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Saturday, 23 April 2011

CD Review: Steal This Album!, by System Of A Down (2002)


It was always denied by the band, but Steal This Album! sure does sound a lot like a collection of the tracks that were not good enough for Toxicity. Released one year after the band's breakthrough, and after most of the songs had leaked on-line, Steal This Album!, with faux bootleg packaging, has more in common with the debut self-titled album than the more satisfying Toxicity.

Many of the songs on Steal This Album! represent good ideas, concepts and sounds that fall just short of becoming great album tracks. The potential and creativity are clear, it's just the final coat of professional polish that is often missing. As evidence of an inability to give any idea the full attention that it may deserve, an astounding sixteen tracks clamour for attention on Steal This Album!: only six of them are longer than three minutes, and just one, Mr. Jack, clambers over the four minute mark.

The overall sound remains true to System Of A Down's core strength: crunchy guitar work from Daron Malakian supporting soulful, theatrical and political vocals from Serj Tankian. Shavo Odadjian on bass and John Dolmayan on drums go about their supporting business relatively quietly, rarely attempting to compete with the angry fire and fury of the vocals and guitar.

Highway Song is the one track that would have fit comfortably on Toxicity, the band allowing harmonies to develop and breathe, toning down the overt drama without sacrificing a sharp edge of menace. The rest of the album is rich with interesting minerals waiting to be mined, but most of the extracted rocks are just slightly underweight to be truly memorable.


Band:

Daron Malakian - Guitar
Serj Tankian - Vocals
Shavo Odadjian - Bass
John Dolmayan - Drums


Songlist (ratings out of 10):

1. Chic 'N' Stu - 8
2. Innervision - 7
3. Bubbles - 7
4. Boom! - 8
5. Nuguns - 7
6. A.D.D. - 7
7. Mr. Jack - 8
8. I-E-A-I-A-I-O - 7
9. 36 - n/a (short track)
10. Pictures - 8
11. Highway Song - 9
12. F**K The System - 6
13. Ego Brain - 8
14. Thetawaves - 7
15. Roulette - 8
16. Streamline - 7

Average: 7.47

Produced by Rick Rubin and Daron Malakian.
Mixed by Andy Wallace.

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