System of a Down review by System of a Down

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  • Released: Oct 12, 1998
  • Sound: 10
  • Lyrics: 10
  • Overall Impression: 10
  • Reviewer's score: 10 Gem
  • Users' score: 9.3 (184 votes)
System of a Down: System of a Down

Sound — 10
I'm going to review each song as no one has really taken the time to give individual credit to every piece and I think it's a shame really. 01. Suite-Pee - opening with a peculiar almost childlike series of distortions, you know that this album; this band, is something completely different. The riffs are actually quite simple but the patterns are unheard of. It's fast jumps in pitch and tone sort of mirror the meaning of the song in questioning religious beliefs. Although it is a great song, I would say it's actually my least favorite on the album because the vocals sound a bit strained. 02. Know - even more so than Suite-Pee, Know is very simple in it's riffs. In fact, I think about half the song runs on the same 3 power chords in different forms. It's what you call a cooperative effort. The vocals, the drums, the bass, and the guitar, none of the above being greater than the other, work together to make simple chords sound amazing. It's all synced together so well, this is one of my favorite songs on the CD. 03. Sugar - well, what hasn't been said about Sugar already. It was one of the first singles put out by System, if not the first. The sound here sort of portrays a story. All of the instrumental is liked to the vocals as Serj expresses the thoughts of a bittersweet modern life. I think this one got very popular because the lyrics are relatable and the variations in emotion are so great that it is an intensely enveloping song. No one skips Sugar when it comes up on mix. 04. Suggestions - severely underrated. But then again that characterizes most of the songs on this album. Many SOAD fans pass over this song but I think they're missing out. It opens with an acoustic fast paced stacatto beat reaching high on the frett board (believe me in it's a pain in the ass to play). It then transfers very quickly to an almost bass saturated riff, and then to a crazy alternating pattern reminiscent of polka. The hectic parts mirror the panic in Serj's voice when the song comes to a tense part lyrically. Give it a shot, really. 05. Spiders - the gem of the album; the centerpiece as I see it. It is easy to confuse this song with Aerials at times because the pattern is almost exactly the same. Opening with a clean bass filled intro that sounds like nothing you've ever heard before, (Aerials anyone) it almost lulls you into a passive state. Well, then you wake up with a series of heavy riffs (Aerials) and a series of power chords to follow that make up the part of the song everyone remembers. This repeats several times till you get to the very heavy part. The difference here being Serj doesn't unleash a vocal hurricane in Spiders like he does in Aerials. So, enjoy the simplistic yet astounding solo near the end of the song. I think this song appeals so much because it is the basic elements of System; it's the formula for sucess. 06. Ddevil - a rapid burst of sounds and frantic lyrics seemingly about nothing. Well if you know squat about System, it's never about nothing. This is a few poems pertaining to some modern evils Serj has observed in his life and I think some of it is taken directly out of his book "Cool Gardens". Funny how he can make poetry mesmerizing and fervant huh? Though this is short, it's certainly a deviation after the lulling sounds of Spiders. 07. Soil - a masterpiece really in every aspect. Seperate each element of this song and all of them are remarkable. If you can understand what the meaning of the song is it is even more appealing. The song is saturated with passion, heavy everything. Donning the name of SOAD's ex-band, Soil is most likely about a friend who has taken his own life. Opening with a peculiarly light riff, it quickly changes back into typical fervant low tone SOAD riffs. Something about this song sounds strange though, as if the riff fakes you out, playing something else than what you thought you would hear. Maybe that's just me though. After several choruses in this song, you get to an extremely fast solo leading up to the erruption of Serj's query, and in my opinion the single most angry line of lyrics I have ever seen and heard in my life, "Why did you take him away from us you Motherf--ker?", he asks of God. This song makes no apologies, and I don't see why it should. 08. War? - the sound of this song seems to reflect the image of the self righteous soldier. This is the seed that gives life to later songs such as Sad Statue and Attack. It is not only political but critical of religion and society, all playing their hand in unecessary bloodshed. It is audible in the song too, as priests begin chanting in Latin in the interlude of the song backed by faint muted picking. It is almost entirely power chords, so if that's your thing, you'll love it. I think it; s okay but it is lacking in any kind of solo demonstration and variation of chords. 09. Mind - my favorite song on the album actually. I learned how to play this by ear when I first bought the CD, and it's a lot of fun to play, but that's beside the point. You might have to turn your volume up as the song starts, because it is very quiet and calm. Serj lures you in with soothing words and promises, and a light melody and distinct bass. So just relax because it gets very heavy in a moment. This is very obvious mirrorism of the meaning of the song, which is about how the Armenians lived amongst the Turks for generations peacefully until totalitatianism and religious intolerance swept across the country and at the snap of a finger, the people were split asunder and sent to die in the desert. The sound following the intro sounds like desperation, and the few alternate picking portions seem to resemble human cries almost. It's very gritty to sum it up. It gives a view into the fickle and evil 'mind' of a human being turned on their brothers and sisters. 10. Peephole - bizarre. Alright, once again the introduction is very quiet here. If your volume isn't high enough you might miss it entirely. It is an organ being played, and brief clips of the actual song itself about to unfold... hence the name, Peephole. You can visualize yourself staring through a small hole in the wall seeing just glimpses of the band playing perhaps. That's just one interpretation. The sound following the intro is another mock-polka eletric beast, making a single guitar capable of sounding like an accordian and/or organ. Bizarre lyrics, spooky guitar riffs; not for the close minded. Music has no boundaries though, so here is Peehole. 11. Cubert - the intro is sort of bizarre. The paradigm of intense transferances, it goes from a repetition of very high pleading notes to very deep intense notes. It is reminiscent of a conversation between a pacficist and a warmongerer. Lyrically, I think the song is kind of lazy, it talks of a world where humans are just cogs in a machine, 'food' for corporate zoos. And it has about 3 different verses total, mostly repetitions. I don't dislike the song but it's the weak side of the album. 12. Darts - wailing, desperation, personal insanity, archaic imagery. Don't listen to Darts by yourself. This song is about dead lifestyles, forgotten beliefs, the past buried and forgotten, seen as insignificant in today's world. So yeah it's kind of gloomy. Throughout most the song you can hear a clock ticking, reflecting the iminent doom of all things, and how our own culture as it is now could be buried under the Earth and forgotten. Alternating between quiet and intense, backed by a huge range in vocals, this is another one of the 'crazy' songs SOAD is so infamous for. 13. P.L.U.C.K. - ending the album we have Pluck, the thesis of the Armenian genocide specifically. Very traditional metal riffs in this song are given the special touch by System in the various interludes and outro/intro. As always, the vocals range from intense mind shattering pitch to calm and melodic, as does the guitar. John Dolmayan does a very good job of keeping rhythem here (not that he doesn't always). Not anything spectacular for a finale like Aerials was for Toxicity and Soldier Side was foir Hypnotize, but it is standalone a good song.

