Have you heard that one song with all the men yelling at you to wake up, grab a brush, and put a little makeup on? If not, maybe it was the yelling about self-righteous suicide that left a mark, or thinking super hard about how that song would be great without all the screaming. “Chop Suey!” by System of a Down (also known as SoaD or System), this yelling song, was my introduction to not only SoaD, but metal as a genre of music that defies the stereotype of tons of white men channeling their anger into yelling about Satanism. (There are some of those out there and I will say that they do hit on occasion, not because I am Satanist but because I do enjoy some hardcore yelling.)
Although my primary appeal to System was their combination of Middle Eastern folk music, hip hop, and all the many subgenres of heavy metal, I began to look into them more when I listened to their lyrics. System is a group of four Armenian activists, who were activists long before they were artists. Their music is open to interpretation, but when asked, System is far from fearful about advocating for their initial intentions. With songs like “ATWA,” which openly illustrates environmental influences from Charles Manson, to songs such as “P.L.U.C.K.” (Politically Lying Unholy Cowardly Killers) addressing the Armenian genocide, System doesn’t shy away from difficult topics.
System has been stubborn about having their music advocate for a cause since 1998. In 2005, however, System released their last two albums for quite some time. Fifteen years later, they released two singles. These two singles, called “Protect the Land” and “Genocidal Humanoidz,” pertain to the war against Armenia by Azerbaijan. System released this music as a call to action, the music video having a link to donate underneath it. Merchandise can also be preordered, with 100% of the proceeds going to Armenia.
The first track, “Protect the Land,” I initially did not enjoy, or rather, felt it was not unique enough to be in accordance with System of a Down’s style. There were none of the heavy guitar riffs or crazy drumming rhythms that typically drew me to System’s songs. Yet after one listen and watch of the music video, I felt the raw emotion that came with that track. It was far too driving for me to not enjoy it just because it carried a few simple riffs you can hear in any rock song. This song carried too much: thanking those fighting in the war for Armenia, and System has publicly shown their despise for war and those who partake in it.
The second track, “Genocidal Humanoidz,” sounded much more like System, a pretty quick guitar riff and atonal change leading to the final verse. The sound appealed to me greatly, but yet again, upon listening to the lyrics, I felt even more than I did when just following the raw music:
“Guess who’s coming over to dinner?
The genocidal humanoidz
Teaching warfare to their children”
That interpretation can be left to the listener, but it seems pretty explicit what System wants to get across, making the music appealing to those that support the cause. Even listeners that do not support the cause will give the music the traction it deserves, as System’s goal is to draw attention to those losing their lives in Armenia.
System is more than just their aggressive sound. I unfortunately agree with those I do not want to agree with, Anthony Fantano and Pitchfork (sorry), when saying that System is one of the most influential bands in metal. Whether or not this sound is for you, you can appreciate the fact that music is to them both art and expression — System will not be appealing to the masses!
Check out their music video for “Protect the Land” (it’s homework, if you will).