Single Review: System Of A Down - Protect the Land / Genocidal Humanoidz

Jacob Harman reviews the latest politically charged tracks from System Of A Down, their first outing as a group in over a decade.

Jacob Harman
26th November 2020
The feeling on the metal pages of the internet was that of shock, trepidation, and excitement - System Of A Down have released new music. After 15 years of internal conflict during half-arsed, cash-grabbing live performances, and fans coming to terms with the fact they will never release new music again; they’re back. It only took a war in their home country for this to happen.

One of the most celebrated and innovative artists existing in an era where alternative metal was a laughing stock of the music scene as a result of its oversaturation and reliance on gimmicks, the Armenian-Americans curated a unique sound that seamlessly blends the catharsis and aggression of heavy metal with middle eastern music, whilst also offering unapologetically political lyricism and a dose of hyperbolic satire.

The band released a statement explaining how “The current corrupt regimes of Aliyev in Azerbaijan and Erdogan in Turkey have now claimed most of these lands as their own, and committed genocidal acts with impunity on humanity and wildlife to achieve their mission”, and encouraging fans to read further into the current situation in Armenia, and to donate to the Armenia Fund. The band reforming in such a manner should come as no surprise to fans as they have always been devoted to raising awareness about the Armenian genocide, refusing to perform in Turkey until their government will accept that they committed such a crime.

Initially written for guitarist Daron Malakian and drummer Jon Dolmayan’s side project Scars On Broadway, the first of the two tracks, ‘Protect the Land’, is based around a mid-tempo, crushing riff. The song does not demonstrate the eccentricity and abrasiveness that System Of A Down are known for, and fans could be disappointed that frontman Serj acts as more of a backing singer; however, what it does offer is incredibly infectious riffing and a mountainous chorus, perfect for the crowds of tens of thousands that System play to.

The song is an ode to Armenian soldiers currently fighting, as made evident by the title, and is unapologetically patriotic, with lyrics of “our history and victory and legacy we stand”. System are completely blunt in showing their national pride - where historically their lyrics have been significantly more cryptic, they use no metaphor in this instance.

[System Of A Down] are completely blunt in showing their national pride - where historically their lyrics have been significantly more cryptic, they use no metaphor in this instance.

Any fans disappointed by the slightly more reserved nature of 'Protect the Land' can breathe easy, as ‘Genocidal Humanoidz’ sounds like a classic System track, with Daron’s wild riffing and Serj’s rapid vocal delivery sounding straight from Toxicity, although Serj’s vocals come across flatter and slightly lacking the chutzpah of his early 2000’s self.

The main vocal melody is Serj almost speaking in tongues the lyrics “beating the devil, we never run from the devil, we never summoned the devil”, with the devil reflecting the countries committing war crimes in Armenia, whilst ‘we never run from the devil’ showing similar themes to 'Protect the Land' such as empowerment, and that Armenia will not give up the territory of Artsakh and won’t be backing out.

The song concludes with a climatic bridge that uses rapid blast beats, straight from the black metal playbook, showing a desire to continue to evolve artistically and add new elements to their sound despite having not released any music for 15 years.

Overall, whilst they will never be able to replicate the highs of their self-titled album and Toxicity in particular, for a band who for years have appeared to want to be anywhere but onstage together, and who have experienced copious amounts of internal battling, the return of System should go down as a success as they have released two hard-hitting, infectious and empowering alternative metal bangers.

System Of A Down's full statement can be seen here.

Click here to find out more about the Armenia Fund, and click here to donate.

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