Lyrics — 10
Most of the songs are written by the vocalist Serj Tankian, whom I have a great deal of respect and admiration for. Sure it is fashionable to be metaphorical and secretive in the meanings of your songs. However, Serj makes every word sharp as a razor or smooth as silk, giving incedible strength to every sigle line of lyrics. The radio hits SOAD has are so lyrically deviated from the typical music on the radio that even if it were Serj singing by himself without any instrumental, people would still be following him in repetition driving on their way to work or school. Every word packs five words, every line packs an entire story and ideal. Every song is an epic, a battle in the modern world. The lyrics they come up with are sometimes bizarre and maybe even perverse, but it is reflective of modern humanity. This album is polar to what most bands do coming out of the gate. It is strong and abrasive, it makes no apologies, it comes at you with it's head lowered and will knock you over if you are not prepared. It packs all the crazy singles the other albums have, and the slower more memorable songs for the less insane among us.

Overall Impression — 10
To put it simply, it is their first and best album for all the reasons I have already stated. Oh, and Daron doesn't sing but maybe once. As much as he is a master of the guitar, I'd prefer if he let Serj hold the mic himself.

3 comments sorted by best / new / date

    oh... THAT guy
    calm down, people. This Was A Great Debut album, and it is a bit odd in places. but at the ending of P.L.U.C.K.when the album finishes, there's a wierd sense of that kind of 'epic'ness to it. great album, 10/10 from me.
    Ddevil, Cubert and Darts are really funny, PLUCK, Spiders and Sugar are brillaint and Soil is completly random and quite scary