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(Don't even) Steal this album

System of a Down

System Of A Down - Steal This Album!
(American Recordings)
2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Nov. 24, 2002

Review by Holiday Girod

Okay, hands up. Who thought that System Of A Down's breakthrough sophomore album Toxicity was an overrated stewpot of squirrely metal?
Mgummmph snzbg pzocrp# (You'll have to excuse me as I'm rather clumsy at typing with only one hand). While it's commendable that this L.A. foursome has avoided the obvious West Coast shotgun coupling of rap and heavy metal in the lamo tradition of the Limps and Korns before them (which, by the way, is a genre staring down its own grave as you're reading this), System Of A Down's own brand of twisted, adrenaline-pumped, politically motivated, screwball metal is still, nonetheless, somewhat of a bitter pill to swallow.
For those of you that still have both hands down, and I know there's plenty of you out there as Toxicity sold well over a million copies, then take heed from this pooh-pooher of the Jo Anne Worley of heavy metal when I say that their follow-up entitled Steal This Album! is every bit as good - or bad, depending on which side of the fence you're pooh-poohing from - as their last album.
The 16 songs that fill out this CD are actually nothing more than outtakes from the Toxicity studio sessions. But rather than sounding like second rate knock-offs not worthy of commercial success, many of the songs here are every bit as strong as the many hits from their previous offering (again, if that's your bag, baby).
But then again, there's also a lot of the same 2112 -gone-horribly-wrong time changes, inane lyrics, splashy power crescendos, not to mention the inescapable psychotic, corkscrew vocals from goateed frontgoon Serj Tankian here as well.
It's also a little hard to take their jabs at the greed and manipulativeness in advertising seriously on the opening track "Chic 'n' Stu," when Tankian redundantly blathers out his contents-of-choice on his pizza pie ("Pepperoni and green pepper, mushrooms all the time..." Funny how they failed to mention the loads of cheese contained here as well), or on his tongue-tied braying on "I-E-A-I-A-I-O," which seems an exercise in how fast the lead singer can spit out his cornball lyrics. Even during the mayhem of "F*ck The System" the band can't help but sound like they're doing the 'chicken dance' on crack.
But silliness aside, the album does contain a few redeeming moments. It seems that when they either stick to a more direct method of heavy metal, as in "Ego Brain" and "Mr. Jack," complete with Sabbath-like sludge, or when they temper their hare-brained soapbox rantings and actually emit a little bit of musical tenderness, as on "Roulette," that they actually sound pretty damn good.
Unfortunately, however, these moments are too few and far between to recommend plunking down fifteen beans for a copy of this. Of course, the band also apparently foresaw this, offering their own radical, Abbie Hoffman-influenced solution to the problem in the album's title. Even this, I'm afraid, still doesn't make for a sound value.

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