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Singing with a Purpose

With the aim of using music to send political messages against social injustice, System of a Down is a four-piece hard rock band composed of grandsons of Armenian genocide survivors. A range of rather outspoken views dominates their music, which is highly prominent throughout their songs. After the release of five albums, the group has enjoyed commercial success with an array of popular singles, including “Chop Suey.” The band is also part of the Axis of Justice, a non-profit organization that fights for social and political change.


Background Information


Originating from Los Angeles, California, System of a Down has produced numerous alternative metal, heavy metal, hard rock, experimental rock, alternative rock, and nu metal singles and albums under labels such as American Recordings and Columbia Records. A variety of musical influences have helped shape the style and sound of the band, including punk rock, jazz, fusion, blues, and Armenian folk music. During performances, the band uses an array of instruments, such as electric mandolins and sitars, to deliver a unique sound. As for the writing of their music, various band members state they gain inspiration from the likes of the Beatles and KISS.


Current Members


The current members of System of a Down have been with the group since its start. Serj Tankian is responsible for lead vocals and also plays keyboard and rhythm guitar. Daron Malakian contributes to the vocals and plays lead guitar. The bass guitar and backing vocals are attached to Shavo Odadjian, while John Dolmayan plays the drums and also adds to backing vocals. Former System of the Down drummer, Andy Khachaturian played with the group from 1995 to 1997 until he was forced to leave the band after a hand injury followed the group’s third demo.


Brief Career History


Some of the original members of System of a Down belonged to a band called Soil. From 1993 to 1995, the group only held one live show and one jam session recording before splitting up. Serj Tankian and Daron Malakian went on to form a new band called System of a Down, a name that originated from a poem Malakian wrote entitled “Victims of a Down.”


The two members then called upon Shavo Odadjian for assistance, as he originally held the position of band manager and promoter. Soon after, he was given the opportunity to become the permanent bassist. It was at this time that Velvet Hammer Music took over the managerial responsibilities. Their first release was titled “Sugar.” Soon after, drummer Andy Khachaturian joined the band but was replaced in 1997 by John Dolmayan.


After catching the eye of Rick Rubin, System of a Down signed with American Columbia records and released their self-titled debut album during the summer of 1998. Mainstream success soon followed, which dominated the early 21st century. Currently, the band is on hiatus, as group members take on outside projects.


Discography & Musical Achievements


The System of a Down released three single albums (“System of a Down,” “Toxicity,” and “Steal This Album”) and a double album entitled “Mesmerize and Hypnotize.” When “System of a Down” was released in 1998, the album later reached platinum status. In 2001, “Toxicity” was released, achieving the number-one position in the United States and Canadian music charts. The album reached three-time platinum in sales and was also well-liked in the United Kingdom and Australia.


“Steal This Album” reached platinum status and was released in 2002. In the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, their double album (“Mesmerize and Hypnotize”) reached number on the music charts, once again selling more than a million copies each. A host of singles also ranked on the U.S. modern rock and other mainstream charts, such as “Chop Suey” (2001); “Aerials” (2002); “Toxicity” (2002); “B.Y.O.B.” (2005); and “Hypnotize” (2005).

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