“We still haven’t come eye-to-eye on how things should be done”: The story of the new System Of A Down album that will (probably) never happen

Serj Tankian and Daron Malakian of System Of A Down onstage in 2014
(Image credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images for CBS Radio)

Picture the scene. It’s November 22, 2005. One of the biggest bands in metal are releasing their fifth studio album: the second part of a pair, with the first having come out six months previously. It receives universally positive reviews and hits the top spot on the US Billboard 200 – something which is not unusual for its creators.  

Little did we know that that album, Hypnotize, would be the last full-length release by System Of A Down in approaching two decades. Six months later they announced a hiatus, five further years passed and, when it was announced that the Armenian-Americans were returning in 2011, we all rejoiced. 

Since then, there have been shows (both very good and depressingly poor), fallouts, more breakups, some makeups – plus, most inconsistently, contrasting information regarding work ethic, intentions and desires regarding a much-anticipated new album. A meagre two new songs have been released throughout this entire, tumultuous period.

So, it begs the question, what happened? Will there, or more importantly should there, ever be another System Of A Down album?  

For the first few years of their reformation, System Of A Down focussed on huge festival sets, like at Download 2011 and Reading And Leeds in 2013. Then there was their 2015 Wake Up The Souls world tour, which featured a show at London’s Wembley Arena and the band’s first-ever performance in their native Armenia.

The prospect of new material was first publicly discussed in 2016. Speaking to Kerrang! in November of that year, drummer John Dolmayan claimed System Of A Down had at least 12 new songs. Although he had no timeline for when they would be released, he claimed emphatically, “That’s what we’re trying to accomplish right now.” 

It was news that was warmly received by fans: confirmation that there was more to their reunion than just running through the hits.  

The first indication that it might be a bit trickier than first anticipated, however, came in July of 2017. During a live Instagram Q&A, bassist Shavo Odadjian said, “I know, I’m waiting for a new album too,” after being asked when we could expect new material. He deflatingly added, “It’s not happening. I don’t know.” 

The news was as vague as it was disappointing. But the reason for the delay was made clearer in December 2017, when vocalist Serj Tankian was interviewed by Rolling Stone. He discussed his lack of interest in both rock music and the touring lifestyle, and also was coy on the idea of the new album.

“We’ve discussed it, and we’ve played each other songs,” he said. “But we still haven’t come eye-to-eye on how things should be done for us to be able to move forward with it. And that’s where it’s been.” 

It’s at this point that a frustrating back-and-forth started, which has continued to take place in the press over years. A member of the band states they would like to do a new album, we get excited, Serj comes out soon after and tells everyone that he isn’t happy with the direction or that things can’t be agreed upon, we put it to the back of our minds. Rinse and repeat for an eight-year period. 

In 2018, guitarist/vocalist Daron Malakian released the album Dictator with his band Scars On Broadway. He admitted to Rolling Stone, “Not knowing what was happening with System has kept me from putting my own stuff out,” insinuating that the material could have been used for System Of A Down’s comeback. However, Malakian also said of new System Of A Down music, “No, it’s not abandoned.” 

But still, all we ever heard were roadblocks and reasons for the album to not be made. Dolmayan’s clear frustration seemed to boil over in early 2020 as he was promoting his These Grey Men project (which actually featured Tankian on their cover of David Bowie’s Starman), when he claimed their 2006 hiatus was a “disaster”. 

In November 2020, we finally did get new System Of A Down material: a pair of songs named Protect The Land and Genocidal Humanoidz, released to raise funds for Armenian victims of the second Nagorno-Karabakh War. Hopes were raised, but almost immediately dashed, when Malakian called them a “one-off kinda thing”. Tankian dismissed the idea that this would lead to a new creative period for the band, as they were solely focussed on the war effort. 

Despite this, there is still a desire from a great deal of people for a new System Of A Down album. Even with the delays, the sometimes phoned-in live performances, the bickering, and the vague and confusing reasons for why it hasn’t happened, millions of fans worldwide live in hope. Even as late as January 2023, it’s still a question on people’s lips, Dolmayan claiming then that Tankian hasn’t wanted to be in a band for “a long time.” 

All rational evidence suggests that Hypnotize will be the final System Of A Down album. So, maybe this circus should stop and we should make peace with the nu metal legends being a touring-only prospect. With the band basically having given up on themselves, perhaps we all should find acceptance that this new material will never materialise. 

Stephen Hill

Since blagging his way onto the Hammer team a decade ago, Stephen has written countless features and reviews for the magazine, usually specialising in punk, hardcore and 90s metal, and still holds out the faint hope of one day getting his beloved U2 into the pages of the mag. He also regularly spouts his opinions on the Metal Hammer Podcast.