It’s been a long 12 years for System of a Down fans. Following the dual-release of Hypnotize and Mezmerize in 2005, the Armenian-American metal quartet from California decided it was time to take an extended break which ultimately led to an indefinite hiatus.
Lead vocalist Serj Tankian had been engulfed in his solo career for the better half of a decade, releasing Elect The Dead (2007) and Harakiri (2012). Guitarist Daron Malakian and drummer John Dolmayan had started their own group Scars On Broadway, releasing their self-titled record in 2008 to critical acclaim. Bassist Shavo Odadjian had kept busy as well, collaborating with George Clinton and Achozen.
The band eventually reunited in 2010 and had been touring sporadically, but fans and critics alike began to question if SOAD would ever release another album.
5. Steal This Album (2002)
Rumored to simply be a collection of alternate recordings from the Toxicity sessions, SOAD released Steal This Album! to appease their fan base and allow some additional songs that had been recorded to see the light of day. It has also been stated the name of the album was created due to the number of times Toxicity was illegally downloaded. While there are several standout tracks not to be overlooked including “Innervision”, “Ego Brain” and the lighter “Roulette”, this album has more of a b-side feel as a continuation of Toxicity and songs that didn’t quite make the cut in their mind. This obviously means Steal This Album! still contains plenty of substance and is an enjoyable experience for the listener.
4. Hypnotize (2005)
The most recent album from System of a Down, Hypnotize was the second part of the dual-release in November 2005 to accompany the preceding Mezmerize. Malakian is noticeably more active in contributing vocals on the record, which is emphasized on the attention grabbing track “Kill Rock ‘n Roll”, and the radio-friendly “Lonely Day”. Rumors had swirled for a brief period that Malakian’s vocals contributed to Tankian’s motivation to take a break and pursue his solo career, but this was never confirmed. The overall sound from Hypnotize can be summarized as obscure yet cohesive; nothing short of classic System of a Down for your enjoyment.
3. Mezmerize (2005)
Checking the “Win a Grammy” box off of their things-to-do-list, Mezmerize helped solidify SOAD further into their own genre of hard rock/metal in 2005. “B.Y.O.B.” (Bring Your Own Bombs) stands alone as the dominant track from the album featuring what has been widely regarded as one of the greatest guitar riffs of all-time, accompanied closely by “Question!”, the comical “Cigaro” and the live favorite “Lost in Hollywood”. SOAD was awarded the Grammy for best hard rock performance for “B.Y.O.B.” in 2005, and if you have Guitar Hero or Rocksmith you surely have dabbled with trying to learn the various mind-bending riffs as well. Emphasizing chorus-driven songs for the duration of the album, Mezmerize continues to leave SOAD fans satisfied with each play-through.
2. System of a Down (1998)
Welcome to the show, SOAD. Featuring a giant hand coming to grab your face as well as your attention on the album cover, the self-titled debut effort System of a Down has plenty of heavy goodness and head-banging tracks to rock out to. Featuring the singles “Spiders” and the well-known, angst driven “Sugar”, the album was certified as platinum in 2002. Hidden gems and deeper cuts also include “Peephole” and “Suite Pee”, a song in which SOAD often brings out notable guests to accompany them while performing live. The album contains 13 tracks in total, each of which are uptempo and in-your-face madness. A shorter length of 40:36, System of a Down continues to hold up as a solid listen.
1. Toxicity (2001)
No surprise here. Regarded by many as one of the greatest metal albums (if not the greatest) of the 2000’s, Toxicity helped cement System of a Down into their own legacy. The album charted at #1 on the Billboard 200 and featured three top 10 singles in “Chop Suey!”, “Toxicity” and “Aerials” and was certified as triple-platinum in 2002. Politically-charged with face-melting screams one moment and glorious harmonies the next, each song has its own identity and flows perfectly into the next. The album is close to flawless, marrying the simplistic, heavy riffs with the crunch of Malakian’s guitar and the obscure yet aggressive vocal performances from Tankian. Timeless and repeatable, Toxicity is truly a great achievement.