According to every member of System Of A Down, new music from the heavy metal band was never going to happen. There’s been plenty of touring since the band reformed in 2010 following a four year hiatus, but according to the band getting into the studio was never really an option.
Drummer John Dolmayan said the group were “very unlikely to make new music”, vocalist Serj Tankian explained that his friendship with his bandmates meant more than making a new album, and guitarist Daron Malakian said the lack of new songs was down to the band not being on the same page anymore. “People change – as time goes on, tastes change and people want to take the band in different directions,” he explained. “We just haven’t come to agreement on how we would want to do it if we did make a record.”
The last dregs of hope were further quashed when it came to this year’s US Elections. Tankian called people who loved his band as well as Trump “hypocrites” as Dolmayan took an entirely opposite stance, calling the President “the greatest friend to minorities.” With such vastly different opinions playing out in public, it really did look like new music was never going to happen.
But never say never. Following last month’s shell attacks on the Republic of Artsakh, an ethnic Armenian region internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan – members of the band are direct descendants from survivors of the 1915 Armenian genocide in Turkey – Dolmayan texted his bandmates. “No matter how we feel about each other, no matter what issues linger from the past, we need to put them aside because this is bigger than System Of A Down and bigger than all of us… we need to do something to support our people.”
That support comes in the shape of the first new music from the band in 15 years. “These two songs both speak of a dire and serious war being perpetrated upon our cultural homelands of Artsakh and Armenia,” say the band in an accompanying statement.
More than anthems of rebellion, these songs raise awareness about a very real human rights violation. ‘Protect The Land’ is a driving, arena-ready epic that has more in common with Foo Fighters than System’s nu-metal past and it sees the band championing the people who are prepared to defend Armenia’s legacy, history and land “from scavengers and invaders”. Elsewhere the towering urgency of ‘Genocidal Humanoidz’ wouldn’t feel out of place on 2005’s ‘Hypnotize’. “Terrorists we’re fighting and we’re never gonna stop,” sings Tankian during the chorus before promising that “persecution ends now.”
We as SOAD have just released new music for the first time in 15 years. The time to do this is now, as together, the four of us have something extremely important to say as a unified voice. Read our full statement at https://t.co/QSDoanwK3B. #ProtectTheLand #GenocidalHumanoidz pic.twitter.com/AypVZ8b71l
— System Of A Down (@systemofadown) November 6, 2020
In 2020, many new songs are political in some way or another, but few manage to cut through the noise and inspire a reaction in the way that System Of A Down do. Right now, it doesn’t matter if this is the spark that ignites a new album or if these tracks are the last we ever hear from the band. Both songs are potent reminders of the band’s power and their decision to wield it now should tell you something about the ongoing crisis.
“The current corrupt regimes of [President Ilham] Aliyev in Azerbaijan and [President President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan in Turkey are banking on the world being too distracted with COVID, elections and civil unrest to call out their atrocities,” continues the statement from the band, united for the first time in over a decade. “This is not the time to turn a blind eye. The music and lyrics speak for themselves. We need you to speak for Artsakh.”
With the world tearing itself in two thanks to divisive and bipartisan politics, System Of A Down’s return is proof that sometimes you can put your differences aside for a greater good.