A month ago, SYSTEM OF A DOWN released "Protect The Land" and "Genocidal Humanoidz", the band's first new songs in 15 years. The tracks were motivated by the recently erupted conflict between Artsakh and Azerbaijan, the latter aided by Turkey and accountable for the greatest violence the region has endured in 26 years. Produced by guitarist/vocalist Daron Malakian, who also wrote the music and lyrics, both songs are streaming now on all DSPs and are available for purchase on Bandcamp with band royalties earmarked for the Armenia Fund.
In a new interview with Australia's Triple J, SYSTEM OF A DOWN singer Serj Tankian spoke about what it was like recording music with his bandmates again. He said (hear audio below): "Just because the band hasn't put out music in all this time, most people assume that our relationship is sour. It's really not. We tour together. We're friends. My drummer is my brother-in-law. Our kids all play together. Daron doesn't have kids, but everyone else's kids play together. So we're all like family, to be honest with you. So there was no weirdness to it. It's just we haven't been able to see creatively eye-to-eye to continue creating with the band, which is fine. But that doesn't mean that you can't get together and do something for a cause; that doesn't mean you can't get together and tour and have some fun."
Asked if recording these two songs has opened the door to a new era of creativity within SYSTEM, Serj said: "I don't know, because right now we're focused on what's going on in Armenia. There's a huge humanitarian catastrophe. We're still focused on raising funds, raising awareness about this. Time will tell whether this leads to something else or not."
Tankian also talked about how the new SYSTEM music has been received, saying: "The fan response has been absolutely incredible. As soon as we released the songs, it really blew up all over the Internet. And it did what we wanted to do, which is basically break into Azerbaijan's disinformation campaign. Especially our video for 'Protect The Land' really hit it home, and people were, like, 'Wow, I'm crying. I didn't know about this. How can I help?' And fans around the world were excited about the music, obviously, and the messaging is always part of the music. And we did a video together that we released, explaining why we did this, why it's important to us, what's going on. So all of it kind of really came together to spike and make an impact. And also, I've heard from friends that not only did it play in Armenia and Artsakh, but it was even played on the frontlines and gave people protecting their families a little something saying that we're with you, that you're not alone on these lines against a better-equipped, bigger-army enemy that is trying to kill you and your family."
The music video for "Protect The Land" incorporates recent footage of the protests and on-the-ground fighting in Artsakh, but in a very personal and aesthetic way. As he did for all previous SYSTEM OF A DOWN releases, bassist Shavo Odadjian executive-produced the music video and curated the cover and brand art for the project.
"Protect The Land" a was originally written by Malakian for the next album by his other group, SCARS ON BROADWAY, while "Genocidal Humanoidz" was penned three or four years ago when Odadjian, Malakian and drummer John Dolmayan convened for a jam session that produced several songs, only to abandon them when Tankian wouldn't commit to an album.
Within a week of their release, "Protect The Land" and "Genocidal Humanoidz" landed at positions No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, on Billboard's Hot Hard Rock Songs chart. "Land" topped the chart with 2.7 million U.S. streams and 5,000 downloads sold in the week ending November 12, while "Humanoidz" garnered 1.8 million streams and 5,000 downloads.
SYSTEM OF A DOWN is planning to film a music video for "Genocidal Humanoidz" in December. "I've written out the storyline, and I've got a couple of surprises that I'm gonna be putting [in there]," Odadjian told geopolitical analyst Richard Èlmoyan in a recent interview.
Photo credit: Clemente Ruiz