Hear System of a Down’s First New Music in 15 Years, ‘Protect the Land’ and ‘Genocidal Humanoidz’

It took a war for System of a Down to record new music. After seeing the country of Azerbaijan start a conflict with Armenia in September, the musicians, who are all of armenian lineage, rushed into the studio to record two new songs, “ Protect the Land ” and “ Genocidal Humanoidz, ” to draw attention to the crisis in their ancestral fatherland .
The band will donate proceeds from the songs, which come out Friday, to care Armenians, and it is soliciting fans to donate to the Armenia Fund, which provides humanitarian easing to the region. Both songs are available on the group ’ s Bandcamp page .
Fifteen years have passed since the Grammy-winning alt-metal group released their last record, Hypnotize. When it came out, it was an instantaneous hit, the second of two System albums to debut at Number One in 2005. But despite their achiever, they have not been able to agree on a path advancing ever since. Their singer, Serj Tankian, had asked for a more democratic songwriting process — guitarist-vocalist Daron Malakian wrote about everything — but they couldn ’ triiodothyronine reach a meeting of the minds. They have since toured together and remained friends, but internally, the struggle for creative operate has seemed insurmountable .

The band decided to put its differences aside last month after war broke out in Nagorno-Karabakh, a largely ethnic-Armenian region of Azerbaijan that Armenians call “ Artsakh. ” It covers about 1,700 straight miles of mountainous terrain, and it has had a long, bally history that has scarred the people who live there. A previous war between Armenia and Azerbaijan ended with a armistice and Armenians in see of the region in 1994. Azerbaijan initiated another war this past September after its president of the united states, Ilham Aliyev, took umbrage with armenian prime minister Nikol Pashinyan ’ s claim this by spring that Nagorno-Karabakh was wholly armenian. Russia, France, and the United States have each attempted to mediate cease-fires between Armenia and Azerbaijan, but none have stuck .
Armenia, a area of about 3 million, is well-outnumbered by Azerbaijan, which has 10 million citizens, a stronger military, and help from Turkey, Armenia ’ s longtime foe since the 1915 armenian Genocide, which was propagated by Ottoman Turks. The prime minister of Armenia, which has received digest from Russia, suggested that Azerbaijan has recruited mercenaries from Syria, although the latter nation denies it. The organization Human Rights Watch has claimed that Azerbaijan has used banned weapons and bunch munitions in its fight ( it says Armenia used or supplied bunch munitions used in an fire arsenic well ), and the british newspaper, Morning Star, has reported on an Azerbaijani soldier who beheaded an armenian soldier and taunted his syndicate with it. The U.N. has warned that attacks on citizens in the area could be considered war crimes .

The ring believes that Azerbaijan planned out the time of the attack to coincide with newsworthiness coverage focusing on the U.S. election and the response to Covid-19. And tied though System don ’ metric ton all partake the lapp politics — Tankian has voiced support for Democrats, and drummer John Dolmayan ( the singer ’ s brother-in-law ) supports Trump — they decided to put those differences aside adenine well, since they believe the crisis in Nagorno-Karabakh transcends american politics .
“ What I would like [ Trump ] to do is protect the interests of the United States but, at the same, time protect the values of the United States and what we stand for, ” Dolmayan tells Rolling Stone. “ There ’ s injustice happening. We can ’ t merely embark into battle for monetary reasons. I get that we have to think of the interest for the [ U.S. ] going ahead, but we have to walk the walk and talk the talk. Don ’ triiodothyronine be a hypocrite. ”
“ This is ghastly denounce that ’ s going on, ” bassist Shavo Odadjian says. “ There ’ second nothing humane about it. They ’ ra not saying, ‘ Oh, leave our lands. We ’ ll be so polite to help you leave. ’ They ’ ra massacre people and doing all sorts of cowardly, disgusting things. And that just touches all of us [ in the band ]. ”

