System Of A Down grabbed the top slot of The Billboard 200 with a career-best U.S. sales week of 453,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan. "Mezmerize," the group's second No. 1 on the big chart,

System Of A Down grabbed the top slot of The Billboard 200 with a career-best U.S. sales week of 453,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan. “Mezmerize,” the group’s second No. 1 on the big chart, replaces Dave Matthews Band’s “Stand Up” (RCA), which slips to No. 4 with a 66% decrease to 158,000 copies.

SOAD's album is the first half of a two-part project from American/Columbia. The second part, “Hypnotize” is expected in November. The band previously achieved the summit with 2001’s “Toxicity,” which opened with 222,000 units and has a to-date total of 3.5 million.

The rock act leads an influx of new acts this week, breathing life into the chart after weeks of declining sales. With five top 10 debuts and nine in the top 20, overall U.S. album sales were up 4% over last week and 3% over the same week last year.

At No. 2, Toby Keith’s “Honkytonk University” (DreamWorks Nashville) opens with 283,000 copies, falling short of his previous pole position debuts on the Billboard 200. 2002’s “Unleashed” started with 338,000, while 2003’s “Shock’N Y’All” began with 585,000. Together the albums have sold 8.3 million units so far.

Mariah Carey’s “The Emancipation of Mimi” (Island/Def Jam) holds at No. 3 for a second week with a 0.2% increase to 173,000, staving off Kem’s sophomore Motown effort, “Album 2,” which enters at No. 5 with 140,000 copies. It’s the R&B artist’s highest chart position and sales week by far. His 2003 debut, “Kemistry,” opened at No. 175 with 6,000 and has sold 601,000 to date.

In anticipation of tonight’s announcement of the season four “American Idol” winner, the finalists bow at No. 6 with the season’s RCA soundtrack. With 83,000 units, “American Idol Season 4: the Showstoppers,” fares better than “American Idol Season 3: Greatest Soul Classics,” which started at No. 10 with 55,000 and has sold 262,000 to date.

Rounding out existing top-tier titles, 50 Cent’s “The Massacre” (Shady/Aftermath/Interscope) falls 4-7 with a 9% dip to 81,000; Gwen Stefani’s “Love, Angel, Music, Baby” (Interscope) drops 7-8 despite an 8% gain to 80,000; and Weezer’s ”Make Believe” (Geffen) slips 2-9 on a 61% slide to 76,000.

At No. 10, Def Leppard wraps up this week’s top 10 entries with 66,000 units of the double-disc “Rock of Ages: The Definite Collection” (Mercury). The group’s first U.S. compilation, “Vault: Def Leppard Greatest Hits,” debuted at No. 15 with 54,000 copies in 1995 and has a to-date total of 4 million.

At 218 million units, overall U.S. album sales for 2005 are behind those of last year by about 8.5%.

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