Bands don’t owe us new music, and it’s time to get over it

System Of A Down
(Image credit: Paul Natkin/Getty Images)

Ask yourself an honest question – do we need another System Of A Down album? 

In light of the band being announced as the Sunday night headliner of Download 2020, that’s the big debate right now: what right do they have to still be trundling around on the nostalgia circuit when they haven’t released a new record in over 15 years? 

Ask yourself another question: “What if they did release a new album… and it’s crap?"

Rock fandom is strange. The second a band strikes gold, expectations are set and those expectations are enforced with an iron fist. Questions are asked with each new release: “Should we care about this album? Should this band even exist?” 

The more influence a band possesses, the harsher the criticisms are set against them. Whole sects of fandom (and press, let’s be honest) sharpen their knives and gleefully wait for the moment an in-vogue band can be cast from grace. And sometimes that’s fine – when the band who made Master Of Puppets end up producing something like St. Anger, questions will be asked – but the real kicker is when you hear a sentence that starts with: ‘They should have quit after...’.

Because here’s the thing: bands still existing is a good thing. There are very few (if any) bands that have achieved both longevity and remained at the top of the game throughout their runs, but just having the temerity to try, and to keep on trying, is what makes it all worth it sometimes. 

If we were to completely cast off bands that have dipped over the years, it might have spared us a Lulu along the road, but it also means we would have never got a Hardwired…, we’d never get a We Are Not Your Kind, we’d never get a Firepower, a Pale Emperor. It means we’d never see bands develop and break out with something completely new – no Cowboys From Hell, no King Of Everything, no Celebrity Mansions

System Of A Down haven’t released anything for over 15 years and that seemed to be less of a concern last time they were round. Why? Well, because last time we hoped they would come back and play the songs we loved, the way we loved them. And they didn’t. You’d be hard pressed to find somebody who wasn’t disappointed with the band’s 2017 headline set – it felt far too passionless and clinical to truly capture the magic of why anybody loved the band in the first place. But does that mean they owe us a new record? Not even slightly. Simply put, that’s like hoping a new baby might put some love back into a loveless marriage and we all know how that tends to end. 

"Ask yourself another question: 'What if they did release a new album… and it’s crap?'"

There’s no guarantee that the System Of A Down we get next summer will be the one that felt so vital when they came back at the start of the decade. It absolutely could be a cynical cash grab. And if that’s the case, we’ll join you in walking away, shaking our heads sadly, as we head to see one of the hundreds of other bands we can watch elsewhere. But, just for a moment, imagine if it’s not. 

Bands revisiting their legacies and using it as a way of rediscovering what it is they – and the fans – loved about it all in the first place and rekindling that connection is sometimes the only thing keeping the car on the road. We’ve lost so many bands already, and once they’re gone – truly, properly gone – that will be it. No late comebacks, no clever reinventions. 

So sometimes, very occasionally, you just have to hope for the best. In the meantime, we should be grateful these bands are here while we still have them.

Rich Hobson

Staff writer for Metal Hammer, Rich has never met a feature he didn't fancy, which is just as well when it comes to covering everything rock, punk and metal for both print and online, be it legendary events like Rock In Rio or Clash Of The Titans or seeking out exciting new bands like Nine Treasures, Jinjer and Sleep Token.