System of a Down turns it up at benefit

Los Angeles Times
April 27, 2004 Tuesday
Home Edition

System of a Down turns it up at benefit

by Lina Lecaro, Special to The Times

The refusal of the American government to officially recognize the
Armenian genocide of 1915 continues to be a source of outrage among
Armenian Americans, the largest concentration of whom live in Los
Angeles. It’s something manic metal band System of a Down, whose
members are all of Armenian descent, has been addressing for years,
and on Saturday at the Greek Theatre, on the 89th anniversary of the
beginning of the controversial episode, the band took its fight a
step further with “Souls 2004,” a benefit concert to raise awareness
and money for the issue.

“You’re here for the music,” remarked poet Saul Williams, whose
passionate orations preceded System of a Down’s pulverizing
performance. “But there’s a message too.”

A news clip related to the genocide, projected on giant monitors
before the quartet took the stage, started System’s set off on a
somber note. But it also allowed their music to steadily surge,
beginning with a pitch-perfect rendition of its hypnotic hit
“Aerials” and building with other songs from its breakthrough release
“Toxicity” and the more recent “Steal This Album.” Singer Serj
Tankian’s rapid-fire rants, while impressive, would have been grating
without the balance of his other more soothing vocal guise, an
operatic croon that swelled with emotional reflection.

Guitarist Daron Malakian’s intricate instrumental work truly danced
with and enhanced Tankian’s singing.

System’s quirky mash of chaotic riffs and majestic, Middle
Eastern-flavored melodies manages to be boisterous and beauteous,
frantic yet languid and lush. It’s a signature style that’s even more
powerful live, and it’s one that should give the band a forum to
express its views, political or otherwise, for a long time.