Wake up! System of a Down’s ‘Toxicity’ turns 20

American Recordings

System of a Down‘s breakout sophomore album, Toxicity, is 20 years old.

Released September 4, 2001, Toxicity brought the Armenian-American band’s unique brand of nu metal to a much larger audience, hitting number one on the Billboard 200 and earning triple-Platinum certification by the RIAA.

Toxicity spawned hit singles in “Aerials,” “Chop Suey!” and the title track. Not only was the band’s combination of the era’s dominant rock genre and elements of folk, jazz and Armenian music a wholly new sound, System’s lyrics were just as singular, tackling everything from the prison system and police brutality to environmental issues and government surveillance.

“Chop Suey!”, which is now often considered System’s signature song, was originally titled “Suicide,” in reference to the lyric “I don’t think you trust/In my self-righteous suicide.” Notably, “Chop Suey!” was included on a list of songs, compiled by the media corporation Clear Channel, that was sent to affiliate radio stations with a caution that they may be inappropriate to play in the wake of 9/11.

Even with that controversy, “Chop Suey!” was nominated for a Grammy, as was “Aerials.” Late last year, the video for “Chop Suey!” hit one billion views on YouTube.

System followed Toxicity with 2002’s Steal This Album! and 2005’s Mezmerize and Hypnotize, but they haven’t released another record since. In November 2020, they returned with their first new songs in 15 years — “Protect the Land” and “Genocidal Humanoidz” — to raise awareness and support for Armenia amid its war with Azerbaijan.

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