Steal This Album!

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Steal This Album!
StealThisAlbum.png
Studio album by
ReleasedNovember 26, 2002
Recorded2002
Length43:22
Label
Producer
System of a Down chronology
Toxicity
(2001)
Steal This Album!
(2002)
Mezmerize
(2005)

Steal This Album! is the third studio album by Armenian-American heavy metal band System of a Down, released on November 26, 2002 by American Recordings and Columbia Records. Produced by Rick Rubin and Daron Malakian, the album peaked at number 15 on the US Billboard 200.[1]

Background[edit]

Toxicity II[edit]

In early 2002, medium-quality MP3s of the album were released on the internet under the name Toxicity II, a clear reference to the band's previous, multi-platinum record, Toxicity. The band issued a statement expressing disappointment in the fact that fans were hearing material that was unfinished, and worked to release a completed, better quality version of the album, which became what is now known as Steal This Album!. Many of the tracks on Toxicity II are early versions or rough mixes of the songs, featuring different arrangements, lyrics, and vocal melodies than their completed counterparts. Notably, there is a lack of vocals by Daron Malakian. Two songs on Toxicity II, "Virginity/Virgin Tea" and "Outer Space/Fortress", are absent from the final version of the album. Additionally, four songs not found on Toxicity II, "Fuck the System," "Ego Brain," "Roulette," and "Innervision" appeared on the final version of Steal This Album!, making the final version considerably different from the Toxicity II version.[2]

Album information[edit]

Though often reported in the media as being a collection of B-sides and outtakes, the band insisted that the Steal This Album! material is of the same quality as the tracks which made it onto Toxicity. Vocalist Serj Tankian has said that the songs were left out of Toxicity "because they did not fit the overall continuity of the album". In May 2009, drummer John Dolmayan revealed that the album is his favorite System of a Down release.[3] Similarly, Tankian also called the album his favorite System of a Down album in a 2012 AMA on reddit.

A first version of "Streamline" was used in The Scorpion King soundtrack, which was released in early 2002, and as a B-side on the CD2 edition of "Aerials".

The album title is a possible reference to Abbie Hoffman's book Steal This Book, which is regarded as a classic example of counterculture literature. A similar title (Steal This Movie!) was used for a movie about Hoffman's life. A year prior to this album however, The Suicide Machines had already released an album titled Steal This Record. The Coup had also released a Steal This Album in 1998. However, the album track titled "Fuck the System" is a clear reference to an earlier Hoffman essay. This album's title can also be a reference to the unauthorized distribution of the leaked songs from Toxicity II.

The packaging for this album is unusual in that it is designed to look like an unauthorised homemade copy. The original album came in a normal CD jewel case with only a disc, and no booklet (an insert was included in later releases of the album and most European copies, since many stores sell them unsealed and so the impression of it being removed by accident could be avoided). On the CD and the back of the case, the text is styled as if written by a black permanent marker, in faux-bootleg appearance.

Most songs on the album have received little appearance in concert. However, songs "Mr. Jack" and "I-E-A-I-A-I-O" were played extensively to live audiences.

Presumably shortly after being written in 2000, the song "Chic 'N' Stu" was played live before the release of Toxicity.[4] After the end of the band's hiatus in 2011, the only songs to have been played from the album are "Pictures", "Highway Song", "I-E-A-I-A-I-O", "Mr. Jack", "Innervision", and "Roulette". In the 2013 tour they played also "A.D.D.".[5] In 2015 on the Wake Up the Souls Tour, the songs "Bubbles" and "Chic 'N' Stu" were played in concert.[6] In 2017 setlists in Europe, the band regularly performed the songs "Mr. Jack", "Pictures", "Highway Song" and "Roulette".[7]

Multi-instrumentalist Arto Tunçboyacıyan sings on the song "Bubbles", making his third appearance with System of a Down (having appeared on two songs on Toxicity).

Commenting on the track "I-E-A-I-A-I-O", drummer John Dolmayan said it was inspired by an encounter he had with Knight Rider's actor David Hasselhoff in a liquor store in Los Angeles when he was around 12:[8]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
SourceRating
Metacritic77/100[9]
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic4/5 stars[10]
Alternative Press4.5/5 stars[11]
Entertainment WeeklyB+[12]
Kludge7/10[13]
NME3.5/5 stars[14]
Slant Magazine4/5 stars[15]
Spin4/5 stars[16]
Sputnikmusic4.5/5 stars[17]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide3/5 stars[18]

The album received generally favorable reviews from music critics scoring 77 out of 100 on aggregate website Metacritic.[19] Giving the album 4 stars out of 5 in his review for AllMusic Chris True noted "If System proved anything with 2001's Toxicity, it's that they're one of the few breaths of fresh air out there in mainstream metal land. This collection is no different, and with its amazing pacing, it's hard to not be moved by what this band can do".[20] "Steal This Album stands head-and-tattooed shoulders above its competition in the hard-rock genre" said Entertainment Weekly in a mutually glowing review, awarding the album a B+ rating.[21]

Rolling Stone called Steal This Album "An absurdist blast of political rage, silly theater and shattered math metal."[18] Jeremy Gladstone of Kludge gave the album a score of 7 out of 10 in his review and both praised and criticized the album writing "Love them or hate them, System is here to stay. The writing is consistent and the music is as tight as we have been accustomed to, perhaps a degree more so at times on the album. Steal This Album is guaranteed to satisfy every System of a Down fan listening. However, from song eight to twelve on the album, the material is a little too similar to really stand out compared to the more intense tracks. Unreleased material can sometimes be good, and sometimes it still doesn’t work out".[22]

