Toxicity (album)

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Studio album by System of a Down
Released September 4, 2001
Recorded February – July 2001
Studio Cello Studios, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Length 44:01
57:26 (special edition)
Label Columbia
System of a Down chronology
System of a Down
Steal This Album!
Singles from Toxicity
  1. "Chop Suey!"
    Released: August 13, 2001
  2. "Toxicity"
    Released: January 22, 2002
  3. "Aerials"
    Released: June 11, 2002
Red Limited Edition cover

Toxicity is the second studio album by the Armenian-American heavy metal band System of a Down. The album was released on September 4, 2001 by Columbia Records and peaked at number one on both the Billboard 200 and the Canadian Albums Chart. Certified triple-platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America, the album sold at least 2,700,000 copies in the United States.

Commercial performance[edit]

Toxicity peaked at number 1 on the Billboard 200,[1][2] selling 220,000 copies in its first week of being released.[3] The album also peaked at number 1 on the Canadian Albums Chart.[4] Toxicity sold at least 2,700,000 copies in the United States[2] and at least 12,000,000 copies worldwide.[5] On November 27, 2002, the album was certified triple-platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America.[6]

All of the album's singles reached the Billboard Hot 100: the single "Chop Suey!" peaked at number 76; the single "Toxicity" peaked at number 70 and the single "Aerials" peaked at number 55.[7]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic 73/100[8]
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 5/5 stars[9] 10/10[10]
Drowned in Sound 10/10[11]
Entertainment Weekly B–[12]
Los Angeles Times 3/4 stars[13]
Q 4/5 stars[14]
Rolling Stone 3.5/5 stars[15]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 4/5 stars[16]
Slant Magazine 3.5/5 stars[17]
Uncut 1/5 stars[18]

On review aggregator website Metacritic, Toxicity attained a score of 73 out of 100, based on reviews from nine critics, which indicates "generally favourable reviews".[8] Toxicity is one of only 21 albums to achieve a perfect rating from, with writer Don Kaye praising System of a Down as "one of the few bands that people may still be talking about ten years from now" in a contemporary review of the album.[10] Q stated that Toxicity "matches Slipknot for manic intensity while employing a freeform approach to songcraft which invites comparison to the lunatic-fringe rock of the '60s".[14] Tom Sinclair of Entertainment Weekly called the album "strange and engaging", with a wide variety of sounds which "all adds up to bizarro type of metal that has a warped majesty and strength".[12] Referring to the album as "both manic and schizoid", Keith Harris of Rolling Stone noted Tankian's ability to veer "easily from sing-rap rhythm to Korn-ish hysterics to demonic baritone growl to doomily ruminative" and that "the music insists on forward motion without trapping itself in a thrashy lock-step rut".[15] Robert Christgau of The Village Voice cited "Prison Song" and "Bounce" as highlights and later assigned the album a one-star honorable rating.[19][20] Spin's Joe Gross wrote that the band "have an undeniable nerd-prog charm".[21]

Uncut, on the other hand, panned Toxicity as "virtually unlistenable: thrash metal splintered into a million pieces by unnecessary time changes, topped off with excruciatingly theatrical vocals."[18]


