There are a million bands out there with political fused lyrics, but sometimes, just sometimes, those ideals grow far beyond one singular meaning and are truly able to bring about change. The verdict is still out on whether the Californian based Armenian descending band has done so, but their music has changed the world of music. Today we near the end of our Metal March segment, kick it into last gear with System of a Down’s Top Ten Songs. Enjoy!
10. Atwa, Toxicity
It rare that a song about a such a horrible, vile person can also move you, but with the case of our number ten pick for The top Ten System of a Down songs, it indeed does. The guitar opening is soft and peaceful, and visions of what “Atwa” stands for(Air, Trees,Water, Animals) are pretty easy to picture in this early segment. That doesn’t last however, and pretty soon the pace and tension is escalated. It’s a truly magnetic song that sees the band touching briefly on a world that has passed a person by. Is that person Charles Manson(Manson got behind the ATWA meaning before slaughtering innocents), or is the person mentioned in the song someone else? I’m not entirely sure, but it’s a great song nonetheless.
9. Suite-Pee, System of a Down
The aggressive instrumental parts kicking off the song only show a hint of the madness coming forth. At first listen,I couldn’t believe how fast Serj Tankian was singing, and for many listens after it was difficult to understand. But, once you realize what he’s spouting, you realize how well he’s able to use metaphors, and how brilliant he is as a lyricist. Beyond that though, the whole band is talented, and this is just the tip of the iceberg. We’ll get to them later.
8. Chop Suey, Toxicity
If “Sugar” got them noticed by media outlets, than “Chop Suey,” the first single from their massively well received second album made their stay among well known rock bands a sure thing. John Dolmayan has a way with drums, and it’s here you can really sense how precisely he’s able to keep the song within the necessary confines. You genuinely feel the warmth and hurt coming from the song during “The Angels deserve to die” section, but there’s an urgency here that is tormented but also has a beauty in it that you don’t get too often from heavy music. This song helped the band to a new level, but the album as a whole took them to a gorgeous place few in their field have gone.
7. Tentative, Hypnotize
This album, or set of albums doesn’t enough respect if you ask me. Is it as good as Toxicity? No, but it does build the melodic charm of the band in a way that hadn’t been done. This song especially is the highlight of this album. With it’s soaring vocals, and more steady rhythm section, it shows that the band can slow it down and incorporate elements of middle eastern instrumentation. Not surprisingly though, the political themed message of the song also plays a prominent role, and the imagery of escaping from a world of dropping bands is a message that’s hard not to think about in this increasingly terminal world.
6. Streamline, Steal This Album!
I’ve always felt that this song, as part of b sides album, was one of the better songs the band ever recorded. Serj’s voice in the verses is mystic and wary, but the instrumentation from Daron is wonderfully composed and layered. At number six on the Top Ten System of a Down songs, “Streamline” is able to fit right in with the tone of “Toxicity” but also fits perfectly with where the band went musically on future releases. Like I mentioned earlier, it’s a great song, and a superb chance to not only see where the band had been, as well as where they were going in trying to move the world with their message.
5.War?, System of a Down
Members of the band had been very vocal in their attempts to remind everyone of the terrible Armenian Genocide, and while this song may not be specifically about that, the images of “War?” are prominent in the struggle of the Armenian people who still live with the knowledge of that awful event. The song is an intense but short ride, and it’s one of the most political songs the band has in their arsonal. The chants of the souls near the buildup of the song is dark and enchanting, and before long the band delves right into raucous energy that implores everyone to fight for what they believe in.
4. Hypnotize, Hypnotize
On our countdown of the Top Ten System of a down songs, we come to a song that has as much heart and soul as any of their other tracks, but what sets this apart it that it sees Daron and Serj share vocal duties in a brilliant back and forth. It rarely happens in the early days of the band, but by this point they had grown much more than most thought they would. This is easily the shining star of the “double album,” but the melodies and instrumentation are simply unbelievable . It’s not a lengthy song, but that’s fine, because the world it paints is brief and wonderful.
3. Aerials, Toxicity
Is this their best known song? I’m not super sure, but whether or not is mostly irrelevant. The message of the song is about open mindedness in a world where more and more that seems to be a problem. “When you lose small mind you free your life,” is one of the best lyrics I’ve ever heard, and the song juxtaposes open ranges and beautiful skies with war and the building of walls that cripple us as a society. “Always wanna play but you never wanna lose” is another perfect example of the fight the band is trying to survive. It’s a wonderfully thoughtful song, that isn’t all sun and happiness, but those are the songs that really do the most help.
2. Questions, Mezmerize
The opening has a sort of wind chime effect happening, but it doesn’t take long before the signature SOAD sound has come to us. The vocal melody here is really strong, and the way they bring in the oddly matched voices only helps the song to keep growing in a nontraditional way. Many of their most well known songs are in your face, but what the band manages to do here is pull you slowly and at a measured pace, before finally coming at you with what we know they can deliever. Some of the guitar and bass work here is also very fast, even for them, and the epic conclusion of the song is a musical firework display that really hits you fast and leaves you stunned at it’s abrupt conclusion.
1. Spiders, System of a Down
I assume other people like this song as much as I do?Either way, my number one choice for the Best System of a Down songs is “Spiders,” from their solid debut album. The slow and steady vocals start early on, but as the tempo gradually builds, the notes go way up, and the song officially arrives. This is an early but perfect example of how well Tankian is at playing with words and using them in ways that you can relate to, but also would not have expected. This part of the band would only grow with skill and subsequent albums, but “Spiders” conveys an other worldy sadness that bleeds through on everything from the vocals, to Shavo’s bass heavy lines, to the spectacular mood building that is Daron’s guitar playing. A gem from this great band that not many people mention, but a song that’s easily their best, most powerful track. Thanks for reading, See you Wednesday.
Landon Murray is a published writer and an avid lover of music, books and films. He's also a lover of the New Orleans Saints. He was born in 1982 and has a chainsaw tattoo on his arm.
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