It's 1998, and with nu metal slowly getting its footing and revitalizing what was, at that point, a dying metal scene, there's no denying that amongst the rap metal hybrid acts such as Limp Bizkit and Rage Against the Machine, and the teenage angst ridden beats of Papa Roach and Korn, there was one band who had a unique sound of their own, and that band was Spineshank.
System of a Down's self-titled debut album is literally all over the place, from calm to erratic in a heartbeat. It's raw and aggressive, yet at times can be soothing and melodic, whilst maintaining a take-no-prisoners "fuck the world" attitude. It's dirty, gritty, and full of rage and spite. Certainly not a record for the weak-hearted.
Vocalist Serj Tankian has expertly managed to blend all kinds of singing, from melodic clean vocals to shouting, a wide range of eccentric falsetto, something considerably theatrical, and what can only be described as "vocal effects", it could be seen as an acquired taste, but it's certainly unique! And his vocals are perfectly backed by Daron Malakian's guitars. Punchy, heavy and relentless. Frantically shifting from crunchy riffs to odd, out-of-tune bends and licks. It's a recognizable style that very few have been able to replicate.
Highlights to look out for include 'Suite-Pee', 'Know', 'Ddevil' (nope, that wasn't a typo!), 'Peephole' and of course the classic, 'Sugar'.
As a whole, this is a cracking debut. It shows a band with incredible chemistry and potential (which they would certainly live up to), and the only real problem with it today is that it seems a bit dated and overshadowed by what the band would go on to release later in their careers.