I love you System Of A Down, but please don’t make another album
Like a runaway train full of used diapers, the conversation surrounding a new System Of A Down album just gets messier as it rolls on.
For the past 15 years, the nu-metal-but-not-really four-piece have been fielding requests from fans for a follow-up to the rather underrated Hypnotize, and it still doesn’t feel any closer to happening. Simply because the band can’t get on board.
Like Tool before them, every interview with Serj Tankian, Daron Malakian, John Dolmayan and Shavo Odadjian eventually includes the question, ‘So how about new System material, then?’ We’re guilty of it, too. The subject of new music came up in our chats with John and Shavo earlier this year, with both men uttering the phrase there would be new music “if it was up to me”.
This past May, Serj said the band “could not really see eye to eye” on how to move forward with new music, and the following month John reiterated that the lack of fresh material was “a band issue” and that “at the end of the day it takes four people to make the music we make and it takes four people not to make it”.
Who is standing in the way of progress? We don’t know. But there is no way System Of A Down should be making new music if they can’t work out how. And when you view the Armenian-Americans as a ‘political’ band, the fact that Serj and John now find themselves at opposite ends of the spectrum, it’s unlikely they will find a cohesive message even if they do somehow manage to lay a track down.
That is not the future we want for System Of A Down. In their five-album career, they’ve not missed a beat – even Steal This Album! (a record of B‑sides and random asides) featured some absolute bangers like I‑E-A-I-A-I‑O and Mr Jack – and a sloppy sixth will tarnish their recorded legacy. If the fire within the band is slowly fading away, then let it go, rather than trying to force a creative spark that simply doesn’t exist. The album would suck.
And this idea isn’t confined to just System, it applies to every important band we hold dear.
It took so long for Guns N’ Roses to reform (and solidify themselves as still one of the greatest live bands on the planet), and do we want to jeopardise that onstage magic at the risk of disharmony within the group caused by unnecessary studio friction? My Chemical Romance’s return from hiatus last year was met with instant cries for a new record, but considering the unhealthy amount of pressure Gerard Way felt the first time around, should we be forcing their hand? Rage Against The Machine’s reformation is a wonderful thing for rock music, but why should they make new music? And, more importantly, why would it be any good? We’ve seen so many misfires over the years from former culturally integral bands returning and souring their legacy as a result, and the thought of a half-cocked RATM would do more damage to their reputation than the politicians they’d be targeting.
Artists are not music boxes we can wind up and let play for our own enjoyment; there needs to be a want, a desire to create something new. If you don’t care about the heart and the passion, then you might as well swallow any old manufactured slurry churned out by the industry. Delicious gruel, lacking any nourishment, filling a hole for a split second, before leaving you ultimately unsatisfied. That is not the future we want for our biggest, most respected bands: if they can’t or won’t make new music, then that’s up to them. But music without an honest beating heart isn’t music at all, and a life without music would be a mistake.
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