System of a Down.


Finally, the album.

Right, just got this, as this issue was being finished. So rather than wait, I decided to add a few more pages just so that I could include this album review. Ok, so you’re going to have to forgive the self indulgence. A long piece on one album! Yeah, but I’ve been waiting so long for this one, so you’re going to have to bear with me on this.

No album cover sorry, so no piccy of it. Content yourself instead with the live one courtesy of Terese Ramirez. Hopefully by the time you read this, the album will be in the shops, and you’ll all be getting your grubby paws on it anyway.

Yes, they are getting hype. Yes, they’re going to continue to receive it. Yes, they’re going to divide people. Love. Hate. Is it worth it. Well, that’s for you to decide isn’t it. For me, the answer is a resounding YES.

Well, it’s a 13 tracker. The three demo tracks, War?, Know and Peephole are here. They’re re-recorded. Slightly different. Extra things going on. If you listen to them first in isolation from the rest of the album, it’s strange. You need to take it in within the context of the album.

Let’s resolve some of the questions as well.

Do they sound like Korn, Deftones, Coal Chamber?

Um, no. They don’t. The similarity is that they do use a detuned guitar sound. There are some stop start rhythms. And that’s it. They will get compared, because most people simply haven’t got anything better to do with their time. Look past it. Take a listen to the wonderful Spiders. You haven’t heard anything like that on the other albums. Or album closer P.L.U.C.K. with it’s glorious vocal performance from Serj.

Is Serj a mad man?

Ah Serj. The man about to be portrayed as a mad person. Maybe! How will any of us know anyway, as we don’t know the guy. Reading about someone isn’t the same as knowing them. But anyway, he’s versatile. The man will readily admit to being a major fan of Mike Patton of the late, great Faith No More. And I’ve not heard anyone else mix up the vocals as much. Usually in the same song. There’s a guttoral roar. A shout, a croon. The works. Some people are going to hate him. But, he is possibly the key ingrediant here.

Comparisons I’ve heard include Maynard from Tool, Al from King Prawn (still haven’t really got that one,) and Biafra. And there are times when they do spring to mind. Like I said, versatile. At least not even I can accuse the man of sounding the same all the time.

Is it just Serj then?

But don’t be mistaken, and don’t be mislead. There’s three other people that make up this band, and the music that Shavo, John and Daron create between them is superb. Switching between a whole host of styles, it soon gets into the head and decides not to move.

Have they got a sense of humour, or is it all “ohhhh, I’m so angst ridden me”. And I don’t like Politics or Rage Against The Machine, so I won’t like this.

Take a listen to Sugar. Or CUBErt. OR Suit-pee. Should answer your question. And you don’t need to concentrate on the politics. Enjoy the songs for what they are. And if you are interested, then there’s a whole bunch of issues to go and find about.

So what are the songs?

Glad you asked, let’s go and take a visit.

Suit-Pee. The opening guitar sets out the bands stance. two and a half minutes of stop start mayhem. Start getting used to it.

Know - re-recorded from the demo, the opening vocal is more distorted than before. Serj only manages about 3 different vocal styles in this track. John, the drummer, who wasn’t on the original demo, gets the chance to make it his own.

Sugar - the quirkiness starts to come through. Suugarr. Switching between the agression and the “sugar”. Going to be a live favourite. Those that can, get ready to dance. Then bounce. Then have to dance again.

Suggestions - drops the pace to start, Serj concentrating on a more conventional singing style. They’ll disagree I’m sure, but there’s that little hint of the cultural background at times. And then Serj decides to do something different again.

Spiders - Love this song so much. Maybe more conventional rock. Slow, classic intro. Quiet vocal, things build to a climax. Then drop down again And back. for those that believe that any band in the “new metal” genre don’t know how to construct a classic song, and instead rely on this stop start “groove” should take a listen to Spiders. Absolutely glorious. Could be one of the songs of the year. It’s not the heaviest thing on here by a long shot, and that’s what maybe makes it so special. Class all the way. Great riff courtesy of Shavo. The man knows how to vary things. Atmospheric, emotional. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what was so naggingly familiar about this song. But on the way to the Ozzfest Vicky got it. At times Serj sounds like Jonah from Far.

DDevil - one of the shortest songs on the album at under 2 minutes. More aggressive and in your face after Spiders, but not hardcore. More groove oriented. There’s almost a dancebeat in there. And of course, vocals from Serj that you’ll be trying, like me, to re-create, and failing miserably and sounding stupid. Which means it should be great live!

Soil - the name of the band from which Serj and Shavo emerged. And I have no idea if it has any more significance than that. After the last few tracks, we have one that the more groove oriented amongst people can appreciate.

War? - Another re-recorded from the demo. So it should be familiar to most of you. If not, it’s a fucking monster. The opening riff is going to be one of the most famous of the year. In fact the whole thing sounds more riff oriented than ever. It’s a massive song. Then the middle break down, extra keys adding the Eastern touch compared to the demo. Serj adding even more character to it than the original version. The chorus is going to be ripped at gigs.

Mind - featuring the line, free thinkers are dangerous from the t-shirt. The longest track at 6 minutes. Central piece of the album maybe. There’s that Eastern thing again. Atmospheric and building. There’s a few moments here where some people will go “Chino”. Takes a few more plays to get the full benefit of this one. Maybe an indicator of the future.

Peephole - third and last of the demos. Re-recorded once more. The one that I thought had the biggest Armenian sound. Serj disagreed. But there is that waltz to it that he mentioned in the Metal Hammer interview. And listen to those rolled rrrrrr’s. Moods, light and shade. That’s what they’re often about, and it’s highlighted here. It even sounded like there was some big deep horn in there at one point, though that might have just been my hearing.

CUBErt - ok, sorry, but with the name and everything, I can’t help but remember the old computer game QBert. Well look, I’m older than a lot of you, so I will remember these things. And the guitar intro doesn’t help. Anyone remember the sounds computers used to make loading games. Then the quirk starts in. Drum driven. It could’ve been at home with the “weirder” moments on the last Incubus album.

Darts - more conventional again. Well, at least until Serj opens his mouth. Some great music again. And some nice changes of pace. Weird rhythms.

P.L.U.C.K - closes the album, and what a closer. Say no more really. Check the vocals, the riff, the speed blasts, the melodies, the whole thing.

And that’s it. 40 minutes. They managed to achieve that medium that you so want in a band. You love it, and you’re left wanting more. More. They didn’t do a Soulfly on us. Actually, this is way better than Soulfly. They’ve shocked me in places. Versatility, establishing their own identity. In the current climate that’s a difficult thing. Someone somewhere will point to the occasional guitar sound and say “see, just like all the others” Just point them to the rest of the album and go “see, totally different to all the others”.

Yes, I’ve mentioned Serj a lot. Because he is the star here. The music is great. The vocals aid and abet.

There is only one System of a Down. For me this is better than Machine Head, Soulfly, Sepultura, Korn etc. So now if they can just find their way over to the UK and Europe, we’ll all be happy right!?!