Review Summary: Serj gives his solo career a nice start with “Elect The Dead.” Fans of Serj and his voice will love this.
Insane. Crazy. A world class mad man. These are just some adjectives that can describe people such as Mike Patton (Faith No More, Fantomas), Buckethead, and don’t forget Varg Vikernes (Burzum). With the stream of this album, I would like to add Serj Tenkian to the list of the oddball musicians. Serj’s work with System of a Down did his crazed thinking no justice. He can finally be free to be do whatever he wants with his debut solo album, Elect the Dead
Serj did play most of the instruments, but some other guest musicians worked with Serj in the studio. Those people are:
Larry “Ler” LaLonde (of Primus) - Guitar
Dan Monti - Guitar and Bass
John Dolmayan (of System of a Down) - Drums
Brian “Brain” Mantia (of Primus) - Drums
Ani Maldjian - Background Vocals
Antonio Pontarelli - Violin
The instrumentation on Elect the Dead
is disappointing overall. Most of the guitar riffing is simple; don’t expect those crazy riffs that Daron would pull off in System of a Down. In “Sky is Over”, the riffing is extremely simple throughout the song and could be played by even the least-knowledgeable guitarist. The bass is non-existent. Even the riffs are recycled. The slow piano part in “The Unthinking Majority” is almost the exact same melody from the intro of “Honking Antelope”. On top of that, the lyrics are questionable from a critic’s point of view. Anti-political lyrics are typically looked down upon now a-days, and this album is no exception when it comes to that kind of lyrics.
There is a surprising difference between System of a Down and Serj’s solo project. Lots of the really heavy songs from the System days are long gone; most songs are just straight-forward rock. Only “Money”, “Beethoven’s C***”, and “The Unthinking Majority” seem to have that metal aggression that used to occupy the majority of System of a Down songs. Songs such as the well known single “Empty Walls” feature piano-ridden mainstream rock structures. The overall presentation and song writing technique of the album seems, for lack of a better word, mainstream.
So why does this album deserve a four after all that nonsense? These songs are damn
catchy. Every single song on here, except for “Sky Is Over”, is a song you could easy like and listen to over and over and over again. Something about Serj’s voice just grabs you by the arm and pulls you in. His voice is pleasant yet aggressive; joyous but emotional, and the best part about it: uniqueness. Without Daron whining about, Serj sings the whole time, which allows him to do the weird things he likes to do with his voice, like using strange harmonizations behind the main vocal part.
The tracks of this album are similar in a way, but completely all over the place, due to rapid tempo changes and moods. “Money” is the heaviest song on the album, featuring extremely heavy riffing (even when compared to System of a Down) and Serj shouting at the top of his lungs “MONEY!” during the chorus. The piano in this song has some sort of echo effect applied to it, which gives a sense of a free, yet unstable, atmosphere. “The Unthinking Majority” features a intentional sloppy, dirty opening on the guitar, which turns into the main riff of the song. “Praise the Lord...” is entirely different from the rest of the album, which is vocally, the closest to System of a Down this album will stray. The song instrumentally is highly experiential, almost reminiscent of Fantomas.
Finally for the slow stuff. Most songs feature a slow section, which consists of piano and either acoustic or electric guitar passages. “Elect the Dead” is entirely guitar, soft vocals and piano (and a bass effect at the beginning), which makes a great album ending, while Serj chants “All I want is me” throughout the song. The intro of “Baby” features an Opeth-like haunting acoustic intro, and breaks down into a slower rock riff after. “Lie Lie Lie” has the most interesting piano passage in the album, which has a classical-style feel to it.
[+]There is classical influence in the songs; a rarity among rock albums
[-]Some riffs seem recycled
[-]It probably will be dismissed as average mainstream rock by some
[-]"Sky is Over"
If you’ve been begging for some new Serj material for a while, don’t pass this chance up; this album is a must have for you. However, fans of System of a Down may not be pleased that this doesn’t sound like System of a Down. The only people who shouldn’t get this are people who hate non-technical albums (or hate Serj for some reason).
Recommended Songs: Money, Empty Walls, Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition
Stream The Entire Album Here: