Review Summary: All systems go
Serj Tankian must not get a moment’s peace. As well as being the sometimes erstwhile front man for System Of A Down, he produces records, runs his own label and remains very much involved with any number of politically-inclined causes. Not content with that, the gnomic Armenian-American has revealed plans to release four full LPs in 2012. Each of the four records will focus on a different genre and spans jazz, electronic and orchestral. Harakiri
is a perfect platform for this vague quadrilogy of records.
It’s perfect owing to its adherence to a more straight-forward rock sound. Whilst it suffers in parts from weary familiarity, Harakiri
also stands out as one of Tankian’s more coherent and accessible efforts.
Opening track “Cornucopia” lays out the template for the rest of the record; fast, clean and with just the right amount of indignation hiding among the lyrics. Tankian intones about “chasing the moon with a spear” in the mythical/folk tradition he has steeped himself in over his career. “Figure It Out”, following immediately after, is the album’s standout track. With its winding guitar passages, thudding double bass pedal kicks and filthy bass, the song is the best Megadeth never made.
Any fears that experimentation will be conspicuous by its absence are allayed by tracks like “Ching Chime”, with its eastern-infused music underpinning Tankian’s demented, staccato rap-style vocals. “Deafening Silence” is replete with flamenco guitars and a sturdy yet persistent rhythm section all wrapped up in a blanket of warm electronic beeps. Tankian gives an ominous weight to the musical accompaniment with the line “the silence is deafening.”
Those words act as an early warning system. Soon we are introduced to “Reality TV”; an ode to the vapid world of quasi-celebrities desperate for fame. Although, it’s a worthy topic of anybody’s scorn, one could be forgiven for thinking that taking a pop at reality television in 2012 is about 15 years too late. “I abhor the whore who calls herself reality” states Tankian, perhaps unaware that his television remote has an OFF button.
Speaking of well-worn topics, we return once more to the convoluted process of ideas behind American media, occupation of foreign countries and suspicious battlefield practices in “Uneducated Democracy.” Revisited themes aside, musically the song is powerful and all-consuming and begs eagerly for repeat listens.
In summary, it’s a good album and a perfect indication of the progress Tankian has made and will continue to make as a musician. Alas, at times the record suffers from the feeling of over-rehearsal. Whereas SOAD managed to make the bulk of their earlier material sound like happy accidents, the songs here sound formulated to the point of saturation for their creators. Of course, why shouldn’t an artist try and perform to the best of their abilities and studio budget?
Still, at least Daron Malakian doesn’t sing on it.