Tag Archives: System Of A Down

REVIEW: System Of A Down & Korn Help Phoenix Get Lost in the Grandeur (1-31-22)

PHOENIX — In 2020, System Of A Down announced a massive tour co-headlining with Faith No More and Korn, with support from Helmet and Russian Circles. As the pandemic progressed, the shows were postponed a total of three times, with the final postponement due to Serj Tankian (frontman of System of a Down) contracting COVID in October. Faith No More also announced that they would be canceling the concerts so Mike Patton could step back to handle mental health issues. Korn had dropped out, but once Faith No More canceled, Korn returned. To the delight of the metal faithful in Arizona, it was also announced that this line-up (excluding Faith No More and Helmet) would be playing a show at an arena in Phoenix now known by many names. This arena, built in 1992, is now known as Footprint Center and is now on it’s 6th name. The arena just completed a much needed remodel, which brings the once dated arena firmly into the 21st century.

The show started off with Russian Circles, a group that was founded by two childhood friends, Michael Sullivan and Dave Turncrantz, who play guitar and drums respectively. They are joined by Brian Cook, who is the bassist, baritone guitarist, and keyboardist for the instrumental band. Surprisingly, the set was only 18 minutes and 3 songs, but in that short timeframe the post-metal band impressed the audience with their highly technical prowess. If Russian Circles is billed as an opener, it is well worth your time to arrive early enough to catch this trio’s excellent mastery of crescendos and crashes of bass and drums.

Jonathan Davis of Korn in concert at Footprint Center
Jonathan Davis (Vocalist) – Korn
| Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

With a “Here we go!” from lead singer Jonathan Davis, the first bars of Korn’s “Here to Stay” began, spotlights flashed from the stage, and strobing lightboxes backlit the band. Throughout the night, the unmistakable voice of Davis was replaced many times by the audience, as he solicited audience participation. When performing live, Korn has an underappreciated ability to echo the sound of their studio recordings, and it speaks to the vast talent of not just Davis, but guitarist Brian “Head” Welch, guitarist James “Munky” Shaffer, drummer Ray Luzier, and Ra Diaz (who is filling in for Reginald “Fieldy” Arvizu while he takes time to “heal and reflect at home”). 

Brian Welch of Korn in concert at Footprint Center
Brian Welch (Guitarist) – Korn
| Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

Korn is well known for their staggeringly large discography, with 13 studio albums having been released, and a 14th out on February 4th named “Requiem”. The audience was treated to the live debut of the song “Start the Healing”. As part of the upcoming album release, Korn will be playing a “Requiem Mass” on the evening of February 3rd at Hollywood United Methodist Church, which will be live-streamed worldwide.

Jonathan Davis (Vocalist) & Ray Luzier (Drummer) – Korn
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

Three songs later, Davis came out on the stage with his bagpipe, playing the intro to “Shoots and Ladders,” the third single from their eponymous debut album. This, predictably, caused the crowd to erupt, much to the delight of Davis. There is a connection and love between Korn and the audience, which takes the shows to another level. Davis is 4 months removed from his battle with COVID, which saw him have to sit on a throne and use oxygen while performing during a show on August 27th. It is a relief to watch him move around with no noticeable side effects from his battle, which he said scared him shitless.

Jonathan Davis (Vocalist) – Korn
| Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

The crowd, at the urging of Davis, held up their middle fingers collectively during “Y’All Want a Single” – a song written in response to Sony asking for them to “write a radio hit.” This likely is not at all what the poor sap who made this request expected to get, but it has become a fan favorite. Other hits included “Freak on a Leash,” “Did My Time,” and “A.D.I.D.A.S.” As Korn wrapped up, Davis thanked the fans, and almost ominously said, “…we’ll come back and fuck this motherfucker up one more fucking time.”

As the opening notes of “X” played, System Of A Down was silhouetted against the curtain in the moments before it dropped. Serj Tankian – vocalist and keyboardist – was center stage, flanked by guitarist Daron Malakian to his right, bassist Shavo Odadjian to his left, and drummer John Dolmayan almost directly behind him. “Prison Song” was performed next with an arsenal of nearly blinding strobes that assaulted the audience. An extraordinarily intense light show, designed to match the intensity of their music, would persist through the night.

