The First Reaction To System Of A Down's Two New Songs

After 15 years, System Of A Down have returned with new music... but was it worth the wait?

The First Reaction To System Of A Down's Two New Songs
Luke Morton

Last month, this writer argued that System Of A Down shouldn’t release a new album. This isn’t due to a dislike for the band, far from it, but because of the ongoing turmoil within their ranks. If a band can’t all get on the same page artistically and conceptually (as has been long documented in the press), then the resulting music would be a dead duck.

And while the band have been rather vocally opposed to each other’s support for either the Democrats or the Republicans in their adopted home of the United States, the plight facing the Armenian people has united the four SOAD members to say something for the first time in one-and-a-half decades.

At the end of October, fighting erupted between Armenia and Azerbaijan, reigniting a decades-old war. By way of response, System have recorded two new songs, the proceeds of which will go to the Armenia Fund, a charity that provides assistance to those in need in Artsakh and Armenia.

Written and produced by Daron Malakian, both songs are peak System Of A Down, but from very different eras. The first track, Protect The Land, could easily have been culled from their 2005 Hypnotize album, with Daron’s off-kilter vocals taking centre stage, with that dirgey tone SOAD perfected in the latter stages of their recording career. It’s fairly on-the-nose lyrically, akin to something like BYOB, asking the listener ‘Would you stay and take a stand? Would you stay with gun in hand?’ while the video shows regular working people donning fatigues to fight and (as the song title suggests) protect the land. Throughout its five minutes we’re treated to a smorgasbord of signature System, from that unmistakable Serj/Daron vocal harmony and those elongated guitar lines that build and swell, to the jaunty syllable bouncing of ‘history and victory and legacy’ that still maintains the band’s carnival aesthetic.

Second track, Genocidal Humanoidz, is a much shorter, heavier affair, harking back to their debut self-titled album from 1998. Vastly picking up the pace from Protect The Land, it hits hard lyrically and sonically, even flirting with black metal in its pummelling blast-beats around the halfway mark, before hard-lefting it into more circus antics. With Daron spitting fire about never running from the devil, ‘the prostitutes who prosecute’ and asking who's coming over for dinner, it’s laced with metaphor, but aimed at a target SOAD have railed against throughout their entire tenure.

And ultimately, that’s what this proves – to the fans, and to the band themselves. For fifteen long years, one of the 21st Century’s most outwardly political bands haven’t said a word, refusing to get on the same page. But bickering takes a backseat for artistry when you can unite for a common goal.

“I texted [the guys], ‘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,” said Daron. “We need to do something to support our people.”

At the time of writing, the band have raised just over $30,000 through donations on YouTube for the Aid For Artsakh Campaign, with more proceeds being donated through Bandcamp sales of each song. It’s unclear whether this will lead to more music or it’s a one-off purely to raise money for the Armenian people, but if Serj, Daron, Shavo and John can set their differences aside to create music of this calibre that they genuinely believe in, then keep it coming.

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