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EW picks System of a Down as Best Thrashers

Their sui generis metal topped mainstream charts

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System of a Down
System of a Down: Danny Clinch

AGES (l.-r.) Daron Malakian, 26; Shavo Odadjian, 27; John Dolmayan, 29; Serj Tankian, 34
MOMENT OF ARRIVAL With this year’s platinum sophomore album, ”Toxicity,” and dynamic single ”Chop Suey!” the Armenian-American L.A. quartet’s version of melodic thrash found a home on major rock stations and sold 1.5 million copies.
THEY SOUND LIKE Nothing else on the radio. Unlike mainstream thrashers Slipknot and Pantera, the Downers mix up the mosh pit with dynamic shifts into jangly folk, jazz riffs, and Middle Eastern progressions, all delivered with ample wit, humor, and political prescience.
WHEN THEY KNEW THEY HAD A HIT ”Recording the album, we knew ‘Chop Suey!’ was one of the most powerful songs we had,” singer Tankian says of the song, originally titled ”Suicide.” ”But still, we were pleasantly surprised by how well it did.”
PREVIOUS JOBS The late-blooming frontman did everything from selling shoes to running a software company before launching his System.
WHAT FAME HAS BROUGHT ”People recognize us more,” says Tankian, ”but it’s depressing because it just means people are watching more TV and TV’s bad.”
WHAT’S NEXT Touring and shooting a video for second single, ”Toxicity.” Also, look for further diversity on the next disc: ”Lately, I’m leaning toward electronic and acoustic stuff,” says Tankian. ”I want to make it even more wacky.”