System of a Down have put their long-gestating creative and political differences aside to record two new songs, their first pieces of music in 15 years. The songs serve as a political statement to raise awareness around the recently reignited conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the territory of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabagh).
System of a Down, whose members are all of Armenian descent, released a collective statement last month decrying the war crimes perpetrated against the people of Artsakh by Azerbaijan and, by proxy, Turkey. For those who might not be aware, Artsakh is an independent and autonomous country that borders Armenia, populated with a vast majority of ethnic Armenians, which gained independence in the early 1990s from Azerbaijan after years of war and conflict beginning soon after the 1988 collapse of the Soviet Union, of which both countries were a part. A cease-fire was reached in 1994, but starting in September, Azerbaijan, with the aid of Turkey’s military forces, launched a large scale offensive attack along the full eastern border of and within Artsakh.
The two new System of a Down songs, “Protect The Land” and “Genocidal Humanoidz,” are available for free, with donations accepted via Bandcamp, the proceeds of which will go directly “to provide desperately needed aid and basic supplies” to residents of Artsakh who have lost their homes, families and more due to the ongoing battle.
Guitarist Daron Malakian wrote the majority of both songs, the former originally intended as a track for his Scars on Broadway outfit and the latter coming out of some jam sessions the three non-Serj members of the band conducted a few years ago.
The band released a new collective statement describing how they put aside their differences for this very important cause, as well as providing a bit of background information on the conflict:
“We as System Of A Down have just released new music for the first time in 15 years. The time to do this is now, as together, the four of us have something extremely important to say as a unified voice. These two songs, “Protect The Land” and “Genocidal Humanoidz” both speak of a dire and serious war being perpetrated upon our cultural homelands of Artsakh and Armenia.
“On September 27, the combined forces of Azerbaijan and Turkey (along with Isis terrorists from Syria) attacked the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, which we as Armenians call Artsakh. For over the past month, civilians young and old have been awakened day and night by the frightful sights and sounds of rocket attacks, falling bombs, missiles, drones and terrorist attacks.
“They’ve had to find sanctuary in makeshift shelters, trying to avoid the fallout of outlawed cluster bombs raining down on their streets and homes, hospitals and places of worship. Their attackers have set their forests and endangered wildlife ablaze using white phosphorus, another banned weapon.
“Because over 30 years ago in 1988, the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh (which at the time was an Autonomous Oblast within the USSR), were tired of being treated as second class citizens and decided to declare their rightful independence from the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic whose borders engulfed their own.
“This ultimately led to a war of self determination by Armenians in Karabakh against Azerbaijan that ended in a cease fire in 1994, with Armenians retaining control of their ancestral homelands and maintaining their independence to the present day. Our people have lived there for millennia, and for most families there, it’s the only home they and their forefathers and mothers have ever known. They just want to live in peace as they have for centuries.
“There is an immediate need for global citizens to urge their respective governments to not only condemn the actions of the corrupt regime leaders of Azerbaijan and Turkey, but to also insist world leaders act with urgency to bring peace to the region and rightfully recognize Artsakh as the independent nation it is.
“Most importantly and urgently, we humbly implore you to donate, in sums small or large to provide desperately needed aid and basic supplies for those adversely affected with what are ever growing accounts of crimes against humanity.
“We realize that for many of you, there are more convenient ways you like listening to music, so please consider the opportunity to download these songs as an act of charity above all else. The music and lyrics speak for themselves. We need you to speak for Artsakh.
Daron, Shavo, John and Serj”
In an interview with Rolling Stone, drummer John Dolmayan explained how he initiated the effort to write and record these songs:
“I sent a text to the other three guys, and said, ‘Irrespective of your feelings for each other and the past, we have to put everything aside and get in the studio and create a song for our people to bring attention to the situation and galvanize the forces of good worldwide. And I got pretty positive responses.”
Vocalist Serj Tankian said:
“I’m not doing this as an artist for myself or for System Of A Down or for any of the guys in the band; we’re all doing this for our people. So this is not a creative decision, this is not a business decision. This is a decision of activism, and that takes precedence over all other things for us.”
Guitarist/vocalist Daron Malakian explained:
“If we don’t do this, there isn’t any other huge Armenian rock band out there that’s gonna do this. There aren’t that many big Armenian celebrities out there that are going to do this. It’s kind of a duty. We came together because our country needed us, not necessarily because we’re so amped to do a brand-new System Of A Down song. Our people needed us to do this.”
Bassist Shavo Odadjian added:
“This was something that was bigger than any issue we’ve ever had with System. We had to put everything away and say, ‘We’ve got to get together because, when we speak after 15 years, people will listen.’ People will be like, ‘Whoa, these guys came back? For what?’”
Stream both songs below and donate to the effort here if you’re so inclined.