#1 System of a Down – Toxicity
Released in 2001 by American Records.
Best Songs: Chop Suey!, Needles, Toxicity, Aerials, Deer Dance
Interesting Facts: Serj Tankian and Daron Malakian attended Rose and Alex Pilibos Armenian School as children, although due to their eight-year age difference they did not meet until 1992 while working on separate projects at the same recording studio. They formed a band named Soil with Tankian on vocals and keyboards, Malakian on vocals and guitar, Dave Hakopyan on bass and Domingo Laranio on drums. The band hired Shavo Odadjian (another Rose and Alex Pilibos alumnus) as manager, although he eventually joined Soil as rhythm guitarist. In 1994, after only one live show Hakopyan and Laranio left the band, feeling that it was not going anywhere! After Soil split up, Tankian, Malakian and Odadjian formed a new band, System of a Down. The group took its name from a poem that Malakian had written titled “Victims of a Down”. The word “victims” was changed to “system” because Odadjian believed that it would appeal to a much wider audience and also because the group wanted their records to be alphabetically shelved closer to their musical heroes, Slayer! In 1997 soon after playing at Hollywood clubs the band caught famed producer Rick Rubin’s attention who asked them to keep in touch with him. Rubin signed the group onto his American/Columbia Records, and System of a Down began to record in Rubin’s studio laying down tracks that would eventually be released on their debut album, ‘System of a Down’. ‘System of a Down’ was certified gold by the RIAA on February 2, 2000. Two years later, after the success of Toxicity, it was certified platinum.
On September 3, 2001, System of a Down had planned on launching Toxicity at a free concert in Hollywood as a “thank you” to fans. The concert, which was to be held in a parking lot, was set up to accommodate 3,500 people, however, an estimated 7,000 to 10,000 fans showed up. Because of the large excess number of fans the performance was cancelled by police officers just before the group took the stage. No announcement was made that the concert had been cancelled. Fans waited for more than an hour for the group to appear, but when a banner hanging at the back of the stage that read “System of a Down” was removed by security, the audience rushed the stage, destroying all the band’s touring gear (approximately $30,000 worth of equipment) and began to riot, throwing rocks at police, breaking windows, and knocking over portable toilets. The riot lasted six hours, during which six arrests were made. The band’s manager, David “Beno” Benveniste, later said that the riot could have been avoided if the group had been permitted to perform or had they been allowed to make a statement at the concert regarding the cancellation. System of a Down’s scheduled in-store performance the next day was cancelled to prevent a similar riot.
On September 4, 200,1 Toxicity was released and debuted at No. 1 on the American and Canadian charts, despite the events of September 11. The album has eventually achieved 3x multi-platinum certification in the US and has since sold over 12 million copies worldwide. It was still on top in America during the week of the September 11, 2001 attacks and the political environment caused by the attacks added to the controversy surrounding the album’s hit single ‘Chop Suey!’ The song was taken off the radio as it contained politically sensitive lyrics according to the 2001 Clear Channel memorandum at the time such as “(I don’t think you) trust in my self-righteous suicide.” Regardless, the video gained constant play on MTV as did the album’s second single, ‘Toxicity’. Even with the controversy surrounding ‘Chop Suey!’ (which earned a Grammy nomination), System of a Down still received constant airplay in the United States throughout late 2001 and 2002 with ‘Toxicity’ and ‘Aerials’. In 2006, VH1 listed Toxicity in the No. 14 slot in the 40 Greatest Metal Songs.
In 2001, the band went on tour with Slipknot throughout the United States and Mexico. Following a performance in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Odadjian was allegedly harassed, ethnically intimidated, and was physically assaulted by security guards backstage, who then dragged him out of the venue. Odadjian received medical attention from police and later filed a suit against the security company. Despite the incident, the tour was a success and System of a Down and Slipknot went on the Pledge of Allegiance Tour with Rammstein. In late 2001, unreleased tracks from the Toxicity sessions made their way onto the internet. This collection of tracks was dubbed Toxicity II by fans. The group released a statement that the tracks were unfinished material and subsequently released the final versions of the songs as their third album, ‘Steal This Album!’.
Don Kaye of Blabbermouth.net gave Toxicity ten out of ten, one of only 21 albums to achieve a perfect rating from the site. Loudwire listed the album as #1 on its list of ‘Top 11 Metal Albums of the 2000s. It was picked by Metal Hammer UK as album of the year and also won Metal Edge Readers’ Choice Award for “Album of the Year.” Many songs from Toxicity appeared in soundtracks. ‘Shimmy’ appeared in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4, ‘Toxicity’ was a playable track in Guitar Hero: Metallica, ‘Science’ appeared in ATV Offroad Fury 2, ‘Chop Suey!’ was a playable track in Rock Band 2 and is set to appear in the upcoming game Guitar Hero Live. In addition, the song appeared in the TV spot and launch trailer for Mortal Kombat X that were both directed by Shavo Odadjian. Finally, a few days ago (June 2015) ‘Bounce’ appeared in the hilarious teaser trailer for ‘The Secret Life of Pets’ animated movie.