Review: System of a Down – "Steal This Album!"

On November 26th, 2002, California-based metal outfit System of a Down released their third album, “Steal This Album!”. Their newest release combines the sounds of their previous albums, “System Of A Down” and “Toxicity”, as well as adding a bit of new flavour. Many of the songs on “Steal This Album!” were originally recorded for “Toxicity”, but were left out because they didn’t flow well with the continuity of the album, according to SOAD’s lead singer, Serj Tankian. Tankian also states that they are in no way B sides, and are as good if not better than the songs that made it onto “Toxicity”. That in mind, let’s delve into some of the songs themselves, shall we?

The album starts off with “Chic ‘n’ Stu”, which is interesting to say the least. The focus of the song is directed toward the scrutiny of unscrupulous advertisers who force useless products down the throats of the masses. This is overtop of a hard and fast metal sound that System fans know and love. Now, even though I know the song is about advertising, I’m still confused by the bulk of the lines, which are about a pizza. My confusion aside, a good way to start the album off and get people thinking.

The album’s first(and at the time of writing, only) single is up next, and is titled “Innervision”. “I need your guidance/I need to seek my innervision” is the chorus, and pretty much explains where the song is going. I like this song, it’s hard and Serj uses his voice well, but I think the main reason that it became a single instead of some of the other tracks is due to the fact that it’s focus isn’t slamming the government. Too bad, really. If the guys in office heard some of this stuff maybe they’d realize what they’ve become. Probably not, but we could hope.

Moving on, we’ve got a trio of politically charged tracks in “Bubbles”, “Boom!”, and “NuGuns”. “Bubbles” is about the people of America(and a load of other places) being “left with no arms in the power struggle”. This track shares it’s sound with the previous pair, but things get a little different when “Boom!” starts up. The subject of the tune is very anti-large corporation. One line in particular struck me as very powerful: “Four thousand hungry children leave us every hour from starvation while billions are spent on bombs, creating death showers”. The style of this song differs from the previous tracks in that the verses are Serj speaking over a bassline, and the music changes partway through the song, then reverts back just before the end. The title of “NuGuns” more or less explains it’s meaning, and it completes this trio of political tunes.

A pair of darker sounding and powerful songs are up next in “American Dream Denial”(shortened to “A.D.D.” on the track listing), and “Mr. Jack”. “Mr. Jack” is my favourite song on the album. It is a semi-ballad about a serial killer(I’m pretty sure), with a dark sound that fits it’s dark content very well. If it was fleshed out a bit more this song could be made into a book or a movie. Seriously.

There aren’t any huge standouts between “Mr. Jack” and the next song I’m going to mention, but that’s not to say that the songs in between are bad. They’re up to par with anything else on the album, they just don’t stand out quite as much. From the opening guitar squeals, “Fuck The System” keeps your attention. A lot of the song is nonsensical without the aid of a lyrics sheet, but the title is really all you need to be able to see what where System is going with it. This song has some really unique sounds to it, the bulk of which are the ways that Serj manages to contort his voice, which is versatile, to say the least.

The last song I’m going to comment on wasn’t released as a single, although it has previously appeared on the Scorpion King movie soundtrack. “Streamline” is one of the songs that incorporates a new sound, and it does so with style. The main chord is a solid up-and-down sounding piece of work that I absolutely love. It leads into a quieter period during which Serj spouts out the verses, then picks up again. A very unique sound, more so than “Fuck The System”, and fantastic way to end the album.

“Steal This Album!” uses elements from SOAD’s previous two albums, but also shows a progression in the band’s sound that, to me, is a very good sign for the future. With that said, I’m sure you want to hear the verdict.

“Steal This Album!” by System of a Down has snagged itself a 4/5 on the Walrus scale, which, oddly enough, is very similar to other scales rated out of five.

And folks, I know it’s called “Steal This Album!”, but let’s support the guys in System of a Down and pay for album, eh?