System of a Down, also known by the acronym SOAD and often shortened to System, is an Armenian-American rock band from Southern California, formed in 1994. It consists of Serj Tankian (lead vocals, keyboards, rhythm guitar), Daron Malakian (guitar, vocals), Shavo Odadjian (bass, background vocals) and John Dolmayan (drums). All four members are of Armenian descent, and are widely known for their outspoken views expressed in many of their songs confronting the Armenian Genocide of 1915 as well as the ongoing War on Terrorism.
The band has achieved commercial success with the release of five studio albums; three of their studio albums debuted at number one on the Billboard 200. System of a Down has been nominated for four Grammy Awards, and won the award in 2006 for Best Hard Rock Performance for the song "B.Y.O.B." On August 13, 2006, the group went on indefinite hiatus, but announced a reunion on November 29, 2010 with several shows planned at European music festivals for the summer of 2011, as well as several dates in North America in May
Serj Tankian, Daron Malakian, and Shavo Odadjian all attended Rose and Alex Pilibos Armenian School while children, although due to their eight-year age difference they did not meet until 1992 while working on separate projects at the same recording studio. They formed a band named Soil with Tankian on vocals and keyboards, Malakian on vocals and guitar, Dave Hakopyan (who later played in The Apex Theory/Mt. Helium) on bass and Domingo "Dingo" Laranio on drums. The band hired Shavo Odadjian (another Rose and Alex Pilibos alumnus) as manager, although he eventually joined Soil as rhythm guitarist. After three years, only one live show, and one jam session recording, Hakopyan and Laranio quit the band, feeling that it was not going anywhere.
The stylistic variety and level of experimentation in System of a Down's music has made it difficult to describe, but System of a Down has, for the most part, maintained a single style throughout their body of work. This style has variously been termed alternative metal, alternative rock, rock, art rock, experimental rock, hard rock, heavy metal, nu metal, progressive metal and progressive rock. Malakian has stated that "We don't belong to any one scene" and that "I don't like the nu-metal drop-A 7-string guitar sound; it is not my thing, at least not yet". According to Tankian, "As far as arrangement and everything, [our music] is pretty much pop. To me, System of a Down isn't a progressive band. [...] But it's not a typical pop project, obviously. We definitely pay attention to the music to make sure that it's not something someone's heard before."
The band has used a wide range of instruments, including electric mandolins, baritone electric guitars, acoustic guitars, ouds, sitars and twelve string guitars. According to Malakian, he would often write songs in E tuning, which would later be changed to drop C tuning in order to be performed by the band. Malakian states that "For me, the drop-C tuning is right down the center. It has enough of the clarity and the crisp sound—most of our riffy stuff is done on the top two strings, anyway—but it's also thicker and ballsier."
The band's influences include Middle Eastern music, Ozzy Osbourne, Dead Kennedys, Frank Zappa, Slayer, The Beatles, and Van Halen. The band's musical style has often been compared to that of Zappa. Malakian has stated that "I'm a fan of music. I'm not necessarily a fan of any one band." Dolmayan stated "I don't think we sound like anybody else. I consider us System of a Down." Odadjian stated "You can compare us to whoever you want. I don't care. Comparisons and labels have no effect on this band. Fact is fact: We are who we are and they are who they are."