System of a Down

  • Heavy metal band formed in 1994 from Glendale California. The members of the band were Serj Tankian (lead vocals, keyboards), Daron Malakian (guitars, vocals) and Shavo Odadjian (bass guitar, backing vocals). The original drummer was Andy Khachaturian – he was replaced by John Dalmayan in 1997. Most of the songwriting was by Tankian and Malakian, with the other members making occasional contributions to songwriting.
  • The members of the group are all of Armenian descent. Tankian and Malakian met at a recording studio in 1992 while working on separate music projects. Both were interested in heavy metal music, so they formed a jam band named Soil with 2 other artists on bass and drums. Odadjian was hired to manage the band, but soon he was playing rhythm guitar with the band. After one show and one recording session in 1994, the bass guitarist and drummer left, and Soil was no more. Tankian, Malakian and Odadjian (moving to bass guitar) regrouped, recruiting Khacharturian for drums, who was in a band with Malakian when they were teens. They named themselves System of a Down – Malakian had written a poem titled “Victims of a Down” and they modified “Victims” to “System,” thinking it sounded better.
  • The band performed at clubs around Los Angeles and cut 3 demo tapes from 1995 to 1997. In mid 1997, Khacharturian left the group due to a hand injury, and he was replaced by Dalmayan. Their profile increased that year, as they played at larger clubs. Producer Rick Rubin discovered their music, and after hearing a fourth demo tape, he signed them to his record label, unsure that the general public was interested in an Armenian heavy metal band.
  • In 1998, the released their debut album, the self-titled System of a Down. It was modestly successful, with 2 singles – Sugar and Spiders getting airplay on MTV and alternative radio stations. Eventually, the album was certified platinum after the band’s breakthrough with the next album, 2001’s Toxicity. Toxicity became their best selling album, certified 3x platinum and topping the Billboard album chart. The lead single from the album, Chop Suey!, reached #7 on the Alternative Airplay chart, and in 2012, hard rock magazine Loudwire ranked it #1 on their list of the Best Hard Rock songs of the century. Two other singles also were hits – the title track Toxicity peaked at #3 on the Alternative Airplay chart, and Aerials hit #1 on the chart, as well as the Mainstream Rock chart. Chop Suey and Aerials each received Grammy nominations.
  • Their next album was released in 2002 – Steal This Album! While generally reviewed favorably by critics, it was less successful, though it still managed to be certified platinum. It reached #15 on the album chart, and one single, Innervision, peaked at #12 on the Mainstream Rock chart.
  • In 2005, the group recorded a double album, which was released as 2 separate albums in May and November that year. The first album, Mezmerize, debuted at #1 on the album chart. Its lead single, B.Y.O.B., a protest song against the Iraqi War (the initials stand for “Bring Your Own Bombs”), reached #4 on the Alternative Airplay and Mainstream Rock chart, and it became their highest charting song on the Hot 100, reaching #27. The song won the 2006 Grammy award for Best Hard Rock Performance. A second single from the album, Question!, peaked at #7 on the Mainstream Rock chart.
  • The second album of 2005, Hypnotize, also debuted at #1 – System of a Down was only the fourth artist ever to have 2 albums debut at #1 in the same year. The title track Hypnotize topped the Alternative Airplay chart, and Lonely Day reached #10 on the chart. In May 2006, after completing their concert tour, the band went on hiatus. They reunited in 2011, resuming their touring, but they have not released new music, even though they have been active in writing, citing “creative differences.” They continue to tour today, with tickets available now for shows in 2021.
  • Yes, I do have days where I need to blast metal music from my Sonos speaker (always when I am home alone). Toxicity, Chop Suey!, B.Y.O.B. and Aerials all make me smile – I like them because they have an alternative/progressive edge to them (particularly the vocals), rather than just head banging noise. Don’t get me wrong – there is plenty of slash to System of a Down. Check out their video for Toxicity.

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