The album is listed in Blender's 500 CDs You Must Own.[22] MusicRadar held a public poll and Toxicity was ranked as 28th greatest heavy metal album in the list of The 50 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums of All Time.[23] The album is ranked at number 44 in Rolling Stone's 100 Best Albums of the Decade for 2000s.[24] Spin named the album as one of 'The 300 Best Albums Of The Past 30 Years' , with Toxicity being one of the highest-listed metal albums on the list.[25] They also named Toxicity as Album of the Year in 2001, and finally ranked it #38 on its list of 'The 40 Greatest Metal Albums Of All Time'.[26][27] Kludge ranked it at number five on their list of best albums of 2001.[28] Alternative Press ranked it number 9 in its "25 Best Albums of 2001" (Feb 2002, p. 64). Mojo ranked it number 93 in its "100 Modern Classics" (p. 54). The album won a 2001 Metal Edge Readers' Choice Award for "Album of the Year."[29] Loudwire listed the album as #1 on its list of 'Top 11 Metal Albums of the 2000s', #2 on the 'Top 100 Hard Rock + Metal Albums Of The 21st Century' and #11 on its list of "Top 50 Metal Albums of All Time"[30][31][32]. NME listed the album as #6 on its list of "20 Greatest Metal Albums Ever".[33] Metal Hammer declared Toxicity the best album of 2001.[34] The Observer ranked Toxicity as one of the 'Top 50 Albums Of The Decade', at number 34.[35] In 2007, The Guardian placed the album in its list of the '1000 Albums To Hear Before You Die'[36] Entertainment Weekly also put Toxicity on its list of the 100 best albums of the 1983-2008 period, at number 90.[37] Revolver named Toxicity the 8th greatest metal album of all time on its list of the '69 Greatest Metal Albums Of All Time'.[38] The album was included in The A.V. Club's list of the best metal records of the 2000s.

Music, writing and recording[edit]

"Going into it, I knew Serj wanted to sing more, so I guess that was a kind of a progression and an evolution for the band. I wanted to do all that, yet not lose the heaviness of the band and I guess the hard, punk, metal aspect. You could lose that sometimes when you get a little too eclectic. So we were just trying to balance that fine line and not lose the fans."

System of a Down guitarist Daron Malakian, speaking about the band's change in sound on Toxicity.[39]

Categorized as alternative metal,[40] thrash metal,[8] hard rock,[41] heavy metal[9] and nu metal,[9][42] the album features elements of multiple genres of music: folk,[12] progressive metal,[24] progressive rock,[12] jazz,[12][39] thrash metal,[8] Middle Eastern music,[39] and Greek music.[39] Malakian said that he "wanted to add a bit more harmony for" himself "in the songs and that required tastefully mixing in some softer guitars between the really heavy parts".[39] System of a Down recorded over thirty songs for Toxicity but narrowed the number of songs on the album to fourteen.[43]

According to System of a Down bassist Shavo Odadjian, the song "Chop Suey!" is "about drug addiction, but" System of a Down took "something really serious and made it a little quacky."[44] "Prison Song" is about the overpopulation of prisons.[44] System of a Down vocalist Serj Tankian said: "It's about the unfairness of mandatory minimum sentences and how there are about 2,000,000 Americans in jail, and a lot of them are in there for marijuana possession and things of that sort", Tankian said. "Instead of rehabilitating men who have drug problems, they're throwing them in prison. That's not really solving anything."[45] Tankian said that "Prison Song" also addresses "how drug money is used to rig elections in other countries by the CIA".[45] "Bounce" is about group sex.[44] "Forest" is about the Book of Genesis, the Israelites, and God.[46] "Psycho" is about people who are considered "groupies".[9][45] "ATWA" is about Charles Manson's beliefs on the environment. Malakian said about Charles Manson: "He's in jail for the wrong reasons. I think he had an unfair trial."[43] "Deer Dance" is about the protests surrounding the 2000 Democratic National Convention.[47][48]

Soundtrack appearances[edit]

Track listing[edit]

No. Title Lyrics Music Length
1. "Prison Song"   Tankian, Malakian Malakian 3:21
2. "Needles"   Tankian, Malakian Tankian, Malakian 3:13
3. "Deer Dance"   Tankian, Malakian Malakian 2:55
4. "Jet Pilot"   Tankian Odadjian, Malakian 2:06
5. "X"   Tankian Malakian 1:58
6. "Chop Suey!"   Tankian, Malakian Malakian 3:30
7. "Bounce"   Tankian Malakian, Odadjian 1:54
8. "Forest"   Tankian Malakian 4:00
9. "Atwa" (Air, Trees, Water, Animals) Tankian, Malakian Malakian 2:56
10. "Science" (featuring Arto Tunçboyacıyan) Tankian Malakian 2:43
11. "Shimmy"   Tankian Tankian 1:51
12. "Toxicity"   Tankian Malakian, Odadjian 3:39
13. "Psycho"   Tankian, Malakian Malakian 3:45
14. "Aerials[I]"   Tankian, Malakian Malakian 6:11
Total length:

^ I "Aerials" contains a hidden track often referred to as "Arto" due to it featuring Arto Tunçboyacıyan. The track is actually an adaptation of "Der Voghormia" (meaning "Lord Have Mercy"), a traditional Armenian church hymn.

