Review : Serj Tankian - Harakiri
PopmattersNo one left System of a Down during their hiatus in 2005 with more goodwill than singer Serj Tankian. Once the man with a voice (and passionate, political lyrics) that was his groupís driving characteristic, he had been flat-out neutered by the bandís pair of #1 albums in 2005, Mesmerize and Hypnotize.
On those two albums, Tankian split a distracting and confounding amount of the songwriting and vocal duties with guitarist Daron Malakian, who delivered such winning couplets as ďSuch a lonely day, and itís mine / The most loneliest day of my life.Ē Seriously, have you listened to those albums in a while? Itís amazing what a total misstep allowing Malakian to take on more of the lead was, as SOAD went from a schizophrenic, edge-of-your-seat alt-metal band, to a middle of the road radio-rock outfit by the time of their hiatus.
The point is, Tankianóleft to his own devicesóshould have been a winning idea. Yet, weíre three albums and five years in. Did you know that there have been three solo albums, live EPs, a couple of remix records, and a complete mindfuck of a detour into symphony work? (Think a slightly less comprehensible S&M on second record Imperfect Harmonies.) And you have to wonder what is going on with Tankianís career, especially now that System of a Down have been playing shows again for more than a year....full text
MyglobalmindMany people agree that SYTEM OF A DOWN front-man Serj Tankian is one of the more eclectic and interesting artists going around today. Is he the current generation version of Frank Zappa or Captain BeefHeart?Ö Well maybe not quite, maybe a better comparison is Mike Patton, but heís certainly earned each and every bit of acclaim thrown his way. The downside for the general music listener though is that when you are following somebody that is eclectic thereís every chance that you canít possibly enjoy everything they release. Tankianís solo work has been a lot like this in the fact that not much of it has represented anything he ever did with SOAD, thus leaving many fans scratching their heads.
Serj Tankianís latest release HARAKIRI may still be a fair bit away from the SOAD material but itís definitely the closest he has sounded at any stage of his solo career, and the album as a whole is probably the best thing he has been a part of since TOXICITY. There is a much more evident metal edge to the material on offer throughout HARAKIRI, but in keeping his solo musings separate from his band work there is also plenty of other stuff going on too. Some Trip-Hop styled beats occasionally, a few songs that feature some smartly applied Beat-Boxing, a touch here and there of World Music and even some dirty punk rock too. The positive for metal and rock fans though is that Serjís fascination with electronica seems to have been left aside for this one, maybe heís just priming himself up for the possibility of a new SYTEM album sometime near in the future.
As to be expected with anything Serj related, one of the true talking points of the album is the lyrical content. Itís very politically charged of course and features plenty of moments of interest from an outsiderís point of view. But it wouldnít be a Tankian album if it was too easy to decipher and as expected the album throws out plenty of hard to decipher lyrics that may well have deeper meanings, but then again for artís sake, may just be the twisted musings of a deranged artist in his cryptic prime.
In what I personally consider a very clever move, the first ten seconds of the opening track CORNUCOPIA are very SYSTEM OF A DOWN in style and even though the rest of the song doesnít quite follow suit, the SOAD vibe has already been imbedded in your head, the alternative metal vibe continues into the second track FIGURE IT OUT too. The first real oddball track comes next with CHING CHIME, which has a mixture of a Middle Eastern and Eastern Music as a backbone and verses that could almost considered Rap. A really, really good chorus vocal ensures the track still offers up enough to please the fans. BUTTERFLY is one of the best songs Tankian has written in a long time both in the lyric department and the musical elements too, once again itís not quite SYSTEM material but itís a pretty darn good imitation. HARAKIRI is a touch slower and itís really odd hearing that unique Serj higher register on a track that is almost modern radio rock in nature. OCCUPIED TEARS is a bit of a meeting point between the more metal edge stuff and the orchestral stuff from early in Tankianís solo career, DEAFENING SILENCE and FORGET ME KNOT combine as a bit of a flat spot toward the end of the album with both tracks sounding a bit more like the electronica-based junk pop from Serjís previous solo effort IMPERFECT HARMONIES, and also a little like the soundtrack collaboration song that Tankian did a couple of years ago with Shirley Manson from GARBAGE. The album then quickly shifts back into high gear with a real gem in REALITY TV, this here is the perfect example of how Serjís vocal style, quirky lyrics and heavier music can gel together perfectly. It also features one of the best lines Serj has ever penned in ďI abhor the whore that calls herself reality TVĒÖNow thatís a sentence I can get right behind! UNEDUCATED DEMOCRACY and WEAVE ON close the album with some frenetic pace and some of the heaviest music Serj has put his name to in a long time....full text
AbsolutepunkTo put it succinctly, California singer-songwriter Serj Tankian is one of a kind. As the indelible frontman of metal act System of a Down (SOAD) he has successfully married political and social commentary with chart-topping success. Not content with commercial success, the Lebanese-born Armenian-American has successfully moved beyond just making records and has founded the non-profit political activist group Axis of Justice with Tom Morello.
Never one to to be confined, he has constantly found new ways to expand his sound and his mission. Imperfect Harmonies, his 2010 sophomore solo album was a striking work of symphonic rock that showed marked progress and maturation from his SOAD days. So it was with great anticipation and excitement that this reviewer awaited the release of Harakiri. Tankian has gone on record as admitting that the album was arguably the most up-tempo punk-rock oriented record he's written since the SOAD days and sure enough, the disc lives up to that billing.
Whether it's the razor-sharp "Cornucopia," or the spiky lead single "Figure it Out," there's a palpable sense of aggression, activism and urgency in every passing second. Moreover, the punchy "Butterfly," and the craggy "Uneducated Democracy," show that even years removed from the SOAD days, Tankian has not lost his fight or passion. But at what point does Harakiri begin sounding like SOAD redux? Thankfully, on some of the album's other compositions he goes in a different direction. "Ching Crime," and "Deafening Silence," are hip-hop inspired and Tankian actually sounds comfortable and confident with his flow. In truth, much of this disc could have used more songs like this, but one can't fault the singer for sticking with the metal he's come to know and love.
The best two tracks on Harakiri are the gorgeous "Occupied Tears," which features a delicate and tender breakdown at the 2:26 mark and the near-perfect "Forget Me Knot," which vacillates between winning piano lines and searing aggro-rock. But what makes "Forget Me Knot," so remarkable is that unlike the many uptempo numbers that dot Harakiri, "Forget Me Knot," actually shows signs of restraint and delicacy. That is to say, Tankian has figured out that his message can be conveyed just as well on a simpler cut than on something urgent and in-your-face....full text
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