Loud, energetic and unapologetic, System of a Down changed the way people perceived alternative metal and nu-wave metal in the 90s and early 2000s. Here’s a list of bands like System of a Down you should definitely check out.
Formed in 1994 by high school friends Serj Tankian and Daron Malakian, the band started out as “Soil”. Bassist Shavo Odadjian was initially hired as their manager, but he quit those duties to pick up the bass guitar. Drummer Ontronik “Andy” Khachaturian was replaced by current drummer John Dolmayan in 1997. The name Soil was changed to “System of a Down” in reference to a poem written by Malakian titled “Victims of a Down”, victims were replaced with a system to appeal to a wider audience and Shavo wanted the band’s records to be alphabetically shelved along with their inspiration, Slayer.
Although their self titled debut album found moderate success with the singles “Spiders” and “Sugar”, they remained relatively unknown to the general mass. Their 2001 album Toxicity propelled them to critical acclaim, gaining massive publicity and a cult-like following. The band’s lyrical themes explore drug abuse, politics, and are often found to criticize America’s obsession with war. Their music has been primarily associated with alternative metal and nu-metal but Malakian has stated that “We don’t belong to any single genre” and he also said, “People always seem to feel the need to put us into a category, but we just don’t fit into any category.” The group went on a hiatus in 2006, only to regroup for tours in 2010. They haven’t released any new album since Hypnotize (2005). Both Tankian and Malakian have successful solo careers.
Bands Similar to System of a Down
- Rage Against the Machine
- Limp Bizkit
- Linkin Park
- Alice in Chains
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Formed in 1994, Slipknot is a 9-member alternative and heavy metal band from Iowa. They are is well known for their aggressive style of music, energetic and chaotic live shows. But the most striking characteristic of the band is that every member of the band has their own signature mask, which they put on in all their music videos and live shows. Slipknot’s lyrics are generally very aggressive; while exploring ideas like darkness, nihilism, anger, disaffection, and love. They draw upon topics including the music industry, politics, and self-reflection, among others.
Like System of a Down, the band draws influences from heavy metal icons like Kiss, Slayer, Mr Bungle and Faith No More. Mr Bungle’s stage presence in the late 80s influenced the band’s iconic decision to put on masks and perform. Mr Bungle’s frontman Mike Patton called the members of Slipknot as “very nice guys”. The band suffered the loss of bassist Paul Grey in 2010, and drummer Joey Jordison in 2021, has since then performed soulful renditions of their acoustic song “Snuff” live as a tribute to their fallen brothers. If you are looking for bands like System of a Down interesting, Slipknot is our top recommendation.
Another American band that has driven forward the alternative and heavy metal genre is Korn. Originally formed in 1993, Korn’s current lineup features guitarist James “Munky” Shaffer, bassist Reginald “Fieldy” Arvizu, guitarist Brian “Head” Welch, vocalist Jonathan Davis, and drummer Ray Luzier. Their singles “Freak on a Leash” and “Here to Stay” earned them Grammy awards for Best Short Form Music Video and Best Metal Performance respectively.
Korn’s music can be summed up as generation-defining, establishing a loyal and dedicated fan base of both alternative metal and nu-metal. Lyrically, the band mostly explores pain, suffering and alienation, which is why an entire generation of teens could identify themselves strongly with their music. To date, Korn remains an influential figure in the alternative metal scene. If you are looking for bands similar to System of a Down, Korn should be at the top of your list.
3. Rage Against the Machine
Rage Against the Machine is an American rock and alternative metal band from Los Angeles. Formed in 1991, the group consists of vocalist Zack de la Rocha, bassist and Tim Commerford, guitarist Tom Morello, and drummer Brad Wilk. The group found commercial and critical success with their self-titled debut album, which ranked 368 in the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time by Rolling Stones.
Lyrically hyper-political, they wrote and performed energetic and exciting music driven by Morello’s signature experimental guitar riffs and Commerford’s tight basslines. The band has written revolutionary anthems against capitalism and corporations, cultural imperialism, and government oppression. The band stopped releasing new material after their 2000 album Renegades, focusing on touring. They reunited for a tour in 2019 after an 8 year-long hiatus, but it was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Rage of the Machine is a great recommendation if you are looking for artists like System of a Down.
Former Soundgarden vocalist Chris Cornell formed Audioslave with Rage Against the Machine members Tom Morello, Tim Commerford, and Brad Wilk in 2001. Initially labelled as a mashup of Soundgarden and Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave quickly slashed through that criticism and found their own signature sound. All their music was produced solely through the instruments and Cornell’s vocals with no sampling/synth added during production.
In their six years, Audioslave released three albums and received three Grammy nominations. The band split up in 2007, a year after their releasing their 3rd and final album Revelations. Although a reunion was planned, it was cut short after Chris Cornell’s death by suicide in 2017. Cornell’s magical vocals with the music driven by Rage Against the Machine members makes Audioslave a band worth mentioning in the list of other bands like System of a Down.
