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Previewing new albums from System Of A Down, Orbital, Jeff Carson, and more.

'Toxic' Sounds

System Of A DownSystem Of A Down drops one of the most anticipated hard rock albums of the year this week with "Toxicity," its sophomore American Recordings set. The 14-track album, produced by the band with American label head Rick Rubin, was whittled down from more than 30 finished songs. It's the follow-up to 1998's self-titled debut, which reached No. 1 on Billboard's Heatseekers chart and has sold more than 1 million copies in the U.S., according to SoundScan.

Among the tracks that made the cut are "Psycho" (about "cocaine-addled groupies," according to the label), and "ATWA," which is written from "serial killer Charles Manson's point-of-view on the environment," along with "Jet Pilot," "Bounce," "Deer Dance," "Suicide," "Aerials," "X," "Shimmy," and "Science." Multi-instrumentalist Arto Tuncboyaciyan guests on the latter track.

"The album has the erratic time changes, and it's still quirky," says guitarist Daron Malakian, "but there are touches of Pink Floyd in it. I think that our new songs touch emotions in a way that we've never done before." Look for the group co-headlining the upcoming Pledge of Allegiance tour with Slipknot, beginning Oct. 1 outside of Chicago.

'All Together' Now

OrbitalYou can't blame Orbital's Phil Hartnoll if he and his brother Paul just want to have a little fun. After 1996's uncharacteristically dark "In Sides" and 1999's headphone-oriented "Middle of Nowhere," the pioneering U.K. techno duo has returned to the more instantly memorable sounds of earlier efforts with "The Altogether," due this week in North America but out since May internationally on ffrr/London-Sire.

"This is an album to be shared with your mates when you're all together, having a beer and just having fun," Hartnoll says. "It doesn't dig deep or dark. I relate it to a day at the fun fair or the theme park. 'Tension' can be the scariest roller-coaster ride," he explains. " 'Shadow' could be the haunted house. 'Waving Not Drowning' is a bit more like the soft play area for the under-3s."

Other stimulating cuts include the sublime "Pay Per View," a revamped version of the theme from long-running U.K. TV series Dr. Who ("Doctor?"), and a surprising collaboration with singer/songwriter David Gray ("Illuminate"). The group will be on tour internationally this fall.

Additional titles hitting stores this week include country artist Jeff Carson's "Real Life" (Curb); vocalist/actor Mandy Patinkin's "Kidults" (Nonesuch/Atlantic); the various artists compilation "The Best of Sessions at West 54th, Vol. 1" (Automatic/Columbia/Legacy); Ethiopian vocalist Gigi's "Gigi" (Palm Pictures); U.K. rock combo Toploader's "Onka's Big Moka" (Epic); garage rockers Murder City Devils' "Thelema" (Sub Pop); and long-running comedy troupe the Firesign Theatre's "The Bride Of" (Rhino) and "Radio Now Live!" (Whirlwind Media).

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