System of a Down decided to put conflicts aside and record two songs for a cause greater than themselves.
The internationally known band hasn’t released music in 15 years. The group became popular after releasing the album Toxicity in 2001, which features hits such as Chop Suey! or Aerials. In 2005, System of a Down produced two albums which peaked at number one in charts, becoming the first band since The Beatles to achieve such a performance. Other achievements include a 2006 Grammy award for their song B.Y.O.B., an MTV Europe Music Award, a Metal Storm Award, as well as other awards and nominations.
Despite their success, the band hasn’t released any more music since 2006, as they weren’t able to agree on the creative process. The members continued to tour together but began to work on side projects.
The important reason why they returned
The Armenian-American band release of two new tracks on Thursday night was a complete surprise for everyone, including the members, who hadn’t planned the release too long in advance. Protect the Land and Genocidal Humanoidz came as the band’s response to a problem which should reach the attention of the world – a war between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
This past September, a war broke out in Nagorno-Karabakh, a mostly ethnic-Armenian region of Azerbaijan. Armenians have always lived autonomously in this region and won their independence after a previous war against Azerbaijanis in 1994. This year, Azerbaijan initiated another war with military aid from Turkey, which also propagated the Armenian Genocide in 1915. Armenia is outnumbered by Azerbaijan with approximately 7 million citizens. The members of System of a Down believe that the attack was planned in order to coincide with the U.S. election and Covid-19 response.
A problem of world-wide concern
The members also fear that the war could escalate into a new genocide, as the Azerbaijanis view it as a holy war: “We have to prevent it because if we let it go, this could lead to another genocide. They’re systematically killing civilians saying ‘Leave the land, if you don’t leave, we’re going to kill you’. But this is our land. It’s been our land for thousands of years. You could see with all the monasteries, the churches, all of the beautiful landmarks that we’ve created throughout the years, they’re there and they’re getting destroyed. So we need to prevent this in order to survive, in order to keep our culture alive,” said bassist Shavo Odadjian.
Lead singer Serj Tankian believes that the conflict should be a concern for people all over the world: “This is a fight for civilization. This is a fight against terrorism. So the whole world should be involved in this. It’s a beautiful, powerful thing to experience that a nation so old, from the oldest part of the world, is standing up in modern times to a new brutality. We’re standing together with attitude this time and saying to the world that we will not deal with this again. I am very confident that the collective unity of the Armenian nation around the world will no longer sit down.” In this video he gives more information about what’s happening in Nagorno-Karabakh, which is referred to as “Artsakh” by Armenian people.
It took System of a Down two weeks to release two songs and a music video
After seeing the tragic situation Armenians were facing, drummer John Dolmayan texted his bandmates and proposed to create a song in order to draw attention to what is happening in Armenia. The responses he received were positive, with Shavo claiming that he would have sent his own text. Guitarist Daron Malakian sent his bandmates Protect the Land, a song written a half an year before, which was intended for his other band’s next album. “He [Dolmayan] wrote and said we need to put everything behind and do something. We need to be a part of this. We need to help any way we can. This, this is bigger than us, bigger than our emotions, bigger than our feelings, bigger than our egos. Let’s go. And right away, Daron responded with ‘Here, I have something that could save time’, said Shavo.
The music video was produced by Shavo, who also curated the cover. The band’s manager prompted the members to create a second track to complement the first one and “Genocidal Humanoidz”, a song written several years before, was agreed to be the best match. Shavo is currently in the process of producing the video.
The band did not face difficulties while recording, even though they it had been many years since their last recording session: “We’re all friends. It’s just, we haven’t been in there creatively together. So when we got in there, at first tension was a little high because we didn’t know how everyone was going to be, but about five minutes into it we were talking about the song, how it’s going to be, how we’re going to help and what this is going to do for our people,” said Shavo Odadjian.
All the money goes to Armenia Fund
The money raised from the songs, which are available for purchase on Bandcamp, go to Armenia Fund, a US-based charity organization. The members of System of a Down are also strongly encouraging the fans to donate to the fund. “This is not a creative decision, this is not a business decision. This is a decision of activism, and that takes precedence over all other things for us,” says Daron Malakian.