Serj Tankian of System Of A Down in concert at Footprint Center
Serj Tankian (Vocalist, Keyboardist) – System Of A Down
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

To watch System Of A Down play is like watching one of the great Renaissance masters paint. A great painter must carefully select their canvas, their paint, and then they must be able to combine these quality pieces in such a way that it withstands not only the test of time, but withstands the test of the taste of that particular moment. System Of A Down does this with an ease that defies the expectations of a band that has only released 2 new songs in the last 16 years. Tankian’s voice is the paint over the music that stands in for the canvas, and we in the audience are the viewers who do not necessarily realize what beauty we are witnessing in the moment.

Serj Tankian of System Of A Down in concert at Footprint Center
Serj Tankian (Vocalist, Keyboardist) – System Of A Down
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

Tankian has one of the greatest vocal ranges in all of metal at 4 octaves. This was on full display in “Chop Suey,” one of the songs that landed them squarely in the mainstream limelight, though the metal community was made aware of the band a few years before with the release of their first album and the success of “Sugar” and “Spiders.” While lavish praise should be heaped on Tankian for his immense vocal talent, the same praise should also be heaped onto Odadjian and Malakian, as they make highly technical and rather difficult riffs look absolutely effortless.

Imagine how incredible it would have been if Tankian and his would-be tour mate, Mike Patton of Faith No More (who boasts an unbelievable 6 octave range) accompanied each other for one song.

It is impossible to discuss System Of A Down and their impact without discussing their political contributions. Tankian in particular acts as a prominent voice for the downtrodden and the less fortunate, both in lyrics and in his personal capacity. The two new songs, “Genocidal Humanoidz” and “Protect the Land,” were released in response to the Nagorno-Karabakh war in 2020. The two singles raised about $600,000 for the Armenians who were affected by the devastating war. Both songs were played separately during this concert, with Malakian first thanking the audience for the last year, and then starting to explain what the song “Protect the Land” was about, only to turn to Tankian to ask him to explain the song. Tankian turned to the audience and said, “This one goes out to all the indigenous people in the world that are fighting for their rights. For all of the people in the world protecting their families against evil and injustice. We are all united, and we are one.” As the band launched into the song, the lights behind the band lit up in the colors of the Armenian flag.

Shabo Odadjian of System Of A Down in concert at Footprint Center
Shabo Odadjian (Bassist) – System Of A Down
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

It could be argued that the mark of a great show is that it alters the perception of the passage of time. In this case, by the time the band played the opening notes of “Sugar,” their first hit that made the metal world take notice of the band with Dadaist lyrics, a distaste of the exploitation of the less fortunate, and a lyrically devastating take on war – both the wars between countries and the war on drugs – it felt like only moments had passed, when in reality it was an hour and a half set.

Serj Tankian of System Of A Down in concert at Footprint Center
Serj Tankian (Vocalist, Keyboardist) – System Of A Down
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

Earlier in the night, Davis had said, “It’s so good to be back up here, y’all. The world has been going through some crazy shit, and this is where I get to forget all about it. I want y’all to do me a favor tonight: I want you to just forget about everything. We got System Of A Down coming up, and I want you guys to do this for me: just forget and have a good fucking time!” This challenge was accepted by the enthusiastic crowd, who spent 4 hours losing themselves to the sounds of these masters of metal as they performed their greatest hits.

Photo Gallery

Photographer: Katherine Amy Vega

System of a Down & Korn – Footprint Center 1-31-22

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Photography © Katherine Amy Vega, Kataklizmic Design
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System Of A Down Online:

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Serj Tankian’s Elasticity EP Arrives March 19; Watch “Elasticity” Video Now 

Los AngelesSerj Tankian’s eagerly-awaited Elasticity EP arrives on March 19 via Alchemy Recordings/BMG. A preview of the five-song release comes via the Vlad Kaptur-directed video for the EP’s title track, “Elasticity”, which can be viewed here.

“When I conceived possibly doing another record with the guys from System of a Down a few years back, I started working on a set of songs that I arranged in rock format for that purpose,” Serj explains. “As we weren’t able to see eye to eye on the vision going forward with an SOAD album, I decided to release these songs under my moniker.”

With his trademark eclecticism and one-of-a-kind vocal style, Serj delivers a collection that runs the gamut from hard-driving, electronically enhanced anthems like the title track, a rallying cry for his beloved Armenia (“Electric Yerevan”), the tongue-in-cheek political mash-up of “Your Mom,” the piano-laden “How Many Times?” and “Rumi,” a song that Serj wrote both about his son Rumi and Rumi the poet.

