed new life into a fading heavy metal world.  One can also hear heavy influences from many of the "rap-rock" bands that emerged during the tail-end of the late 1990's, and yet at the same time, there is no question that System Of A Down bettered this style in a number of ways.  Spinning and hitting with a power unlike any other recording in history, there are few songs from any era or genre that can compare to the overall musical experience found within System Of A Down's brilliant 2001 single, "Toxicity."

No comments: