CD Review of Elect The Dead by Serj Tankian
Recommended if you like
System of a Down, Machine Head, Deftones, Primus
Label
Serjical Strike/Reprise
Serj Tankian: Elect The Dead

Reviewed by R. David Smola

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W
ith System of a Down on indefinite hiatus, Serj Tankian has put his energy and artistic drive into his first solo record, Elect the Dead. This is a true solo album, as Serj wrote, produced and played almost every note on the album. As with the last two brilliant SoaD records (Mezmerize and Hypnotize), the album is haunting, loud, provocative, edgy, funny, and leaves you breathless. Yes, you have been entertained, but you have also been blistered with political statements, bruising guitar, meter changes and his unique vocal style switches. Serj is stretching his muscles and showing off, but we don’t mind.

The loud-soft-loud dynamic is present throughout the work. Songs start off ripping you to shreds with manic vocals and bombastic guitar, drums and bass before settling into passages featuring beautiful piano and acoustic guitar arrangements, only to build back to gigantic proportions. “Feed Us” is a perfect example of this unsettling but effective presentation. “Saving Us” begins with a quaint acoustic intro then bleeds into Serj’s vocals, which describe a crumbling relationship. The song transitions into a passage with Serj nearly screaming the refrain over a wall of guitar. “Baby” starts of similarly and then hooks you in with the chorus. It reminds me of SoaD’s “B.Y.O.B.” because it really is two different songs trapped inside of one and they are both freaking catchy as hell (in a progressive metal kind of way). “Baby” and “Saving Us” feel, with his vocal delivery and subject matter, to be ripped from his heart. The intensity of the heartbreak is realized through that unique voice.

Serj TankianMusically, this album is a treat. Structurally, the record is exploring SoaD territory but the music is consistently more hooky. Mezmerize/Hypnotize were more abrasive but as brilliant. “Honking Antelope” is a big beautiful song with very cool bass and drum textures. The sincerity in which the material is delivered is palpable. Even with a title like “Beethoven’s Cunt,” the listener is left overwhelmed and dizzy from the experience of listening to everything that is occurring within the song. Elect The Dead is just over 45 minutes long, and just like the Mezmerize/Hypnotize experiences, the listener is left gasping for air but wanting more. Serj has said his next record will be more of a jazz-type thing. If he puts the same kind of effort into that record that you can hear in this one, I am sure it will be worth the purchase. For now, Elect the Dead will do just fine.

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