Mixing music with politics can either go one way or the other, but if the cause is reason enough for System Of A Down to regroup for a sold-out Wake Up The Souls tour after announcing their indefinite hiatus in 2006, then we’re pretty sure we can support the cause.
System Of A Down have always been politically charged, but commemorating something so close to home for the band feels like a worthy and personal statement and reason for return. As amongst the clutter of politics warming up to election season, 24 April marks the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide and a century later SOAD are still refusing to let the victims of lessons learned be forgotten.
The band open their set with part one of three administrative statements about how previous acts of terror in the past, including Hitler’s Nazi regime against Jews, are still being carried out today in countries like Turkey. It’s pretty heavy stuff for a Friday night, even with the cartoon animations on the big screen desensitising the issues slightly, but fans are more than keen to show their support by cheering and clapping throughout the on screen productions.
The set kicks off with ‘Holy Mountains’ and ‘Jet Pilot’, which gives us time to take in the fact that we’re actually witnessing a monumental return from the Californian foursome, who are all onstage playing together like they’ve never been away. Things get crazy when the band launch into ‘Aerials,’ with lead singer Serj Tankian commanding the stage with deep penetrating vocal drones. Then just when we thought things couldn’t get any wilder, Daron Malakian slips into the guitar blasts of ‘B.Y.O.B.’ and screams the hair raising line: “WHY DO THEY ALWAYS SEND THE POOR?!” before multiple circle pits open up around the venue for the headbanging mid-song breakdown.
There’s little interaction or talking between tracks, but considering they have 33 songs to get through, we’re not sure if they’re just short of time, or eager to let the material do the talking. Luckily for SOAD, their songs speak more than a thousand words, plus their talent for playing their individual instruments is a pleasure to witness. The group hold together changing time signatures, unrivalling heavy guitar bursts and complex syncopated drum rhythms, all as they spin around the stage and entertain us with their foolishly charming showmanship.
The only time anything prominent is said on stage is when Tankian launches into a political outburst about taking a step towards a new era without genocide, only for Malakian to cry in response: “My cock is much bigger than yours.”
The light-hearted pick me up from Malakian references the track ‘Cigaro’, which is next on the list, as the two singers harmonise in tandem for a hilarious tongue and cheek rendition. The night has been filled with an overriding theme of politically charged statements, but the tone and uniqueness of System Of A Down’s wacky presence manages to make the whole thing enjoyable.
There’s no telling how long they’ll be back, or whether any new material is fixed to emerge anytime soon, but set that aside and tonight’s headline show at the SSE Arena, Wembley has been completely remarkable.
System Of A Down played:
Soldier Side - Intro
Wake Up the Souls - Part 2
Kill Rock 'n Roll
Lost in Hollywood
Wake Up the Souls - Part 3
Chic 'N' Stu