One of the most multi-dimensional figures in modern music, the GRAMMY Award winning artist is profiled in the upcoming film, “Truth to Power” (Oscilloscope Laboratories/Live Nation Production). View the trailer here.

With exclusive interviews, adventures, and original footage personally filmed by Serj, “Truth To Power” (Feb. 19, truthtopowerfilm.com) allows audiences backstage access to an international rock star whose faith in music not only revolutionized heavy metal, but also world events. Throughout his life, the musician has pursued social justice, harnessing the power of his songs and celebrity for real political change. Serj’s voice is equally likely to take on American corporate greed as lambast the corrupt regime of his homeland. His decades-long campaign for formal U.S. recognition of the Armenian Genocide was finally approved by Congress in December of 2019.

Elasticity EP Cover

Elasticity EP tracklist:

  1. Elasticity
  2. Your Mom
  3. Rumi
  4. How Many Times?
  5. Electric Yerevan

Pre-orders, including limited-edition indie retail purple vinyl variant and a galaxy vinyl web exclusive, as well as an Elasticity-themed collection of merch, are available here.

Elasticity EP

About Serj Tankian

Serj Tankian | Photography: George Tonikian

A singer, poet, songwriter, visual artist, film producer, activist, and composer; Serj Tankian has always created music as an outlet to express his thoughts and feelings with a level of passion and consciousness that few in today’s world of music can rival. An Armenian born in Lebanon and re-rooted in Los Angeles, Tankian was introduced to the melding of cultures, ideas, and ideals from a very young age. The principles learned from this integration and adaptation have led to his understanding of the oneness of all things and have since maneuvered and transfigured into the music and art that he lives to create.

As the lead singer and songwriter for System of a Down, Serj has released five studio albums, winning a GRAMMY Award in 2006 for “B.Y.O.B.” and selling over 40 million albums worldwide. Despite this success, Serj has never grown complacent with his art, always striving to open up new channels of sound and arrangement to articulate his artistic expressions. He has released five albums of solo material, beginning with 2007’s chart-topping hard rock album Elect The Dead. His sophomore solo album Imperfect Harmonies was released in 2010, followed by Harakiri in 2012. 2013 saw two distinct releases from Serj, the first being the critically acclaimed Orca Symphony No. 1, released in June of that year, followed up with the very unique Jazz-Iz Christ one month later.

Over the past few years, his time spent in the recording studio has been focused on creating musical scores and compositions for film and video game projects. Serj recently lent his vocals to a modern-day cover of Blue Öyster Cult’s rock classic “Godzilla” for the blockbuster Michael Dougherty film “Godzilla: King Of The Monsters.” He also recorded a modern version of the Armenian folk song “Sari Siroun Yar” along with the Authentic Light Orchestra for the film “The Promise,” directed by Terry George and starring Christian Bale and Oscar Isaac. Serj was also brought on by Survival Pictures, the producers of the film, to serve as an Executive Music Consultant.

Most recently, Tankian composed the full musical score for award winning documentary “I Am Not Alone” directed by Garin Hovannisian and the upcoming Live Nation Productions film “Truth To Power,” which chronicles Serj’s own journey through the crossroads of music and activism. In 2017, Serj composed music for Emmy nominated “Intent To Destroy”, a gripping film directed by award winning documentarian Joe Berlinger. That same year, he created an intense score for the epic Russian action film “Furious – The Legend of Kolovrat,” followed by his 2018 musical score for award winning film “Spitak,” directed by Alexander Kott. Additionally, Tankian composed the full musical score for independent films “1915” and “The Last Inhabitant,” an original composition for Ilya Naishuller’s “Hardcore Henry” and video game musical scores for “Midnight Star” and its sequel, “Renegade,” which were created by one of the chief architects of the famed “Halo” game franchise.

Serj’s resume also includes the formation of a record label, Serjical Strike Records (established in 2001), which has released albums from many critically acclaimed artists, including Fair To Midland, Buckethead and Death By Stereo.

Along with fellow musician Tom Morello (Rage Against The Machine, Audioslave), Serj co-founded the non-profit organization Axis Of Justice in 2002, which strives to bring together musicians, music fans and grassroots political organizations to fight for social justice. He has also dabbled in the world of broadcasting as co-host of the Axis Of Justice Radio Network, which can be heard via Sirius Satellite Radio and KPFK in Los Angeles. With a mission of spreading diversity and understanding through music, poetry and activism, Serj Tankian will continue to surprise and enlighten those who listen to his music and hear his words.