“ It ’ s wholly a David and Goliath site, ” Malakian adds. “ Armenia can ’ thymine do this by themselves. ”
“ I have been to Artsakh twice, ” Tankian recalls. “ It ’ s equitable beautiful countryside, and it ’ s just actually sad seeing all of that destroy right now and the people having to move. The people are precisely incredible there. They ’ re the old Armenians. They have been living on those lands since 500 B.C. They ’ rhenium very strong and beautiful and amusing. They don ’ triiodothyronine get scared, man. They ’ ve seen this before, but it ’ south truly, truly fucked up. ”
Top, from Left: Daron Malakian, John Dolmayan;Boffom, from Left: Serj Tankian, Shavo Odadjian Armen Keleshian* Dolmayan remembers watching the war unfold and feeling sick. “ I had a bunch of feelings of anger and powerlessness, and then I thought second to how my ancestors must have felt during the genocide, ” he says. After years of disappointment with the country of System of a Down, he had come to terms with the fact that the group would never record together again. But the horrors he was seeing inspired him to pick up his earphone at 10 o ’ clock at night on the first Sunday in October and reach out to his bandmates .
“ I sent a text to the early three guys, and said, ‘ Irrespective of your feelings for each other and the past, we have to put everything apart and get in the studio and create a sung for our people to bring attention to the situation and galvanize the forces of good cosmopolitan, ‘ ” he recalls. “ And I got reasonably positive responses. ”
Odadjian was an easy yes. He had been watching news program reports about the war and felt the same way. In fact, he was just about ready to send his own textbook when he got the drummer ’ mho note .
Tankian decided that drawing attention to the war was worth letting his guard down. “ I ’ megabyte not doing this as an artist for myself or for System of a Down or for any of the guys in the band ; we ’ re all doing this for our people, ” he says. “ So this is not a creative decision, this is not a business decision. This is a decision of activism, and that takes precession over all other things for us. ”
“ If we don ’ t do this, there international relations and security network ’ t any other huge armenian rock ring out there that ’ s gon na do this, ” Malakian says. “ There aren ’ thyroxine that many big armenian celebrities out there that are going to do this. It ’ mho kind of a duty. We came together because our area needed us, not necessarily because we ’ re so amped to do a brand-new arrangement of a Down song. Our people needed us to do this. ”

Malakian sent his bandmates “Protect the Land,” a hard-charging hymn he had earmarked for the following album by his early group, Scars on Broadway, and the respite of System felt it spoke perfectly to how they felt. The lead opens with a slow-churning guitar riff and Malakian and Tankian harmonize lyrics that ask listeners what they would do if person tried to push them from their homes. “ Would you stay and take a stand ? ” they ask mournfully. “ Would you stay with gunman in hand ? They protect the land. ” To drive it home, when they repeat those questions late, Malakian runs his hands up his guitar neck, imitating the strait of bombs falling .
The guitarist wrote the song about a class and a half ago after he had penned another song about tensions around Artsakh called “ Lives ” for his 2018 LP, Dictator. “ We used [ ‘ Lives ’ ] to raise money to have first-aid kits sent to Artsakh because I heard soldiers and civilians needed them, ” he says. “ So that ’ s how the subject for [ ‘ Protect the Land ’ ] came into my mind ; the people and soldiers of Artsakh were in my thoughts. ”
They cut the birdcall within a week of Dolmayan ’ s initial text, and Odadjian immediately began work on the track ’ second video in private, filming different generations of armenian descendants while telling them that he was making a documentary about the armenian diaspora that spread across the globe after the genocide. “ I brought in everyone from every age, ” he says of the clip. “ We have babies, my two sons, the high priest of L.A., doctors, cab drivers, and soldiers in the video. At the same fourth dimension, we have people in Armenia in Artsakh filming on the frontlines of the war going on. So the message is, ‘ I know we ’ rhenium thousands of miles off, but we stand with our troops and we stand for this one common causal agent as Armenians. ‘ ” The cartridge holder features footage of soldiers on the frontlines, a well as shots of the band with projections of some of the footage Odadjian inject superimposed over their faces, exchangeable to the band ’ s “ Toxicity ” cartridge holder .
The band ’ south director thought “ Protect the Land ” captured the importance of the moment but urged them to record another, heavier tune to complement it. Three or four years ago, Malakian, Dolmayan, and Odadjian convened for a crush seance that produced several songs, but they abandoned them when Tankian wouldn ’ triiodothyronine commit to an album. One of the standouts was the Malakian-penned “ Genocidal Humanoidz, ” a fast, punkie act about fighting back against the monster. This time, all four members agreed to record the birdcall. Malakian sings, “ Persecution ends now, ” halfway through and cocks his guitar like a gun before the band whips through a whirlwind of black-metal riffs, and Tankian asks, “ Guess who ’ s coming over to dinner ? The genocidal humanooooiids. ” It ’ s a whole other climate that captures the convulsive unpredictability of the dance band ’ second best music .

