Even System of a Down fans with no Internet access should be glad a batch of the group's unfinished tracks leaked online in May.
Had the material remained secure in System's vault they might not have seen the need to release Steal This Album!, which features recently completed versions of those songs.
Unlike the Internet tracks, which featured rough lead vocals, no backing vocals and no guitar overdubs, the new recordings sound as fleshed out as anything from last year's Toxicity. While most of the songs were outtakes from that disc, the new record also includes material that spans the group's career (see "System's Stolen Tracks Compiled On Steal This Album").
Guitarist Daron Malakian has said the package will include the disclaimer insisting "This is not the new System album," but at the same time the band doesn't see Steal This Album! as a collection of throw-aways. Since most of the songs were written at the same time as those on Toxicity, it's more like a companion piece — like Metallica's Re-Load. And frontman Serj Tankian has said it hints at the direction the band may head on its next record (see "System Of A Down Reveal Motivations For Steal This Album").
Songs like "Innervision" and "Bubbles" are fast and propulsive, filled with stop-start rhythms and syncopated beats. But they're more melodically focused than some of the group's past material, and some of the political songs are more relevant now than when they were penned.
In the explosive "Boom!" Tankian rants, "4,000 hungry leave us per hour from starvation while billions are spent on bombs, creating death showers" before the band bursts into a rousing chorus of "Every time you drop the bomb you kill the God your child has born."
"A.D.D." starts with strings gliding atop a surging thrash riff, then shifts into a tumbling tribal beat and melodic vocals with anti-war lyrics: "We fought your wars with all our hearts, you sent us back in body parts/ You took our wills with the truth you stole, we offer prayers for your long-lost soul."
Steal This Album also contains whimsical metal high jinks like "Chic 'N' Stew," a demented hardcore song in which Tankian blurts, "Fall into the refrigerator, doors closed, lights are out." Then, as the band hits hardcore overdrive, he shouts, "Wanna spend the pie/ Pizza, pizza pie/ Every second buy, buy, buy, buy, buy/ Pepperoni, onions, peppers, olives, mushrooms, chives."
The nonsensical "I-E-A-I-A-I-O" is a stormer packed with muted riffing that features monkey sounds and spat vocals built around the tongue twister "Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers," and in the middle of the barreling "Pictures" the band breaks into a quirky passage with rolling drums and chickenlike squawking.
The only delicate song on Steal This Record!, "Roulette," was written before System recorded their 1998 self-titled debut. The track is the closest the band gets to a love ballad and is driven by spare acoustic guitar and string sounds created with a Mellotron.
Steal This Album! is due November 26.