In recent years, Tankian has split his time between holding a mic and a paintbrush, having feverishly created over 60 pieces of art since 2013. His journey into the world of fine art began with his Disarming Time Musical Paintings, which were exhibited at Project Gallery in Los Angeles. Since then, he has had multiple exhibitions at galleries in both the United States and New Zealand. In 2015, his artwork was exhibited at the grand opening of New Museum Los Gatos in Northern California as part of a group exhibit that ran from May through September of that year. Most recently, Serj’s artwork was exhibited at two notable galleries in New Zealand during February and March of 2019.

Serj Tankian Online:

Website | Facebook | Twitter
Instagram | YouTube

Featured photo (top) by George Tonikian


System Of A Down Statement on Artsakh

System Of A Down have issued a collective band statement and call to action on all their social platforms regarding a current crisis occurring in their cultural homeland of Armenia and Artsakh. In the early morning hours of Sunday, September 27, forces in Azerbaijan began a large scale pre-meditated offensive attack on Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabagh), an independent and autonomous country that borders Armenia, populated with a vast majority of ethnic Armenians. International peace keeping powers are doing very little to dissuade Azerbaijan’s advances and the people of Artaskh are doing everything they can to defend their lives and homeland, where they have lived for thousands of years. For them, this a matter of survival, and nothing more as Azeri forces are trying to do little less than eradicate the 150,000 people that these lands are home to.

Artsakh gained independence in the early 1990’s 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 of. After gaining its own independence from the Soviet Union, Armenia has been a guarantor of Artsakh’s security. A cease-fire was agreed to between the countries in 1994, but over the past 2 decades, Azerbaijan has frequently broken this pact via mostly minor to moderate advancements and skirmishes along the line of contact.

This time, Azerbaijan with the aid of Turkey’s Recep Erdogan regime and military forces, launched a large scale offensive attack along the full eastern border of Artsakh and has launched attacks within the borders of Armenia as well. International calls for a stop to Azeri advances have gone ignored, and the leader of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev is attacking with impunity.

All four members of System Of A Down are of Armenian heritage, and since the band’s inception have brought awareness to many human rights issues, none more prevalent than that of the Armenian Genocide at the hands of the Turkish leadership of the Ottoman Empire during WWI, when more than 1.5 million Armenians perished in the first genocide of the 20th century. To the band members and other Armenians all around the world, the war being waged on the people of Artsakh now is a continuation of the Armenian Genocide as the Turkic Azeris along with the support of Recep Erdogan’s Turkey are trying to eradicate the Armenians of Artsakh and claim these lands for themselves.

Their statement posted on their socials is below. It includes various calls to action and online petition links to raise awareness and a call on world leaders to insist Azerbaijan and Turkey stop the attacks immediately.

System Of A Down Statement:

The world turned a blind eye during:

  • the Armenian Genocide in 1915
  • the mass killings and pogroms of the 1980s and ‘90s
  • Azerbaijan’s invasion of Armenia in 2016

Now the world is turning a blind eye to 150,000 landlocked civilians under attack by Azerbaijan and Turkey.

SOAD has always stood for justice and peace. This notion comes from the suffering and injustice done to our people over centuries. Erdogan’s denialist Turkey is continuing the work of its genocidal ancestors, and allied with petro-corrupt Azerbaijan, are firing American made F-16 missiles into Artsakh and parts of Armenia killing soldiers as well as civilians. The world seems too busy with Covid and politics to care, but we HAVE to do something as this is an existential threat for our people and the first Christian Nation.

Since it seems difficult for the media, international organizations, and world powers to call out Azerbaijan on its war mongering, ethnic cleansing, and killing of innocent civilians, let’s help them. We are calling on everyone to join our efforts. Here is how…

Donate:

Armenia Fund

Armenian Wounded Heroes Fund

1000plusam

Armenian American Medical Society

Aid Beyond Borders

Sign Petitions:

Armenian Rights Watch
Stop Against Azerbaijan and Turkey’s War Crimes

ANCACut Off Military Aid to Baku

ANCAStrengthen US-Armenia Ties

WhiteHouse.gov – Condemn Azeri and Turkish Aggression

REVIEW: System of a Down Mezmerize Phoenix Fans (10-16-18)

PHOENIXFor a band as dynamic as System of a Down, one would expect their live performances to be equally, if not more engaging, than their studio releases. Gaining popularity from classic songs like Chop Suey for example, which features a quickly strummed acoustic guitar intro leading directly into a frenetic musical meltdown. This is arguably one of the defining attributes of the band and last night’s show at Talking Stick Resort Arena in downtown Phoenix was certainly no exception.

