System of A Down blessed us with one of last year's finest albums, the bristling Toxicity. (It made my Top Ten list.) The Los Angeles quartet plays fierce hard rock with smarts, and the occasional cello.
Singer Serj Tankian sings bravely of wack politics and social injustice, never afraid to let his wail twist into something beautiful, as evidenced on the radio and MTV hit Chop Suey. Dig that song's wonky vocal overdubs and harmonies to get an idea of the band's creativity. Not to mention,these guys thrash mightily, with angular guitars and whiplash-inducing syncopation that might prevent some listeners from hearing the messages, which rant against the prison system and the evils of government.
System of a Down performs with Meshuggah and Pulse Ultra at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the USF Sun Dome, 4202 E Fowler Ave., Tampa. $25. (813) 974-3002.
_ GINA VIVINETTO, Times pop music critic