The Armenian-American heavy metal icons System of a Down just came out of a 15-year hiatus in November 2020. The band dropped two singles titled “Protect the Land” and “Genocidal Humanoidz.” Both songs are focused on drawing attention towards the acts of war and terrorism developing in the band’s native land of Armenia.
The last time System of a Down got together for music was back in 2005 when they released their fifth studio album ‘Hypnotize.’ Despite the fact that the band toured afterward, the members were unable to see eye-to-eye in creating new music. However, the members put aside their differences aside to raise awareness of the conflict in Armenia.
Armenia vs Azerbaijan Conflict of 2020
In September 2020, war broke out in Nagorno-Karabakh, a mostly ethnic-Armenian region of Azerbaijan that Armenians call “Artsakh.” It covers about 1,700 square miles of mountainous terrain, and it has had a long, bloody history that has scarred the people who live there. A previous war between Armenia and Azerbaijan ended with a cease-fire and Armenians in control of the region in 1994. Azerbaijan initiated another war this past September after its president, Ilham Aliyev, took umbrage with Armenian prime minister Nikol Pashinyan’s claim this past spring that Nagorno-Karabakh was wholly Armenian. Russia, France, and the United States have each attempted to mediate cease-fires between Armenia and Azerbaijan, but none have stuck. [Source: Rolling Stone]
In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, the band’s bassist Shavo Odadjian spoke about the inspiration behind these two songs;
“This is gruesome sh*t that’s going on. There’s nothing humane about it. They’re not saying, ‘Oh, leave our lands. We’ll be so polite to help you leave.’ They’re massacring people and doing all sorts of cowardly, disgusting things. And that just touches all of us.”
“Protect the Land” was written by Daron Malakian for an upcoming album of his other band Scars on Broadway. However, when John Dolmayan threw the idea of a song to bring awareness to the situation, it was an easy decision for Malakian to use his song for the cause. “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,” says Serj Tankian.
Watch “Protect the Land” Video by System of a Down
All proceeds from the two songs will go towards providing humanitarian relief to Armenia and the region in conflict.
“Protect the Lands” Lyrics Meaning and Song Review
The song is a cry against the war. The band members ask if a person’s worth is decided by a metal bullet, and sometimes civilians who are not even part of the war. The band also asks what would you do when you are forced to flee your homelands? Is this enough cause to call for arms or should they run away?
In the second verse of the song, System of a Down builds upon the classic phrase “Man Is His Own Worst Enemy.” The band says the worst enemy man has is his decay, referring to impermanence. The band also suggests that the enemy will stay the enemy no matter how much time passes. These lines are also applicable to the politics of the world, where everyone puts self-preservation (i.e. staying in power) ahead of any other goal. This alludes to the fact that no humanitarian organization, the United Nations Organizations, or any other powerful countries have failed to prevent war between Azerbaijan and Armenia.
System of a Down may be recollecting memories from the Armenian Genocide of 1914 to 1923. An estimate of around 1.5 million Armenians was murdered during this period.
System of a Down clearly calls Azerbaijanis and the alleged hired terrorists from Syria, ‘scavengers’, and ‘invaders.’ It is also apparent that this song comes from a sensitive place within each member of the band.
Let us hear what you think about this song in the comments below. Check out the complete lyrics of the song and further meaning breakdown on Genius.