System of a Down - Toxicity
System of a Down. Where to begin!? Infinite things I love about System. The album Toxicity is my favorite recorded & mixed album of all time. In Forest for example, let’s focus on that kick drum when the guitars enter at 0:13. It’s particularly punchy, deep, tight, and dynamic. How is this accomplished? It’s a perfect combination of great recordings, great mixing, great mastering, and most importantly a Powerful, Dynamic performance from drummer John Dolmayan. Toxicity was mixed by legendary rock mixing engineer Andy Wallace. He loves to focus on EQ, while “mixing into” some compression at an overarching level on the master bus (e.g., SSL Bus Compressor). And so for this kick drum example, he likely only has that overarching compression going, plus perfect sculpting of the EQ for the Kick In and Kick Out. He very likely has NO track-level compression, and NO drum parallel compression for that kick drum.
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. 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.”
“Forest” Copyright System of a Down, American, Columbia 2001