System of a Down

System of a Down (aka SOAD, or simply System) is a four piece Armenian/American metal band, based in California. They released five albums between 1997-2007, and are known for their politically based music, outrageous onstage antics and one-of-a-kind sound. The band has had much success with their singles, 'Sugar', 'Chop Suey!', 'Toxicity', 'Aerials', 'BYOB', 'Question!', 'Kill Rock 'n Roll', 'Lonely Day' and 'Hypnotize'. In 2007 they announced they were going on an indefinate hiatus, but insist they will return.

Formation & Getting on a Label:

Before System of a Down, there was Soil, which had 5 members at its peak - Serj Tankian on keyboards/vocals, Daron Malakian on guitar/vocals, Shavo Odadjian on guitar, Dave Hakopyan on bass and Domingo Larani on drums. Despite Daron once stating they 'did good music', the band split up for unknown reasons.

After Soil broke up, Serj and Daron decided to form a new band, naming it System of a Down, based on a poem by Daron entitled "Victims of a Down." Shavo, who was the band's manager, thought 'victims' was too strong a word, and suggested changing it to 'system'. The band recruited Ontronik 'Andy' Khachaturian as their drummer, and wasted no time recording an early 1995 demo album.

By mid-1997 the band had released their fourth demo tape - but Ontronik had suffered a hand injury and was left unable to play. The band then invited John Dolmayan to drum for them, eventually becoming their permanent drummer. Tankian, Malakian, Odadjian and Dolmayan then became the System of a Down we know today.

Producer Rick Rubin, of Columbia Records fame, heard their final demo album and suggested that they 'keep in touch'. With his help, SOAD got onto American/Columbia Records, and they reportedly 'went straight to the recording booth' to begin recording their first album. In 1997, SOAD won the Best Signed Band award from the Rock City Awards.

First Album: 'System of a Down', 1998:

In early 1998, System of a Down released their first, self-titled album. Despite being a popular underground album (it topped out at number on the Top Heatseekers chart), it failed to break mainstream (peaked at #124 on Billboard Top 200) - though it saw moderate success with the song 'Spiders', and much success with the song 'Sugar'. 'Sugar' grew exponentially, as it had a much lighter feel to it than the original demo-tape version. It now had an increased tempo, and was sung in a typically zany fashion. They toured along with bands such as Slayer, all the while planning their next album which, little did they know, would skyrocket them to break to mainstream.

Second Album: 'Toxicity', 2001:

'Toxicity' instantly shot up to #1 on the American and Canadian Charts. System of a Down was now famous. The album saw a change with its style, becoming much less heavy than its predecessor, but still held onto its political and melodic feel. The singles off of the album were 'Chop Suey!', 'Toxicity', 'Aerials' (reached #1 on Mainstream and Modern Rock Tracks), and 'Johnny' (in Japan), and they all became top 10 songs. The first three songs gave them a Grammy nomination, and 'Toxicity' was awarded the 14th slot in Vh1's '40 Best Metal Songs'.
Much controversy surrounded the album's release. It was released on September 4, 2001, and was still #1 when the attacks of September 11th occurred. "Chop Suey!" wasn't completely banned from radio, but Clear Channel strongly advised its stations against playing it due to the lyrics "I don't think you trust in my self-righteous suicide."

Third Album: 'Steal This Album!', 2002:

In late 2001, several 'new' System of a Down songs were leaked onto the internet, under the title 'Toxicity II' or 'Toxic Trax'.
Soon after, System of a Down released 'Steal This Album!'. The album was the least popular album that System of a Down would ever release, despite changing many of the songs that appeared on 'Toxicity II'. It is often called the most 'melodic album', but enjoyed less mainstream success than their chart-toppers (it topped out at #15 on the Billboard Top 200), producing only one single that had moderate success ('Innervision'). An alternate version of 'Streamline' was used for the movie 'The Scorpion King'.
The video for 'Boom!' was created as a protest against the war in Iraq, although it was released one day after the war started. It was immediately banned from public airplay due to its strong anti-war message.

Fourth/Fifth Album: 'Mesmerize/Hypnotize', 2005:

Mesmerize was released in early 2005. It saw much mainstream success, especially with the songs 'B.Y.O.B.' and 'Question!'. It also saw much popularity with the song 'Cigaro'. It was the first part of the double album.
The video for 'B.Y.O.B.' was banned from airplay due to its political message.

Hypnotize was released in late 2005. It received similar success, topping out at #1. Its singles were 'Hypnotize' (#1 on Modern Rock Tracks), 'Lonely Day' (#10 on Modern and Mainstream Rock Tracks), and 'Kill Rock 'N Roll' (#38 on Mainstream Rock Tracks).
Many System of a Down fans did not like the changed direction SOAD had taken - a different guitar sound (the guitars were now in Db, rather than Drop C), Daron Malakian singing more, and multiple war-related songs were amongst the reason for the decline in popularity amongst the double album.

Band Hiatus and Future:

The 2007, the band declared they were going on hiatus. Serj Tankian went on to release his solo album, 'Elect the Dead', with John Dolmayan doing some drum tracks. John Dolmayan also went on to open Torpedo Comics, his online comic store. Daron Malakian joined with Shavo Odadjian to form 'Scars on Broadway', whose album is expected to be released in the Summer of 2008.
Many in System of a Down have hinted that System of a Down may return very soon, despite statements that System of a Down would be down for at least two years.

Comparing System of a Down

While System of a Down's message through their music has always been clear, their atmosphere and style has changed almost dramatically.
Points in context:

System of a Down - Peephole

From the album 'System of a Down', 1998

Live at the Whisky-a-Go-Go, 1997

System of a Down - Aerials

From the album 'Toxicity', 2001

Live at the Sydney Ozzfest, 2002

System of a Down - BYOB

From the album 'Mesmerize', 2005

Live at the London Astoria, 2005

External Links:

- System of a Down Website
- System of a Down Fansite

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License