French Special Edition bonus CD[50]
No. Title Lyrics Music Length
1. "Sugar" (live) Tankian Odadjian, Malakian 2:27
2. "War?" (live) Tankian Malakian 2:48
3. "Suite-Pee" (live) Tankian Malakian 2:58
4. "Know" (live) Tankian Odadjian, Malakian, Tankian 3:03
5. "Johnny"   Tankian Tankian 2:09
Japanese Edition
No. Title Lyrics Music Length
1. "Johnny"   Tankian Malakian 2:27
Blue Edition bonus DVD
No. Title Lyrics Music Length
1. "Toxicity" (Malakian, Odadjian) Tankian Tankian 2:27
2. "Chop Suey!" (live) Tankian,Malakian Malakian 2:48
3. "Prison Song" (live) Tankian, Malakian Malakian 3:21
4. "Bounce" (live) Tankian Malakian, Odadjian 1:54
Red Edition bonus Computer Media
No. Title Length
1. "Behind The Scenes/Making of the Record"   9:54


System of a Down
Additional personnel
  • Produced by Rick Rubin and Daron Malakian
  • Co-Produced by Serj Tankian
  • Mixed by Andy Wallace
  • Engineered by David Schiffman
  • Additional Engineering by Greg Collins and Darren Mora
  • Assistant Engineers: Darrn Mora, Al Sanderson, Ryan McCormick, Jim Champagne
  • Assistant Mixdown Engineer: Rich Balmer
  • Additional Vocals/Music by Arto Tunçboyacıyan
  • Additional Piano by Rick Rubin
  • Strings Written by Serj Tankian
  • additional guitar on "Aerials" by Kirk Hammett
  • Additional Strings Written by Marc Mann
  • Strings Arranged and Conducted by Marc Mann
  • Photography: Martyn Atkins (Studio), Glen E. Friedman (Back Cover, Water), John Dolmayan, Hallie Sirota
  • Cover Art: Mark Wakefield
  • Art Direction: Shavo Odadjian & Brandy Flower
  • Album Art Concepts: Shavo Odadjian & System of a Down
  • Inside Collage Art: John Dolmayan & Brandy Flower
  • Co Label Art: Shavo Odadjian
  • A&R direction: Dino Paredes
  • Production Coordinator: Lindsay Chase
  • Worldwide Representation: David Benveniste, Velvet Hammer Music and Management Group
  • Recorded at Cello Studios, Hollywood, CA
  • Mixed at Enterprise Studios, Burbank, CA
  • Mastered by Eddy Schreyer at Oasis Mastering, Studio City, CA


Preceded by
Iowa by Slipknot
Canadian Albums Chart number-one album
September 22, 2001
Succeeded by
Silver Side Up by Nickelback
Preceded by
Aaliyah by Aaliyah
Billboard 200 number-one album
September 22, 2001
Succeeded by
The Blueprint by Jay-Z


Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Austria (IFPI Austria)[52] Gold 20,000*
Australia (ARIA)[53] 3× Platinum 210,000^
Belgium (BEA)[54] Gold 25,000*
Brazil (ABPD)[55] Gold 50,000*
Brazil (ABPD)[56]
5-album bundle
Platinum 40,000*
Canada (Music Canada)[57] 2× Platinum 200,000^
Germany (BVMI)[58] Gold 150,000^
New Zealand (RMNZ)[59] Platinum 15,000^
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[60] Gold 20,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[61] Gold 100,000^
United States (RIAA)[62] 3× Platinum 2,700,000[2]^
Europe (IFPI)[63] Platinum 1,000,000*