“ The song actually matched up well [ with ‘ Protect the Land ’ ], ” Malakian says. “ The original lyrics are pretty conclude to what we recorded. The original channel [ in ‘ Genocidal Humanoidz ’ ] was, ‘ Terrorists are coming, and they ’ re never going to stop, ’ so to make it fit, I changed it to, ‘ Terrorists we ’ ra fight, and we ’ rhenium never gon na stop. ’ And the word ‘ humanoids ’ came to me from the late wrestle director Bobby ‘ The Brain ’ Heenan. He used to call the audience a bunch of humanoids, like a bunch together of idiots. I had to change very little with the give voice to make it work with the message we ’ re trying to send out now. ”
system of a down cover evening though they hadn ’ t all been in a studio together in more than a ten, tracking the songs went amazingly smoothly and quickly. Within a few days of deciding to record, each musician started arranging his own separate — Tankian developed his harmonies for “ Protect the Land ” while still in New Zealand, where he lives part-time — and the singer flew to Los Angeles on October 11th to join everyone in the studio apartment. They finished tracking the cuts that week .
“ This was something that was bigger than any issue we ’ ve ever had with System, ” Odadjian says. “ We had to put everything away and say, ‘ We ’ ve got to get together because, when we speak after 15 years, people will listen. ’ People will be like, ‘ Whoa, these guys came back ? For what ? ‘ ”
Each of the band members expressed fears that Azerbaijanis, who are predominantly Muslim, view the war against Armenia, a christian state, as a holy place war and that the dispute could escalate into another genocide. By bringing attention to the war, they hope their fans will contact their representatives in government and ask them to intervene. “ Make your voice learn and talk about this injustice and say you ’ d like to see Turkey and Azerbaijan sanctioned, ” Tankian says. “ You ’ d like to see the perpetrators punished. It doesn ’ t take money or military to do that, it fair takes economic pressure on those countries to back off because they ’ re the aggressors. ”

system of a Down besides hope to aid human-centered efforts in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. “ We ’ ve been doing this as a ball-shaped diaspora and Armenian community, but we need the help because our adversaries have oil and natural flatulence and they ’ ve been spending billions of dollars on their military, ” the singer says. “ We need fiscal help to take care of our people that are in bomb shelters in Artsakh and families whose children are not in school. And there ’ s an incredible spike [ in Covid-19 cases ] in Armenia, which is very dangerous and chilling. So it ’ s a very atrocious humanitarian calamity that needs to be addressed. ”
Although Dolmayan is excited that he got his band back together for the cause, he says fans should not expect more music or a new album. “ If it was up to me, we ’ d have a new album every three years, ” he says. “ But things aren ’ t up to me. I ’ megabyte at the mercifulness of my team, and although I fought for it for many years with band members, I ’ ve accepted that it is what it is. We do have five albums and [ immediately ] two songs. We ’ ve accomplished a bunch in our careers. If it ends at that, so be it. ”
Tankian, who has shelved a alone EP, Elasticity, that he had planned to release this precipitate, has no plans to work on modern music with System or anyone else until the conflict is resolved. “ I can ’ t think of anything [ else ] right now — not my own music, not System ’ mho music, ” he says. “ I ’ m focused on what ’ s going on with the war and pray for a armistice so there can be negotiations. I ’ thousand barely focused on this because it ’ s a life-and-death position. ”
But some of his bandmates are more hopeful that System will resume at some point in the future. “ I ’ megabyte gallant that we did this, ” Odadjian says. “ I wish we could get in and do more. possibly this could lead to that, possibly it can ’ triiodothyronine. I ’ ve constantly been optimistic, though. ”

“ I never say never, ” Malakian says. “ I didn ’ thymine expect this. I was ready to put out my next Scars record. This kind of happened out of the blue, so who knows. If we don ’ triiodothyronine record again, then I ’ ll precisely keep doing what I do and everyone else will keep doing what they do. But it was dainty to do this. ” He ’ s largely felicitous the band members could move past their issues long enough for the dependable of their ancestral fatherland. “ I ’ thousand not a soldier, but I feel like I ’ m a share of this, ” he says. “ The way I ’ molarity going to contribute is through my songs. ”

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