In the space of two albums, System of a Down has emerged as the most challenging and dynamic metal band since Sepultura broke through with Chaos A.D. Much like Sepultura, SOAD combine the folk music of their heritage (in System's case, Armenian and damn proud of it) with the furious crunch of thrash metal to create sounds that are simultaneously familiar and alien. This dichotomy is further emphasized by vocalist Serj Tankian's range, which includes the angry shouts metal requires for all choruses and an impressively mournful singing voice that conveys a depth of emotion sorely lacking in metal. Tankian can jump the line between brutal roar and heartfelt moan midword, which is necessary when the rest of the band is switching time signatures and jumping tempos like a young and speedballed Metallica.
But System of a Down aren't just imitating their predecessors: They're pushing metal to places unimagined by shortsighted traditionalists and nü-metal rageaholics. Smarter, more musically limber and emotionally healthier than their peers, SOAD delivers a whirling-dervish onslaught that's guaranteed to burn out the stinking and dehydrated masses who remain upright and mosh-ready at the end of the Ozzfest endurance test. Lots of luck, punters.