Mandatory Metal: 5 Essential System of a Down Songs

Vladimir Petkov, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
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Heavy music is full of legendary bands boasting deep catalogs stacked with iconic songs — sometimes it can be hard to know where to start, or what to consider their best. With that in mind, we present the “Mandatory Metal” lists, which collect what we consider to be the definitive tracks from various members of the metallurgic pantheon. Up today, System of a Down, those Armenian-American L.A. weirdos whose politically charged freak-metal anthems are somehow both head-spinningly surreal and irresistibly catchy. SOAD have many stellar tunes in their catalog, but in our opinion, these classic cuts are their most essential. If you disagree, sound off on The Pit Facebook page.


Spazzy, hooky, psychedelic and heavy as fuck — especially in its profane scream-along breakdown — this 1998 single was, for many fans, their first introduction to the twisted world of System of a Down.
Sample lyrics: “How do I feel/What do I say/Fuck you, it all goes away”


One of the strangest, awesomest songs to ever get regular play on mainstream radio, “Chop Suey!” manages to be both mind-scramblingly bizarre and heart-tuggingly poignant.
Sample lyrics: “I don’t think you trust/In, my, self righteous suicide/I, cry, when angels deserve to die, die”


Epic and anthemic, the title cut off SOAD’s 2001 opus may be their greatest sing-along.
Sample lyrics: “Conversion, software version 7.0/Looking at life through the eyes of a tired hub/Eating seeds as a pastime activity/The toxicity of our city, our city”


SOAD are so great that even an album of their leftovers is better than most other group’s best — as this punchy, danceable standout cut off 2002’s Steal This Album!, a collection of Toxicity discards, amply demonstrates.
Sample lyrics: “My pupils dance/Lost in a trance/Your sacred silence/Losing all violence”


Politically incisive and yet undeniably fun, “B.Y.O.B.” is the rare heavy-metal party jam with a whole lot to say.
Sample lyrics: “Why don’t presidents fight the war?/Why do they always send the poor?”