System Of A Down Weigh 'Aerials,' Get Psyched For Camp Ozzy

Band deciding on next single.

With more than three years between their albums, System of a Down had ample time to work on their latest, Toxicity. It wasn't until the 11th hour of pre-production, however, that the quartet hit its prime-time stride.

Current single "Toxicity," the chunky-riff-riddled "Science" and the atmospheric "Aerials," which is being considered for the LP's third single, were the last three songs penned for System's second album. With less than two weeks before the group was to hit the studio to begin recording, the members' backs were against the wall to round out the album, but the pressure in the air afforded the band focused determination.

"That week was one of those magical weeks," drummer John Dolmayan said. "We just went in, and whoever brought in a song, it would just work — whatever we were doing. We knew that we only had a week left, and we were doing it. It was game time."

As "Toxicity" continues to poison the masses with its infectious, irregular rhythms, torrents of frantic percussion and Serj Tankian's impassioned vocals, the band couldn't be happier with the result of its songwriting crunch time. The dynamic tune is so exemplary of the rest of the material conceived during the session, its title worked well to encapsulate the entire LP.

" 'Toxicity' was one of those songs where we hadn't done anything like it before," Dolmayan said. "It required something completely different than any other System song did ... The guitars are just, in some ways, really powerful, and in others, they just step back so that the melody can take over a little bit. So it's a really good combination of aggression and melodic elements, which represents this album."

As for "Aerials," which is in the running to be Toxicity's next single along with "Prison Song," "Deer Dance" and "ATWA," the track's construction benefited from its theme of open-minded realization: without extraneous thought, the band just let it flow naturally in the studio.

"It's a gentle song," Dolmayan explained, "but at the same time, it has a lot of angst coming out. It was one of those things where it was just instant; we all felt it. It came together real fast, like it was meant to be put together that day."

System of a Down will wrap their tour, which began February 14 (see "System Of A Down Step Up To The Plate, Scream At Washington At Vegas Opener" ), on March 2 in Montreal. Then it's off to Europe, where the group will spend some months traversing the continent while gearing up for its headlining slot on this year's Ozzfest.

It's System's third go-round with the annual caravan of carnage, and they've been making headway in the schedule since their first invitation to the dance in 1998, when they played the second stage. The following year they took an early position on the main stage, and this year they're slated to perform right before Ozzy himself (see "System Of A Down Join Ozzy As Ozzfest Headliners" ). "I can't believe that we're in that slot," Dolmayan exuded. "It's a trip."

Though they haven't had much quality time to themselves since Toxicity was released in September, the band members are looking forward to hanging out with their hard-rocking peers on the summer trek.

"Anyone who's ever gone to summer camp can appreciate the vibe and the camaraderie and the feeling you get when you hang out with people in the sun for two months," Dolmayan explained. "You become good friends with people, you enjoy the outdoors — you throw the ball around. There's a vibe that happens ... It's something about being outdoors and traveling together, it's a very cool feeling."