1000 Albums Project

ALBUM 194

Steal This Album!, by System of a Down
Suggested by Andy Scott-Morrissey

If you’re new to System of a Down, go listen to the first track off this album.

Don’t worry, I’ll wait. The track is called Chic N’ Stu.

Done? Grand. Glad to have you back.

You’ve now heard exactly all you need to rate this band and album.

System of a Down is nu metal flap-jabby discord with oblique vocal performances that gibber up from the Beefheart bowels of Satan himself. There’s your standard fast nu metal, with popping drums and pregnant pauses, drilling along with a distorted gear-grind guitar. Over the top, some young men gibber and growl and rant and rail about the advertising industry, apparently, leading with a boisterous yet bizarre list of pizza toppings repeated and reworked again and again.

Did you enjoy the song? I hope so. It’s a barometer of how you’d take to the band as a whole.

It’s not that all their songs are the same. It’s more that Chic N Stu has pretty much all the System of a Down elements distilled into their purest form. It’s a machine with a set of sliders, labelled things like “Bounce”, “Odd Lyric”, “Discordance,” and “Wacky Vocal”, but the cleaner knocked it over while he was hoovering and the now sliders are slid to 100%. If you can stomach this jarring recipe, then you can drink down every drop of the brew on offer.

Me? I can take it or leave it. I like some aspects of the sound, and appreciate them in the hands of others, but System of a Down seem to polarise and overuse. They jam those individual sliders right to the top or completely off, and there’s not much nuance involved. While Korn’s Jonathan Davis can gurn and gargle like a pro, or Faith No More’s Mike Patton can grunt and chunter to Olympic standard, they do so in the corner of the frame, allowing us to take in the Big Picture without losing focus on the detail. System of a Down present the Big Picture early, then take a whole box of crayons and scribble all over it.

There are some great songs on Steal This Album, such as caustic A.D.D (American Dream Denial) and my personal favourite, the fizzing I-E-A-I-A-I-O, but in general I find them too forced-quirky, too juvenile, too damn try-hard to really consider them an option. For that reason, Steal This Album gets a mediocre 5/10. I can snap-name three superior bands that’d scratch any itches this music might evoke.

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