In an article for NME sub-titled "...insane, ridiculous, a brain-pan pizza with extra mushrooms..." Victoria Segal gave Steal This Album 3.5 stars out of 5 in a less flattering review stating "System Of A Down‘s concerns may be no laughing matter, but unfortunately, their music often is. Guitarist Daron Malakian describes this record as “a bridge between ‘Toxicity’ and our next record,” which only indicates troubled waters ahead". She did however end her review with "Yes, System Of A Down are insane, ridiculous, a brain-pan pizza with extra mushrooms. But how can something this righteous ever be wrong?"[23]

Alternative artwork[edit]

There are four limited-edition alternate CD designs, each designed and drawn by a member of the band. Tankian's is blue with a poem in white spiraling into its center, Odadjian's is red with psychedelic flames, Dolmayan's is black with a gray skull incorporating the album's title into its teeth, and Malakian's is white with the legs of a man (in jeans) and woman (in red stockings). The vinyl edition of the album was released as a double picture disc with each side featuring one of these designs.

In Europe and the UK the standard version includes a one-sided front insert, the reason for this being that most CDs in the UK are not sold sealed so it might appear that the cover had been stolen had it been shipped without it. It is all white with the album title in black, similar to the original CD cover. The insert contains minimal information and contains a link to the official website for more track information.

Track listing[edit]

All lyrics written by Serj Tankian, except where noted. All music written by Daron Malakian, except where noted.

No.TitleLyricsMusicLength
1."Chic 'N' Stu"  2:23
2."Innervision" Malakian, Tankian2:33
3."Bubbles"  1:56
4."Boom!" Malakian, Shavo Odadjian2:14
5."Nüguns"Tankian, Malakian 2:30
6."A.D.D. (American Dream Denial)"  3:17
7."Mr. Jack"Tankian, Malakian 4:09
8."I-E-A-I-A-I-O" Tankian, Malakian, Odadjian, John Dolmayan3:08
9."36" Tankian0:46
10."Pictures"Tankian, Malakian 2:06
11."Highway Song"Tankian, Malakian 3:13
12."Fuck the System" Malakian, Tankian2:12
13."Ego Brain" Malakian, Tankian3:21
14."Thetawaves"Tankian, Malakian 2:36
15."Roulette" Malakian, Tankian3:21
16."Streamline"  3:37
Total length:43:22

Personnel[edit]

System of a Down
Additional musicians
Production

Charts[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[24] Gold 35,000^
Brazil (Pro-Música Brasil)[25]
5-album bundle
Platinum 40,000*
Finland (Musiikkituottajat)[26] Gold 15,886[26]
United States (RIAA)[27] Platinum 1,000,000^

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone

References[edit]

  1. ^ https://www.billboard.com/music/system-of-a-down/chart-history/[dead link]
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-03-06. Retrieved 2014-09-15. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ "Interview: John Dolmayan (System of a Down/Scars on Broadway)". Archived from the original on April 15, 2014. Retrieved 2009-05-17. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  4. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bbobmByd3X8[permanent dead link]
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-11-05. Retrieved 2013-09-01. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-11-05. Retrieved 2016-11-05. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ https://www.setlist.fm/setlists/system-of-a-down-23d69cd7.html
  8. ^ Hartmann, Graham (14 July 2014). "System of a Down's John Dolmayan Reveals Lyrical Inspiration for 'I-E-A-I-A-I-O'". Loudwire. Townsquare Media. Retrieved 2 August 2014.
  9. ^ "Steal This Album". Metacritic.
  10. ^ "Steal This Album! - System of a Down". AllMusic.
  11. ^ "Steal This Album". Metacritic.
  12. ^ "Steal This Album Review". Entertainment Weekly. November 29, 2002.
  13. ^ "[KLUDGE MAGAZINE] - Review - System of a Down: Steal This Album". 28 August 2004. Archived from the original on 2004-08-28. Retrieved 22 December 2016. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  14. ^ "System Of A Down : Steal this Album - NME". Retrieved 22 December 2016.
  15. ^ "System of a Down Steal This Album - Album Review - Slant Magazine". Retrieved 22 December 2016.
  16. ^ "System of a Down, 'Steal This Album!' (American Recordings/Columbia)". Spin.
  17. ^ "System of a Down - Steal This Album! (staff review)". Sputnikmusic.
  18. ^ a b Cross, Charles R. (2004). "System of a Down". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. p. 800. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.
  19. ^ "Steal This Album". Metacritic.
  20. ^ "Steal This Album! - System of a Down". AllMusic.
  21. ^ "Steal This Album Review". Entertainment Weekly. November 29, 2002.
  22. ^ "[KLUDGE MAGAZINE] - Review - System of a Down: Steal This Album". 28 August 2004. Archived from the original on 2004-08-28. Retrieved 22 December 2016. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  23. ^ "System Of A Down : Steal this Album - NME". Retrieved 22 December 2016.
  24. ^ "ARIA Charts – Accreditations – 2003 Albums". Australian Recording Industry Association.
  25. ^ "Brazilian album certifications – System of a Down – System of a Down" (in Portuguese). Associação Brasileira dos Produtores de Discos.
  26. ^ a b "System of a Down" (in Finnish). Musiikkituottajat – IFPI Finland.
  27. ^ "American album certifications – System of a Down – Steal This Album!". Recording Industry Association of America. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH.