Like many late-’90s metal bands, System of a Down struck a balance between ’80s underground thrash metalandmetallicearly. ’90s alternative rockers like Jane’s Addiction. Their dark, neo-gothic alternative metal earned a cult following in the wake of the popular it you such like minded bands as Korn andthe Deftones. Vocalist Serj Tankian, guitarist Daron Malakian,bassist Shavo Odadjian, and drummer John Dolmayan formed System of a Down in Southern California in the mid-’90s.They quickly earned a strong following in Los Angeles,largely based on strong word of mouth. A three-song demo began circulating through metal collectors, and their fan base soon spread throughout notonly America, but Europeand New Zealand.
By the end of 1997, the group had signed to American, then distributed by ColumbiaRecords.American/Columbiareleasedthegroup’seponymous debutalbum in the summer of 1998, securing the band opening spots on theSlayerandOzzfest tours.Systemeventually wentgold, and set up the September2001 release of the even more ambitiousToxicity.System’ssecondeffort was another heavymusictriumph, shaming the majority of their nu. metalcompetition andrunning awaywith multi-platinumhonors. The quartet didn’t slowdown.Malakian started the eatURmusic imprint and Tankian alabelcalledSerjicalStrike; Tankian alsocollaborated with Armenian avant-gardefolk musician Arto Tuncboyaciyan in a projectcalledSerart. InNovember 2002System issued the bare-bones but no less powerful odds’n’ends set Steal This Album!; theyalsoremainedpolitically active.
By 2004, System of a Down was back in the studio with Rick Rubin. The bold result of those sessions was a single,epicalbumreleasedintwoparts.Mezmerize/Hypnotize kept System’s furious creativity alive, incorporating the wild vocalmelodies,lyricalpassion, andrabidstructuralshifts that hadbecome their trademark. Mezmerize, or part one, appeared in May2005,whileHypnotize, its finalsection,appeared later in theyear, and both hit the topof the album charts.