How To Listen To System Of A Down

Have you ever tried to mix Heavy Metal with socially complicated themes typical of Rap, adding an almost neo-melodic voice but still raw and angry and even a little bit of ethnic/traditional music? Well if you have, you have surely found System of a Down. Musically born in 1994 in Los Angeles, System of a Down is one of the most experimental bands in music, composed of the band's leader and voice, Serj Tankian, Daron Malakia (vocals and guitar), Shavo Odadjian (bass) and John Dolmayan (battery). Another factor that makes this band unique is the fact that all four members of the band descend from the survivors of the Armenian genocide, in fact in many of their songs this theme returns and also sounds very similar to their Armenian tradition. Although the band was officially born in 94, their first album "System of a Down" comes in 1998. An album that personally does not make me mad particularly since the album as a whole is raw, with typical elements of Heavy Metal such as screams, shouts, sudden changes of voice and rhythm. In fact it is an album that can be understood 100% only by true fans of Metal. The message that this album wants to share is obviously a big criticism of society. In fact the album cover which depicts a clearly dirty and ruined hand stretched forward looking for a helping hand. In the midst of angry tracks, passing between screams and voice changes, two tracks in particular pop up throughout the album: "Sugar" and "Spider" two tracks that are enourmously critical towards society. In "Sugar" the video clip shows the group playing and singing with the American flag behind it but sometimes it is interrupted by strong images depicting war, violence, killings and abuse of power that make it clear that the message they want to express is a criticism of society, but in "Spider" the meaning they want us to understand is more encrypted. The song is a criticism of the government that is compared to a spider that with its many legs and eyes illegitimately spies on the American population, plus I recommend you to listen to this song by also watching the video clip because it makes you understand more the meaning of the song and in plus, it is a very visually beautiful video by the cinematographic genius Guillermo Del Toro. An honorable mention also to the song "PLUCK" which is a dedication to the genocide suffered by the Armenian people. "Toxicity" (2001) is their second studio album and it is probably their most famous, certainly one of the most famous albums in Metal. The album's popularity stems from maintaining social critical content and also maintaining extreme sounds and constant voice changes, but with the addition of more melodic sounds that makes the album more accessible to a wider range of people, an example of songs can be the underrated song "Deer Dance" (in my opinion) and "ATWA" which perfectly present this change from their first album. A very beautiful song is certainly the song that gives the name to the album that is "Toxicity". Rock sound accompanied by a strong and incisive voice with an obviously pungent and critical text towards society as can be understood in these few words taken from the song "The toxicity of our city, of our city ". Another single from the album of incredible power is definitely "Aerials" supreme piece, which tells the life of a physically disabled child who sees a trapeze artist and is immediately attracted by his ability to move. This track does not have a strong critical meaning however, society still manages to reflect a lot. Also on this album an honorable mention must be made to one song, "Chop Suey! their most famous song with almost a billion views on YouTube. Their third album comes only a year later ie in 2002 called "Steal this Album!". Drummer John Dolmayan in 2009 publicly said that "Steal this Album!" was the band's favorite album. "Steal this Album" is an album with a beautiful mix of different musical genres in fact you can find excellent Rock tracks, such as "Innervision" or "Highway Song", obviously critical tracks like "Fuck the System" but also a some theatricality as can be seen in the piece "Boom!" that more than a song it looks like a documentary, in fact in the video clip you can see testimonies of people protesting against the war. But among all these tracks, one song in particular emerges above all, that is "Roulette". Definitely my favorite song of the group and perhaps one of my favorite songs in general. The song unlike all the other songs is much more quiet and thoughtful with the use of more acoustic guitars and with more traditional sounds to bring back to the sounds of Armenia, the song compares us to a ball spinning in a roulette wheel and which could fall on two different situations: on black or red, and how it could change our life if it falls on one or the other. I advise you to listen to it regardless of musical taste as it is a really beautiful song, plus it gives me a wonderful feeling of nostalgia and memories. Their fourth and fifth albums both date back to 2005 "Mezmerize" and "Hypnotize" albums which received a lot of success and awards, in these two albums there is even more a melodic softening and a departure from Metal. I will talk about these two albums together since the sounds do not change and even if they are two different albums, they are composed in the same year and therefore are very similar. Even the cover of the two albums are very similar. It's clear that in both albums we will find messages of criticism, and continuous sudden changes of voice. Let's start with "Mezmerize", in my opinion "Mezmerize" is the album that best describes System of a Down, in fact if I had to recommend an album to listen to to get to know them I would recommend this album, in particular two songs which in my opinion highlight the main characteristics of the band that they are, their skill in metal, the fantastic voice of Serj Tankian and a pinch of Armenian music: the songs "Radio / Video" and "Question". On the other hand, if you want to hear more thrilling and even a little crazy songs, I recommend "Revenga" and "Violent Pornography". Speaking instead of their latest album "Hypnotize" I recommend "Kill Rock'n Roll" and "Lonely Day" (the latter very beautiful) if you prefer to get away from too metal sounds. The most famous song on the album, on the other hand, is "Hypnotize", a song that criticizes propaganda, and television saying that it hypnotizes people. Last song that I recommend you to listen to this band is definitely "Soldier Side" song that had already been anticipated as an intro in the previous album, the song is a real Storytelling, tells the life from the eyes of a soldier who knows very well that either he dies or I have to kill to survive, so he must perforce witness atrocities, in this scenario of war the figure of God appears detached and distant. With this song the System of a Down discography ends here, because after 2005 they have not made an album together, but they have not split up yet, but who knows? maybe in the future we will still hear their voice and sound changes and their voices that intersect forming typical sounds of their tradition, that is Armenia.


Filippo Kadolph



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