As an interested but not quite obsessive fan of System of a Down, I’ve been dying to hear Serj Tankian get the chance to explore his own vision. I have long been extremely fascinated by Serj’s unique vocal talents, and I was not happy at all with the last two SOAD albums, in which Serj was demoted to a part-time employee of Daron Malakian. But perhaps I have underestimated Serj’s contributions to the band, because this solo album features advancements in the best aspects of the SOAD sound, from the bludgeoning aggro riffs to the vertiginous timing changes to the violent mood swings. Even better, this album could be seriously viewed as an improvement on SOAD, rather than just a solo side project, because by applying his own complex muse Serj has made the sound more personable and immediate.
There are some true musical advancements on this album, which will put to rest any doubts about the primacy of Serj’s talents. Most noteworthy are the highly unusual art-metal contortions of “Honking Antelope” and “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition,” not to mention snippets of very believable piano-driven balladry sprinkled throughout the album (usually employed as introductions or codas for more aggressive songs). And regardless of the great musical achievements here, Serj’s voice is the reason for this album’s existence, and he effortlessly carries each song with his diverse stylistic changes, somber to frantic delivery, and curve-ball phrasing. In just a few examples of Serj’s impressive vocal acrobatics, check out his almost teary balladic singing in “Saving Us,” lightning-speed scatting in “Praise the Lord…” and bullying metallic chants in “The Unthinking Majority.” This album is a relentlessly fascinating display from a unique talent, and a showcase for one of the best singers on the scene today. [~doomsdayer520~]