System Of A Down (1998)

album cover

System Of A Down is the eponymous debut studio album by Armenian-American heavy metal band System of a Down, released on June 30, 1998, by American Recordings and Columbia Records. The album was later certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America on February 2, 2000. Two years later, after the success of System of a Down’s next album, Toxicity, the album was certified platinum.


The cover artwork is from a 1928 anti-fascist poster designed by visual artist John Heartfield for the Communist Party of Germany. The text on the original poster is: “A hand has 5 fingers! With these 5 grab the enemy!” This slogan inspired part of the text contained on the back of the System of a Down album: “The hand has five fingers, capable and powerful, with the ability to destroy as well as create”. Later, it is written in bold letters: “Open your eyes, open your mouths, close your hands and make a fist” (used later by Serj Tankian in the song “Uneducated Democracy”).


System of a Down received acclaim from music critics. Q magazine (10/01, p. 152) – 4 stars out of 5 – “This remains an excellent starting point for this most curious band”.
The album is featured in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. Loudwire included the album in its list of The Best Metal Debut Albums, at number 2.

Track listing

All lyrics written by Serj Tankian, except where noted, and all music written by Daron Malakian, except where noted.

1.Suite-PeeSerj TankianDaron Malakian2:32
2.KnowTankianShavo Odadjian

Japanese Edition


Limited Edition bonus CD

1.Sugar (Live)TankianOdadjian
2.War? (Live)TankianMalakian2:48
3.Suite-Pee (Live)TankianMalakian2:58
4.Know (Live)TankianOdadjian


System Of A Down

  • Serj Tankian – vocals, keyboards, samples
  • Daron Malakian – guitars, vocals
  • Shavo Odadjian – bass
  • John Dolmayan – drums


  • Produced by Rick Rubin and System Of A Down
  • Mixed by D. Sardy
  • Engineered by Sylvia Massy
  • Engineer/Assistant Engineer: Greg Fidelman
  • Additional Recording/Finishing Touches: D. Sardy
  • Assistant Engineers: Sam Storey, Nick Raskulinecz
  • Assistant Mixdown Engineers: James Saez, Greg Gordon, Andy Haller
  • Second Assistant Mixdown Engineer: Bryan Davis
  • Extra piano by Rick Rubin
  • Photography: Anthony Artiaga
  • Cover Art: John Heartfield
  • Art Direction: Frank Harkins & System of a Down
  • A&R Direction: Dino Paredes, Sam Wick
  • Management: Velvet Hammer Management, David Benveniste
  • Recorded at Sound City, Van Nuys, CA
  • Vocals and Additional Recordings at Akademie Mathematique of Philosophical Sound Research, Hollywood, CA
  • Mixed at Record Plant Studios, Hollywood, CA & Hollywood Sound, CA
  • Mastered by Vlado Meller at Sony Studios, New York, NY


Before some of the lyrics in the booklet for the album, footnotes appear.

  • “Spiders” :

“Your thoughts, and dreams are no longer sacred, as they are exposed to a
weapon known as remote viewing and monitoring.”

  • “DDevil” :

“For those that control the central nervous system,
control society, and the world.

  • “War?” :

“We first fought the heathens in the name of religion, then Communism, and now in
the name of drugs and terrorism. Our excuses for global domination always change.”

  • “Mind” :

“Mind control technology has been used by the CIA since the 1950s as part of
their non-lethal, covert weapons program.”

  • “Peephole” :

“The February 18 edition of Britain’s NEW SCIENTIST Magazine reports that the
Geneva-based World Health Organization suppressed, under political pressure, a report which confirmed that marijuana is safer than either alcohol or tobacco.”

  • “Darts” :

“Why do old societies hold the pantheon of 12 gods to be true,
while modern societies generally have one God?”

  • “P.L.U.C.K.” :

“System of a Down would like to dedicate this song to the memory of the 1.5 million victims of the Armenian Genocide, perpetrated by the Turkish
Government in 1915.”

Booklet message

In the booklet, underneath the band member’s photos, the text reads in all capitals: “Announce your anthems on the ceiling. We dance, annexed by power. Casual neckties embrace, the hungry hunger further, images rule through the media, commercial Orwellianism, producing unveiled icebergs, running transparent electrical cables, curving string ensembles, witnessed by hangings from flagpoles of souls avenged by Dr. Clock. Fresh paint, naked melting figures mixing the revolution against T.V. sentencing, at the hands of brutal men and their military business world. Let us instigate the revolt, down with the system!” This message was also found in some of the Toxicity booklets.

Charts and certifications

Sales and certifications

Region CertificationCertified units/sales
Brazil (Pro-Música Brasil) Platinum 40,000*
Canada (Music Canada) Gold 50,000^
Italy (FIMI) Gold 50,000*
United Kingdom (BPI) Gold 100,000^
United States (RIAA) Platinum 1,000,000^

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone


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