System of a Down -
Right Here in Hollywood

By Ben Myers
(Independent Music Press)

"A death glam and rap-inspired metal band with Eastern European polka rhythms singing surrealist protest songs about economic imperialism. Sounds great. To a few dozen mad fuckers worldwide, perhaps."

What this remarkable book about a remarkable band does very successfully is to explain how such an unlikely looking and sounding mob of Armenian refugees managed to achieve world wide commercial success, including 6 million albums sold and two consecutive number one albums in America (within 6 months of each other!) all without compromising their sound or their message.

System of a Down are a walking contradiction, a band that in theory should never exist. Who else would combine heavy metal with unashamedly intelligent left wing politics, or mix huge gut busting rawk solos with delicate Eastern European noodling, and get away with it? And not just get away with it, but make a huge genre shattering success out of it, while still looking like rejects from a bearded men's convention.

Ben Myers, with his usual knowledge, painstaking research and genuine love of ground breaking, attitude packed music, manages to locate these contradictions in the history both of the individual band members but also in the history of Aremenian oppression by Turkey. He explains clearly how the band rose out of the LA scene, making their name despite the scoffers and doubters who thought them too extreme, musically, aesthetically and politically, and then going on to show how they have stayed true to the ideals that inspired them. What I love about Myers' writing is his sense of commitment; like a fanzine writer he does NOT want to be an impartial commentator on events, he is a fan on the front line, taking an unapologetic stance on all the issues that matter, whether this be Bush's mad war games or the preponderance of pre-packaged and meaningless MTV "pop-punk" bands. There are many first hand interviews with the band within the 200 pages of this book, and many personal gig experiences, as the author pours so much of himself into his account.

It is this impassioned, personal writing style combined with the fact that System of a Down are a band who have the substance to warrant such a thoughtful, thorough examination, which make this book invaluable for anyone wanting to understand how music can still be challenging, inspirational and committed in the twenty first century.

Rosey R*E*P*E*A*T

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