System of a Down - Steal This Album!
System of a Down. Where to begin!? Infinite things I love about System. In "I-E-A-I-A-I-O," we can hear the isolated drums in the intro. They’re dry so they “pop” out of the speakers exceptionally well. BUT, notice on the snare, you can hear a subtle delay of the room space. This is a technique PERFECTED by the legendary mixing engineer Andy Wallace. Just enough of something (e.g., reverb, space, delay) so that it’s THERE and you can FEEL it, but it’s not easily heard. For all the albums he expertly mixed, this helps them to sound especially “loud” even when listening at a quiet volume.
The kick, we can feel the lower thump from the Kick Out, somewhere maybe in the 55-60Hz range, plus the awesome punch from the Kick In. The snare cuts through amazingly. All of the drums are so powerful and raw yet polished. Why is that? A perfect combination of great recordings, great mixing, great mastering, and most importantly a Powerful, Dynamic performance from drummer John Dolmayan.
The bass guitar is audible, big and tight, and brings its own character separate from the guitars. I have no idea how Daron Malakian recorded the guitars for Toxicity and Steal this Album, but they are so unique-sounding, beefy, huge, explosive, and have awesome ambience. There’s no other band in existence that has a guitar tone like SOAD accomplished for those two records.
And of course Serj’s legendary vocal performances. He makes singing sound so effortless. And this is fast, intricate stuff he’s singing for this song! He’s articulate, theatrical, powerful, dynamic, everything.
And lastly overall, from a Mastering standpoint, in Steal this Album and Toxicity, I love how everything sounds smooth, but never over-compressed in any way. It explodes out of the speakers, in such a great way. How is this accomplished? From expertly applying EQ, and just enough compression so that it’s there, but you can never hear it “pumping.”
“I-E-A-I-A-I-O” Copyright System of a Down, American, Columbia 2002