The Real Reason System Of A Down Haven't Released An Album Since 2005

Nobody likes to hear that their favorite band is taking a hiatus. Whatever the reason the band decides to put down their instruments and take a break, it means no new music, no new gigs, and a fretful wait for their fans to see if the group gets back together at all.

For listeners of the American thrash-inflected alt-metal band System of a Down that dreaded day came in 2006, when the four-piece made up of vocalist Serj Tankian, drummer John Dolmayan, guitarist Daron Malakian, and bassist Shavo Odadjian announced that they were parting ways for the time being. The band insisted that there was no bad blood between its members, and even played one more major show before the split in which they promised they would return. The break for the band came after countless riotous concerts and five critically acclaimed studio releases, including 2001's "Toxicity," and 2002's "Steal This Album!" which catapulted the band to international fame and have remained classics of the nu-metal genre.

Thankfully, fans didn't have to wait long for System of a Down's return. They reunited in 2010 after just four years apart, marking their return with a flurry of festival headline slots, and have continued to perform together regularly ever since. However, one thing remains missing: the release of any further original System of a Down music, with the band's members often venting their frustration that they have failed to unify on a new creative direction and release an album for almost two decades.

There were growing creative differences

It's something of a cliche for bands who have decided to break up or go on hiatus to blame "creative differences" for the split, so much so that when the cult British band The Beautiful South broke up in 2007, they wryly subverted the trope, citing "creative similarities" (per The Guardian).

But creative differences do seem to be at the core of why System of a Down has been unable to release a new studio album since 2005. In an interview with Kerrang! Magazine in 2018 (via Consequence), guitarist Daron Malakian put the blame for the lack of new material squarely on Serj Tankian's shoulders, claiming that the vocalist was behind the decision to go on hiatus in 2006. In response, Tankian posted a long open letter on Facebook, stating that what Malakian said was true, and admitting that he wasn't particularly enthused about the two records the band put out in 2005.

Tankian cites a lack of egalitarianism

To fans, all five of System of a Down's studio albums stand up today as classics. However, as Serj Tankian made clear in his Facebook post, the creative process that produced the 2005 albums "Mezmerize" and "Hypnotize" eventually made him feel alienated from the group he had formed a decade earlier. Tankian claimed he became disillusioned after Daron Malakian grew to take creative and business control of the group. "There were songs I wanted to bring in but was hampered by unkept promises coupled by my own passivity at the time," he wrote on Facebook. Tankian claims he has attempted to break the deadlock with a four-point plan for a new album, which would include a 50/50 songwriting split between him and Malakian, as well as final decision-making for the songwriters before a song is published, but that the group was still unable to agree on a direction.

Nevertheless, all sides in the dispute have been keen to note that they are still very much friends and enjoy each other's company, a fact which underpinned their decision to reform and resume live touring in 2010. Meanwhile, fans continue to speculate on when the group might finally be able to coalesce around a shared vision for a new full-length record.

The members continued to make music with other groups

While System of a Down's millions of fans are undoubtedly disappointed that the seminal band has been unable to overcome their differences to release a new album for more than a decade, the fact is that the band's individual members remain incredibly creative. Serj Tankian has received critical acclaim for a series of solo records he has released since System of a Down first went on hiatus, and has released collaborations with the Auckland Philharmonic Orchestra and Mindless Self Indulgence's Jimmy Urine. 

Daron Malakian, meanwhile, formed the band Scars on Broadway, which has released records with various musicians members including System's drummer John Dolmayan, who formed his own band Indicator and also found time to open a comic book store. Bassist Shavo Odadjian, who has been critical of System of a Down's inability to record new material, formed the group AcHoZeN with Wu-Tang Clan's RZA and collaborated with various other musicians before turning toward solo work in 2022. He has also founded a lifestyle brand named 22RED, which launched in 2019 alongside a new band, North Kingsley.

They finally recorded together again in 2020

But in 2020 there was finally some light at the end of the tunnel for System of a Down fans who had waited for 15 years for new material, with the release of two new songs in the form of a double A-side single. The tracks, titled "Protect the Land" and "Genocidal Humanoidz," were released in November of that year in solidarity with the Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan, who found themselves at the center of a renewed war between the two countries. Per Rolling Stone, Azerbaijan, a larger country with a powerful army, has been seen as the aggressor in the conflict and has been accused of deploying illegal weapons against the Armenian population.

The members of System of a Down share a common Armenian heritage, and have been vocal in their support of their ancestral home throughout their existence. Like the majority of the material on the 2005 albums "Mezmerize" and "Hypnotize," both of the new songs were written by Daron Malakian, suggesting that Serj Tankian has yet to be given the creative input he has demanded for a new studio album to come to fruition. However, the group clearly felt that the humanitarian crisis was a worthy enough cause to put their creative differences aside. The songs and associated merchandise eventually raised $600,000 for The Armenia Fund, according to Forbes, though whether their release has in any way paved the way for more studio work from System of a Down has yet to be revealed.