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


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  2. ^ a b c "Online Leaks Force System Of A Down's Hand". Billboard. December 16, 2002. 
  3. ^ Spencer Kaufman. "10 Things You Didn't Know About 'Toxicity'". Loudwire. 
  4. ^ "System of a Down - Chart history". Billboard. 
  5. ^ Terrybezer (28 July 2009). "Albums Of The Decade: System Of A Down – 'Toxicity'". Metal Hammer. Retrieved 11 January 2014. 
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  9. ^ a b c d Rivadavia, Eduardo. "Toxicity – System of a Down". AllMusic. Retrieved February 9, 2015. 
  10. ^ a b Kaye, Don. "System of a Down 'Toxicity'". Retrieved February 9, 2015. 
  11. ^ Kaye, Don (August 28, 2001). "Album Review: System of a Down – Toxicity". Drowned in Sound. Retrieved February 9, 2015. 
  12. ^ a b c d e Sinclair, Tom (September 3, 2001). "Toxicity". Entertainment Weekly: 161–62. Retrieved October 30, 2015. 
  13. ^ Lecaro, Lina (September 2, 2001). "Inventive Metal to Satisfy Headbangers". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 30, 2015. 
  14. ^ a b "System of a Down: Toxicity". Q (181): 121. September 2001. 
  15. ^ a b "System of a Down: Toxicity". Rolling Stone. September 4, 2001. Archived from the original on July 8, 2007. Retrieved July 8, 2007. 
  16. ^ Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian, eds. (2004). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. p. 800. ISBN 0-743-20169-8. 
  17. ^ Scott, Aaron (October 15, 2001). "System of a Down: Toxicity". Slant Magazine. Retrieved May 9, 2015. 
  18. ^ a b "System of a Down: Toxicity". Uncut (55): 118. December 2001. 
  19. ^ Christgau, Robert (January 29, 2002). "Consumer Guide: Throw Your Hands in the Air". The Village Voice. Retrieved October 30, 2015. 
  20. ^ Christgau, Robert (January 29, 2002). "System of a Down: Toxicity". Retrieved February 9, 2015. 
  21. ^ Gross, Joe (February 2005). "Heavy Metal". Spin. 21 (2): 89. Retrieved February 9, 2015. 
  22. ^ Alternative Rock: 500 CDs You Must Own
  23. ^
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  29. ^ Metal Edge, June 2002
  30. ^
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  32. ^ "Top 100 Hard Rock + Metal Albums of the 21st Century". Loudwire. Retrieved 2016-07-20. 
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  34. ^ " Hammer Albums The Year". Retrieved 2016-07-20. 
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  36. ^ "1000 albums to hear before you die: Artists beginning with S (part 2)". the Guardian. 2007-11-22. Retrieved 2016-07-20. 
  37. ^ "EW's 100 Best Albums From 1983 To 2008". 2008-06-20. Retrieved 2016-07-20. 
  38. ^ "New List to rip apart: Revolver Mag's 69 Greatest Metal Albums of All Time". Retrieved 2016-07-20. 
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  40. ^ Mike Lawrence (February 24, 2014). "The 25 Best Alternative Metal Albums". Metal Descent. 
  41. ^ Rob Pasbani (June 17, 2009). "#14: SYSTEM OF A DOWN – TOXICITY". MetalSucks. 
  42. ^ Burgess, Aaron. "10 Nu-Metal Albums You Need to Own". Revolvermag. Retrieved June 17, 2015. 
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  44. ^ a b c Jon Wiederhorn (August 13, 2001). "System Of A Down's Schizophrenia Aggravated On Toxicity". MTV. 
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  54. ^ "Ultratop − Goud en Platina – 2003". Ultratop & Hung Medien / 
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  61. ^ "British album certifications – System of a Down – Toxicity". British Phonographic Industry.  Enter Toxicity in the field Keywords. Select Title in the field Search by. Select album in the field By Format. Select Gold in the field By Award. Click Search
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External links[edit]