Toxicity is the second studio album by Alternative Metal band System of a Down, released on September 4, 2001. While their previous eponymous album garnered them a substantial following, this record propelled the band into the mainstream due to its impressive Genre Roulette and stunning originality.
Expanding from their usual tirades about government oppression, Toxicity highlighted more specific issues in which the band was interested, such as the decriminalization of drugs, environmentalism, education, religion, war, and fame. One of the more hard-hitting political messages was "Chop Suey!", which was an all-out critique of "self-righteous suicide" (such as jihad) and religious fundamentalism. It became a hugely successful song especially when 9/11 occurred just a week after the album was released.
The band also dabbled with Lighter and Softer melodies while keeping their Hard Rock edge and Serj Tankian's characteristic metal screams, such as on the hit singles "Toxicity" and "Aerials" (which was nominated for a Grammy Award). The album has since sold 12 million copies and remains SOAD's most influential album to date, since it helped to further popularize the progressive metal genre.
- "Prison Song" (3:21)
- "Needles" (3:13)
- "Deer Dance" (2:55)
- "Jet Pilot" (2:06)
- "X" (1:58)
- "Chop Suey!" (3:30)
- "Bounce" (1:54)
- "Forest" (4:00)
- "ATWA" (2:56)
- "Science" (2:43)
- "Shimmy" (1:51)
- "Toxicity" (3:38)
- "Psycho" (3:45)
- "Aerials" (6:11)note
- Serj Tankian vocals, keyboards, guitars
- Daron Malakian guitars, vocals
- Shavo Odadjian bass, backing vocals
- John Dolmayan drums
- Academy of Evil: "Shimmy" is a playful assertion that we have all become puppets of the education system:Education, fornication, in you are; go
Education, subjugation, now you're out; go
Education, fornication, in you are; go
Don't be late for school again, boy!
- Album Filler: Word of God confirms that "Bounce", "X" and "Shimmy" were mostly written for this purpose.
- Alliterative Title: "Deer Dance"
- Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: Daron said during a live performance that "Toxicity" was mainly about Attention Deficit Disorder, with the "seeds" in the song representing the pharmaceutical drugging of the youth.
- Concept Video: In addition to showing the band perform, the video for "Aerials" focuses mainly on a young Circus Brat with... ugly features, wishing that he were famous. He also has a naive view of the world; he assumes nobody would give a second thought toward his physical characteristics, he imagines a reporter as a young boy, and he imagines that rich people do nothing but blow money up in the air all the time. It ends with him kneeling face-down in disappointment on the same ground where the band had been performing a minute ago.
- Deadly Euphemism: "Deer Dance" sarcastically invokes this:Battalions of riot police with rubber bullet kisses
Baton, courtesy, serviced with a smile
- Disproportionate Retribution: "Deer Dance" features innocent, young protesters and the tired poor peacefully fighting against the system, which continually oppresses them.
- Epic Rocking: Comparatively, "Psycho" has a pretty long solo from the rest of the songs on the record. It also sounds really cool.
- Fun with Acronyms: "ATWA" is short for "Air, Trees, Water, and Animals", though none of those words appear in the song.
- Government Drug Enforcement: The implication of "Prison System" is that the government chooses to criminalize drugs to keep the population docile. Conspiracy theorists, much?
- Green Aesop: "ATWA" and "Forest" mainly serve as this, to show how complacency and an uncaring attitude can be destructive to the world surrounding us.
- Groupie Brigade: "Psycho" is a commentary about how groupies get entrenched in the culture of Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll in order to follow musicians they admire:So you want the world to stop
Rushing to watch your spirit fully drop
From the time you were a PSYCHO! GROUPIE! COCAINE! CRAZY!
So you want to see the show
You really don't have to be a ho
- Hidden Track: The album version of "Aerials" fades out into a tribal-sounding instrumental the band calls "Arto". It's named after Arto Tunçboyacıyan, an Armenian singer-songwriter who contributed to the track; Serj has since collaborated with him on numerous occasions.