El Paso rock band, At The Drive In, set the tone of the night with energetic grooves and polished musicianship; a nice preview of what was to come later on. Their set wasn’t without its technical hiccups however, as lead vocalist Cedric Bixler-Zavala wildly gyrated his arms in an upward motion towards stage left during the first song. This was a clear indication that his vocals weren’t loud enough in the mix and he most likely couldn’t hear himself. The band didn’t miss a beat and continued on into the next few songs, but not without Bixler-Zavala interrupting himself mid-lyric to say “turn up the vocals!” He was obviously frustrated with the technical side of things, but this didn’t take away from their overall performance. With Bixler-Zavala and the rest of the band continuously powered through and made sure the people got what they came to see. Roaring reception from the crowd and an ever turbulent ocean of bodies in the open floor area indicated they were delivering on that promise for many fans.

Following Cedric’s politically charged closing announcement after the final song, that the band was “going backstage to hang out. Don’t call ICE on us,” there was a quick tear-down period as various stage hands took their gear away and made room for the main attraction. Soon after, the lights darkened and System of a Down broke into “Innervision”, a song I didn’t expect as an opening number but a great decision nonetheless. This song has a slow-burning intensity that served as an excellent preamble for what was about to hit the audience next.

Immediately after “Innervision”, lead guitarist, Daron Malakian hit the immensely-heavy opening power chord to “Prison Song”. As if this song alone wasn’t enough of a reason to get the crowd filled with excitement, the band faked everyone out by hitting the opening chord a few more times than expected which stirred up the suspense and generated added fervor.

It’s worth noting that by the time System of a Down took the stage, the sound was immediately dialed in and they sounded absolutely perfect. Every single instrument was balanced well with one another, and both Serj Tankian and Malakian’s vocals had achieved just the right volume levels to allow their harmonious vocals to soar and blend in beautiful ways.

From this point on, each song flowed smoothly into the next with virtually no time in between, allowing them to pack as many songs into the night as possible. The third song played was “I-E-A-I-A-I-O”, which was followed by yet another acronymic song “B.Y.O.B.” Behind the band was a giant jumbotron displaying many visually arresting images including bombs exploding, girls dancing in chorus lines, and inflamed cars driving down the highway at light speeds.

Bassist Shavo Odadjian and drummer John Dolmayan held down the rhythm section with machine-like musical precision while still remaining animated on stage and engaging with the crowd when necessary. Odadjian particularly stole the show at many points during the set with his excellent bass tone cutting through the mix and his charismatic dance moves.

Odadjian was not the only one who visibly enjoyed himself on stage either. Both Tankian and Malakian employed their own dance routines of hopping around on one foot and spinning around in circles. This struck me as particularly impressive when you consider how fast and technical each of their roles in most of the songs are. Malakian also had me laughing at multiple points during the show when he chose to introduce the song “Psycho #13” by singing his own rendition of “Physical” by Olivia Newton-John. He had a lot of excellent banter with the audience during other songs too, like chanting the words “everybody spin around” to the tune of the outro guitar riff in “Toxicity”. This gave way to a maelstrom of people swirling around in one of the biggest mosh pits I’ve ever witnessed. The power that the band and their songs have over their fans is undeniable and an incredible thing to witness in person.

Other notable highlights of the night were “Aerials”, “Question!”, “Deer Dance”, and especially the closing song “Sugar”; an excellent choice to cap off the night and a highly memorable setlist. System of a Down have proved once again that despite a 24-year music career, their enthusiasm has yet to wane. Over 10 years after the band’s last double album release Mezmerize/Hypnotize, they have teased new music with various contradictory information coming from different band members over time. However, one thing I certainly take comfort in is that regardless of whether or not we ever get to experience new music from the band, they’ve left a lasting musical legacy that has left an indelible impression on me, as well as many other fans from around the world.