System Of A Down - MEN Arena - 14.6.05

When Rage Against The Machine split up there remained an empty void for extreme metal political activism, so thank the lord that the balance has been redressed with Armenian-American shit kickin band System Of A Down. Not content with releasing one album "Mesmerize" the industrious musicians have another album entitled "Hypnotize" set for release with only six months between them. You see, it can be done Axl "Can't be bothered finishing his Chinese Democracy album due to a bout of lazyitis" Rose. This gig is one of only three British dates on an arena sized visit playing to their largest crowds ever.

The backdrop is of the artwork from the "Mesmerize" and a lone figure stands tall in silhouette. Then all is revealed as the entire band appears before our very eyes with a row of mirrors directly behind them capturing every single movement in an original and eye catching manner. Bass player Shavo Odadjian had the greatest beard in rock and dances around with a permanent mischievous devil care attitude. Serj Tankian bellows and erupts with pent up aggression as his vocal dexterity is amazingly versatile.

Launching straight into "B.Y.O.B" System Of A Down take the crowd hostage from the offset and like it's lyrical content implies everyone does join the party and has a real good time with of course no one bringing their own bombs. Surprisingly there's only a handful of songs from their latest opus with due attention being paid to their "Toxicity" album. The new tracks performed are incendiary with their Armenian influence utterly delicious, rich in flavour in and resonant in emotion. SOAD have a wicked sense of humour though especially on "Cigaro" when guitarist Daron Malakian proudly boasts about the size of his manhood.

There's a richness and subtlety to the band when synthesizers, three part harmonies and even vocoders are used on the more reflective moments of the evening. During "Aerials" we're told that this is not brought to you by McDonalds, but seeing an Arena plastered with sponsorships and advertisements seems a little hypocritical in an environment of corporate imagery. Still with tracks like "Chop-Suey" and Soldier Side" it's a set littered with intelligent lyrics and enough volume to wake up the dead.

System Of A Down take risks, avoid classification , but near preach or ram down their politics. They are one of the best live rock bands around, so next time they're in the UK make sure you check them out.

Words: Nicholas Paul Godkin
Photos: Drew Harrison (

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