10 Things You Didn’t Know About ‘Toxicity’
On Sept. 4, 2001, System of a Down unleashed their sophomore album, 'Toxicity.' The disc, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 album chart, took the hard-rock and metal worlds by storm with a tour de force of explosive songs, including the singles 'Chop Suey!,' 'Toxicity' and 'Aerials.' The epic album combined masterful musicianship with hard-hitting political lyrics that not only challenged societal and governmental issues, but also challenged the minds of music fans. To this day, it remains one of the best rock albums of the 21st century. In celebration of the landmark disc, Loudwire presents the following list of 10 Things You Didn't Know About 'Toxicity':
'Prison Song,' the opening track on 'Toxicity,' is a tune that rails against the number of people who are incarcerated in prisons across America. It admonishes the government for locking up minor drug offenders. Perhaps, System really wanted to get their point across by including the word "prison" 33 times in the lyrics, and that doesn't even include two uses of the plural "prisons."
While SOAD's self-tiled debut album took three years to sell 1 million copies, 'Toxicity' hit that total in just six weeks. In an interview with his old high-school newspaper, guitarist Daron Malakian said of the 'Toxicity' sales, "If people say System is a sell out because we've sold millions of albums, they're wrong. I can't control how many CDs we sell or how popular we become."
One of the catchiest songs on 'Toxicity' is 'ATWA,' a tune that combines beautifully melodic verses with an intensely chaotic chorus. The acronym stands for 'Air, Trees, Water, Animals' or 'All the Way Alive,' and was used by Charles Manson and his associates as a term to promote the unity of life on Earth through nature.
Forty songs were written for 'Toxicity,' with 33 being fully recorded. The final track list included 14 songs, with many of the unused tracks leaking onto the Internet under the unofficial name 'Toxicity II.' Those additional cuts would later make up the majority of System of a Down's follow-up disc, the appropriately titled 'Steal This Album!'
The three official singles from 'Toxicity' all climbed into the Top 10 of Billboard's Modern Rock Chart, with 'Chop Suey!' reaching No. 7, 'Toxicity' peaking at No. 3 and 'Aerials' taking the top spot. In addition, 'Aerials' also topped the Mainstream Rock Chart, making it SOAD's only song to top that tally to date.
Singer Serj Tankian wrote lyrics to every song on 'Toxicity,' with guitarist Daron Malakian co-writing the words to six of the tunes, including 'Chop Suey!' and 'Aerials.' Malakian, however, wrote most of the music on the album. On their subsequent albums 'Mezmerize' and 'Hypnotize,' Malakian contributed most of the lyric writing.
While 'Toxicity' came out on Sept. 4, it's first-week sales of 220,000 units led the disc to top the Billboard 200 chart the same week as the tragic events of 9/11. The timing added more controversy to the band's rallying cry against various government policies on songs throughout 'Toxicity.'
In Spin magazine's year-end issue, 'Toxicity' came in at No. 1 on the publication's list of the best albums of 2001. The disc beat out albums from Radiohead, Bob Dylan, the Strokes and Tool, among others. 'Toxicity' also ranked No. 9 on Alternative Press' list of the 25 Best Albums of 2001.
SOAD originally had 'Suicide' as the title of 'Chop Suey!,' the first single from 'Toxicity.' In fact, the words "We're rolling 'Suicide'" can be heard in the song's opening seconds on select pressings of the album. Despite the name change, the song was still taken off of radio by many stations because of sensitivity surrounding the 9/11 attacks at the time.
While 'Chop Suey!' was nominated for Best Metal Performance for the 2002 Grammy Awards, 'Aerials' earned a nomination for Best Hard Rock Performance the following year. Malakian says the band turned down the chance to perform 'Aerials' at the 2003 Grammys, insisting at the time, "That's something N*SYNC and Britney Spears do, not System of a Down."