System of a Down Gets Political
BY MISSAK ARTINIAN
It has been more than three years since System of a Down mesmerized and hypnotized their fans with “Mezmerize” and “Hypnotize.”
Following their two multi-platinum selling albums, devout fans were disappointed to learn that all four members of the the Grammy Award-winning band would go on a temporary hiatus.
But when news broke out that each member of the band would pursue their own independent projects, fans were both skeptical and excited.
The world got a brief taste of one such project in 2006, called “Screamers,” a documentary directed by Emmy Award-winning director Carla Garapedian, who collaborated with System of a Down to create an important and powerful account of the Armenian genocide and its connection with the Holocaust, Darfur and other crimes against humanity.
All four members of System of a Down are of Armenian descent and are descendants of genocide survivors.
The Armenian genocide is an event that took place in 1915, when approximately 1.5 million Armenians were systematically deported from their homelands and forced to march in the heat of the Syrian Desert where they starved to death and perished. The event has been consistently denied by the Turkish Government and has yet to be classified as “genocide” by the United States on the national level.
In the same year of the documentary’s release, the band joined other Armenian-Americans in a protest outside former House Speaker Dennis Hastert’s (R-IL) office to convince him to pass a resolution that would finally recognize the Armenian genocide in the United States.
Although the House International Relations Committee approved the resolution, Hastert did not call it for a vote.
The issue, although 93 years old, has current implications, as the House Foreign Affairs Committee adopted a non-binding resolution in October of last year, much to the Turkish Government and Bush Administration’s dismay.
President Bush, hours before the resolution passed, said, “This resolution is not the right response to these historic mass killings.”
Turkey has been a key ally to the United States during the war in Iraq.
System of a Down is well-known for its politically-charged, critical lyrics addressing topics that range from the war in Iraq to genocide in general.
System of a Down frontman Serj Tankian released a solo-album in October of last year, with his own unorthodox political message to send. Tankian called the album “Elect the Dead.”
In an interview with MTV, Tankian said, “We should channel the wisdom of not just the physical and imperial world, but the world beyond to really make the right choices, because we really F’ed up.”
The two singles off the album, “The Unthinking Majority” and “Empty Walls,” share grim themes that portray world leaders as war-mongering cannibals and the voters who elect them into power as naïve prey. In the latter single, he sings, “When we decline from the confines of our mind, don’t waste your time on coffins today.”
Tankian has also put his lyrics into action, hosting a website, www.ElectTheDead.com, where users can “revolutionize our Democracy” by signing a petition that reforms the electoral process. The petition seeks to abolish the Electoral College, equalize corporate funding in elections and implement multiple-choice taxation, among other reformations.
With November elections looming, the album and website may be worth checking out.
The other band members, too, have been busy with their own projects.
In July, Daron Malakian and John Dolmayan, the guitarist and drummer, respectively, released their own album, titled “Scars on Broadway.”
The album is blunter with its political message. The lyrics to one of the songs, titled “Exploding/Reloading,” read, “I am, I am genocide, mixed with Turkish lies.”
Shavo Odjanian, System of a Down’s bassist, is currently collaborating with the Wu-Tang Clan on a hip- hop project called “Achozen,” which is set to release late this year.
As for any details on when System of a Down will reunite, Daron Malakian had this to say: “If anyone’s holding their breath for a System record, they’re going to turn blue and pass out. It’s a long ways away.”