Back to the River Aras:A Collapsed History of System ofaDown

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Back to the River Aras:A Collapsed History of System ofaDown

Post  LeeRain on Fri Feb 11, 2011 10:48 pm

System of a Down is today one of the most recognizable metal bands, and were certainly among the most popular. They were strange beyond strange, and their music existed as a huge departure from conventional metal bands. Many songs from their five studio albums achieved radio play and mainstream success, and their popularity abounded. However, System's music and intent was largely misinterpreted. It is my wish to relieve some of the misrepresentation clouding their legacy and pay homage to one of the most unique metal acts ever.

[SIZE="4"]Soil and Untitled Demos: The Early Years[/SIZE]

System's incarnation lies in the formation of a then relatively unknown band: Soil (paid homage to in the likewise titled song from their debut album). They were formed during and at the school which Daron Malakian and Serj Tankian attended. Daron played lead guitar and Serj lead vocals. Two other members graced their presence, Dave Hakopyan (current bassist for Mt. Helium) and drummer Domingo Laranio. Afterwards, Shavo Odadjian joined as a rhythm guitarist. The project survived three years of tinkering, one recording (a live jam session) and one actual show before disbanding in 1995. There are no surviving recordings.

Out of the ashes of Soil, three members rejoined to form System of a Down (Serj, Daron, and Shavo). The band was named after a poem of Serj's, Victims of a Down. They acquired a drummer, Andy Khachaturian, and set to work on some of their earliest recordings. These early recordings were unreleased to the general public but contain snatches of the brilliance that was to come. System revealed their heavy thrash roots in very early versions of Mr. Jack and Metro (a Berlin cover). Their deep metal roots gave way to distorted thrash riffs and occasional structured melodies. System derived the most influence from Slayer. Indeed, Daron borrowed much of his technique from Tom Araya, while Serj favored his own trademark staccato scream.

After touring heavily around Los Angeles between 1995 and 1997, System recorded a few more demo tapes (much which would make it onto their first LP) and replaced their drummer with John Dolmayan. System earned a cult following and a great reputation for their live acts (known as The Dark Red Experience). They soon secured gigs at notable establishments like Whiskey-A-Go-Go and The Viper Room, which led to exposure to new crowds and a small producer named Rick Rubin. They were quickly signed to Columbia Records and went on from their to record their debut album.

Now, at this point, the LA metal act was comprised of four members: Serj (lead vocals), Daron (lead guitar), Shavo (bass guitar and rhythm guitar) and John (drums, percussion). They were all Armenian-American, and they soon incorporated some unique Middle Eastern folk into their metal acts. However, System of a Down has always objected to being typecasted as "an Armenian metal band," because they were an American metal band who just happened to be of Armenian descent. Most of their material is derived from thrash acts like Slayer and Anthrax, not Armenian music.

Up next: the eponymous of eponymous debuts.

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