5. Limp Bizkit
Limp Bizkit is an American rap rock and nu-metal band. Its lineup consists of Fred Durst (lead vocals), Sam Rivers (bass), John Otto (drums), DJ Lethal (turntables), and Wes Borland (guitars). The band’s unique sound was driven by Durst’s angry vocals and Borland’s musical experiments. The band’s live shows also featured Borland in elaborate costumes, body paint and masks. Limp Bizkit grew from Jacksonville’s underground music scene and quickly gained commercial success.
Surrounded by controversies, Limp Bizkit were a regular name in the media. Durst maintains his image of being an asshole, picking up fights with mainstream artists, notably Eminem, and Spice Girls, among other artists. The notoriety of Durst was also a prominent part of the band’s image. Their single “Take A Look Around” was based on the franchise theme of Mission Impossible. Despite spending a largely negative time in the media, Limp Bizkit’s music was inspirational to many artists of their time as well as today. Their songs like “My Way”, “Break Stuff”, “Nookie”, and “Rollin'” have been covered by multiple artists, mostly rearranging and reimagining those songs in different genres. Limp Bizkit is a good recommendation in the list of rock bands like System of a Down.
6. Linkin Park
This particular band needs no introduction. Probably one of the most famous bands to ever make music, Linkin Park has been a prominent act in the alternative metal scene and have sold over 100 million records worldwide. Starting off as a alternative metal band, Linkin Park has explored a vast array of music genres in their later works but their early albums “Meteora” and “Hybrid Theory” are undoubtedly the most impactful and popular.
Linkin Park became the first rock band to achieve more than one billion YouTube hits. Linkin Park’s “Numb” is the third and “In the End” is the sixth “timeless song” on Spotify, making Linkin Park the only artist to have two timeless songs in the top ten. MTV2 named Linkin Park the 6th greatest band of the music video era and the third-best of the new millennium, and in 2014, the band was declared the Biggest Rock Band in the World Right Now by Kerrang! Linkin Park is a strong recommendation in the list of similar bands like System of a Down.
Disturbed is an American heavy and alternative metal band formed in 1994. The line-up consists of vocalist David Draiman, guitarist Dan Donegan, bassist John Moyer and drummer Mike Wengren. Five of their seven albums debuted #1 on Billboard 200. David Draiman states the lyrics that he writes are inspired by his own experiences, and these lyrical themes range from concepts of heaven and hell, domestic abuse, suicide, insanity, relationships, and war.
Disturbed’s cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s Sound of Silence has amassed 730 million views on Youtube, receiving praise for Draiman’s heavy baritone. Disturbed’s mascot, “The Guy”, was originally just a drawing of a face with a large grin. It was later made the official mascot after artist David Finch conceptualised the whole character. Disturbed has sold over 17 million records, making them one of the most successful alternative metal bands in the 2000s. Disturbed is is undoubtedly a part of the list of bands like System of a Down.
8. Alice in Chains
Alice in Chains rose to prominence in the 90s grunge movement, along with other Seattle bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden. They garnered commercial and critical success during their 35 years of being together as a band. Alice in Chains has received 11 Grammy nominations and has 18 singles in Billboard’s top 10 mainstream rock track charts.
The band is also noted for the unique vocal harmonies of vocalist Staley and guitarist Cantrell, which included overlapping passages, dual lead vocals, and trademark harmonies. Staley’s songs were often considered “dark”, with themes such as drug abuse, depression, and suicide, while Cantrell’s lyrics often dealt with personal relationships. If you are looking for bands like System of a Down, then you should give Alice in Chains a listen.
Tool is another American alternative and progressive metal band. It consists of vocalist Maynard James Keenan, drummer Danny Carey, guitarist Adam Jones and Justin Chancellor on bass duties. The band is known for complex rhythms and exploration of psychedelia and ambient sonic themes. Starting with a heavy metal sound, they moved on to alternative metal and eventually progressive metal. This change resulted in their most successful albums, Lateralus and 10,000 Days. 13 years after their last album 10,000 Days (2006), Tool released Fear Inoculum in 2019 which also was critically acclaimed.
Being heavily inspired by King Crimson, Tool’s music can be best described as a “thinking man’s metal”. Their live shows are set up in unorthodox ways and are focused on creating an experience than the members themselves. The time signature of the song “Lateralus” follows the Fibonacci sequence, so does the syllables of the song’s verse. Tool’s emphasis on creating an out-of-body psychedelic experience is what drives their unique sound. It is also enhanced Keenan’s ability to express complex emotions through his voice alone. Tool has been a prominent band in the alternative metal and progressive metal scene for a long time. So, its a strong recommendation if you are trying to find bands like System of a Down.
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