- Lamprey Mouth: "Needles" compares a heroin syringe to the mouth of a tapeworm. Lovely.
- Like a Son to Me: "Forest" is mostly about how we are all children of the nature, and we have all disavowed ourselves from protecting our progenitor:Why can't you see that you are my child?
Why don't you know that you are my mind?
Tell everyone in the world, that I'm you
Take this promise to the end of you
- Limited Lyrics Song: "X" mostly repeats "We don't need to multiply" and "No need to nullify" a bunch of times.
- Magic Versus Science: "Science", contrary to lots of interpretations, is actually about how a more spiritual outlook toward our world can be more useful to humanity than a neutral, even devastating view toward ideas which govern our lives.
- Martyrdom Culture: "Chop Suey!" is a powerful, reflective critique of this. It mostly serves to show the absurdity of "self-righteous suicide" and pleading to a God before one's death.
- Media Watchdog: The 2001 Clear Channel memorandum, following the 9/11 attacks, actually banned (well, discouraged) a bunch of songs from playing on the radio that were apparently insensitive to the public, including "Chop Suey!". Since "Chop Suey!" was the lead single, it had already been playing on radios a month before the album's release date, so it was already popular enough to not be that affected by the ban.
- Mood Whiplash: After the deep, powerful melodies of "Chop Suey!", the band immediately moves toward the particularly weird, fast "Bounce". Serj has said that this was intentional, to provide a light-hearted contrast between "Chop Suey!" and the rest of the album.
- Non-Appearing Title: "Chop Suey!" is justified mostly because it was a playful censorship of the song's original title, "Suicide".
- One-Letter Title: "X"
- One-Word Title: "Needles", "Bounce", "Forest", "Science", "Shimmy", "Toxicity", "Psycho" and "Aerials".
- Order Versus Chaos: "Toxicity" makes this juxtaposition, showing the constant tension between the struggle to create order and the confusion which causes disorder.
- A Party, Also Known as an Orgy: Humorously invoked "Bounce":I went out on a date with my girl, a bit late
She had so many friends
I brought my pogo stick just to show her a trick
She had so many friends
- Police Brutality: In "Deer Dance":Peaceful loving youth against the brutality of plastic existence
Pushing little children with their fully automatics
They like to push the weak around
- Pun-Based Title: The original title for "Chop Suey!" was "Suicide" note . To make it more palatable to a mainstream audience, however, the band renamed the song after a certain Chinese takeout food, with "Suey", of course, short for "Suicide". (The band has said that they weren't really under pressure from management to do this, however.)
- Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "PSYCHO! GROUPIE! COCAINE! CRAZY!"
- Science Is Bad: "Science". Rather than outright denying it, however, the band instead compares religious wars to the more recent wars amplified by advances in science that allow for further destruction.Fighting off the diseased programming
Of centuries, centuries, centuries, centuries
Science fails to recognise the single most
Potent element of human existence
- Shown Their Work: "Prison Song" cites facts and figures (which were current at the time) to convince people that the system of incarceration within the United States desperately needs reform:The percentage of Americans
In the prison system, prison system
Has doubled since 1985
- The Something Song: "Prison Song"
- Song Style Shift: It is a System of a Down album, after all.
- Step Up to the Mic: Daron Malakian sings some of the bridges in the album, most notably in "Needles", and provides more prominent backing vocals than in their self-titled debut.
- Toilet Humour: "Needles", which features the sarcastic, if odd, refrain, "Pull the tapeworm out of your ass"
- Uncommon Time: "Toxicity" is largely done in a 6/8 time signature.
- War for Fun and Profit: "Jet Pilot" mainly deals with this. This song was actually written before the war in Afghanistan, when this criticism became par for the course for every anti-war protester.Wired were the eyes of a horse on a jet pilot
One that smiled when he flew over the bay
My source is the source of all creation
Her, discourse, is that we all don't survey
- We Have Become Complacent: The subject of "Forest" and "ATWA", both about the environment.
- Word Salad Lyrics: "Bounce". It's about hopping on a pogo stick in front of your date's friends... and having a huge orgy, maybe?