Down with the System: A Memoir (of Sorts)

Hachette. May 2024. 352p. ISBN 9780306831928. $30. MUSIC
Grammy Award–winning group System of a Down, with their aggressive, chaotic, heavy metal sound, stood out from their musical peers in the late 1990s and 2000s. Lead singer Tankian tells his distinctive story in this memoir. With influences as eclectic as Jane’s Addiction, Frank Zappa, and traditional Armenian folk music, the band consisted of four American musicians with Armenian heritage. Tankian was born in Lebanon, and he shares with readers that his formative years as an immigrant came with stresses and tragedies. System of a Down brought social and cultural concerns to the forefront, particularly those related to the Armenian diaspora, and also brought a thrilling musical experience to their audiences. Tankian is also an activist, painter, poet, and filmmaker who has a good feel for narrative, so his portrayal of his pre–rock star years is just as compelling as his life in fame. In fact, his rock star story doesn’t show up until later in the book than readers might expect.
VERDICT Fans of the latter-era metal scene will gain a lot from this music memoir. It’s also ideal for readers involved in political and social activism.
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