The System Gets Resurrected
Every generation has its band that depicts and represents teenage angst. A group that just revolts against the system, that takes on political undertones and just hates “the man” and how the industry works. Whether it was Krautrock or Nirvana, you want to rage out and fight against the routines of popular culture. For me, this group was System of a Down.
System of a Down (SOAD) were unlike what I heard before when I was younger. Growing up with two older brothers who listened to Wu-Tang and Tupac as if it were the choir. With rap being the primary genre in our household, there wasn’t much room for variety. That was up until I heard a song called “Aerials” back in 2001. The riffs from lead guitarist Shavo combined with the vocals of Serj Tankian were just something so different than anything that I ever heard at the time. As I grew older, I took in more and more appreciation for the group, for the way they sounded different, looked different, acted different. Their direction was their own, their sound wasn’t replicable, and their art was their own.
With the albums of Mesmerize and Hypnotize releasing in the mid 2000’s and me finally becoming a teenager, I was admittedly in that “angst” stage. But it wasn’t just the anger fused into the music; it was also about how SOAD opened my eyes to reading between the lines of lyricism. At first, their music was based on just emotion for me but once I actually figured what they were saying, my ideas about how the structures and confines of society were starting to be constructed. I also learned a great deal about the way politics work from them, and how the norms and regularities of our lives tend to kill that creative spark that lies within us. In a basic sense, SOAD helped me discover my own creativity and my own way of looking at the world.
While majority of fans state “Chop Suey” or “BYOB” to be their favorite SOAD songs, my one is called “Atwa”. The song, which blends Serj Tankian’s melodic vocals about how the world and civilization has forced him into being a subordinate of society rather than an active member with lyrics like “silent my voice/I’ve got no choice” combined with Daron Malakian screaming “I don’t dream anymore” in a rather apathetic tone is just one of those perfect harmonious sounds in the genre of post-hardcore rock. It epitomizes teenage angst. A close second of mine is “Roulette”, described by Rolling Stone as a “wounded love letter” which actually escapes the hard-rock noise and instead contains an alternative sound where Serj gets to explore his melodic voice again and explains how lost in our emotions we all are, how we don’t really know to what capacity humans can feel and why we feel.
When the group decided to go on hiatus, with each member pursuing solo careers, in 2008 I was disappointed but I realized that all great groups have to take time apart to build something special and after seven years that seems to be the case. The group recently reunited and played a free concert in their native homeland of Yerevan, Armenia to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, something the group personally identifies with. Much to my amusement, after the show, Serj said that the group had one more album in them and that they’re going on tour again. Long Live Teenage Angst.