System of a
Steal this review
by Dan Grote
System of a Down released this sixteen
song set of previously (commercially) unreleased material in an attempt
to play catalogue damage control. After songs recorded during the Toxicity
sessions leaked onto the Internet, according to some reports, the band
felt they did not want untweaked material floating around. Therefore, they
went and tweaked everything they had left, ergo Steal This Album!, the
title meant less as instruction and more as “okay, now you can float these
songs around to your friends.”
Five of the songs on Steal This Album!
began as outtakes from Toxicity. Others are songs written in the band’s
early stages, while still others lend what might be a hint of what to expect
from the band’s third official studio album.
For the most part, the Toxicity leftovers
are every bit as good as what made it onto Toxicity, if not interchangeable.
“Boom!” carries the same spoken word verse-shouted chorus of “Prison Song,”
while “Innervision” could very easily be the fourth single off Toxicity
as opposed to the first single off Steal This Album! “A.D.D.” comes off
as a step back, with its “We don’t give a f*** about your world” chants,
while “f*** the System” just seems a little too obvious.
As for the non-Toxicity songs, there are
some fun surprises on this album. Steal’s lead track, “Chic ‘N’ Stu,” reveals
a younger System, still in the stages of discovering its sound, a little
more punk, but still singing about the mental enslavement of America, this
time through advertising: “Pepperoni and green peppers, mushrooms, olives,
chives/Advertising causes me to repeat/to repeat.”
Then there is “Roulette,” written years
before even the band’s first album and which is probably the most un-System
System song ever written. It’s a love song. There’s no screaming, no subversive
messages about having your dreams monitored through implanted v-chips or
building prisons to house America. Just vocalist Serj Tankian, guitarist
Daron Malakian, an acoustic guitar, and the lilting chorus “I know how
I feel when I’m around you/I don’t know how I feel when I’m around you.”
Steal This Album! also finds System having
fun with instruments more, as “Nuguns” features a mandolin solo, “I-E-A-I-A-I-O”
opens up with some unexpected Van Halen-esque guitar noodling, and the
bridge of “Highway Song” trades off between guitar and xylophone. These
are the songs that could very well be the future of System, with a more
mature and experimental sound than what has gone before, as opposed to
growl-and-howl songs like “36” that sound like they didn’t even make the
cut on the band’s 1998 debut.
VERDICT: Outtake album though it may be,
System of a Down’s b-string songs still sound ten times better than most
metal bands’ a-string songs. If anything, Steal This Album! shows off the
creative side of an already creative band. Steal is full of surprises without
being inaccessible and, if it does indicate the direction in which System
is headed, then perhaps what comes next could be even better than Toxicity.
Of A Down - Steal This Album!
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