Serj Tankian
Imperfect Harmonies


4.0
excellent

Review

by SowingSeason STAFF
September 20th, 2010 | 97 replies


Release Date: 2010 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Imperfect Harmonies is a little unstable, but its experimental worth and overall quirkiness will intrigue listeners until the very last second.

When comparing Serj Tankian’s solo work to his achievements with System of a Down, one can expect to make two conclusions. First, it will never match the guitar background and raw intensity brought to the table by Daron Malakian. Gone are the chaotic riffs of “B.Y.O.B.” and the borderline insane shredding techniques on tracks like “Suite-Pee.” That isn’t to say that Serj will bore the listener to death because, as we all know to be the case, he has quite the creative and entertaining mind himself. This brings us to our second assumption, and that is this: with nobody to answer to but himself, Serj will experiment. Meandering musical concepts and constant self-indulgence may be a drawback for most artists, but for someone with as much talent and vision as Serj, it turns out to be quite the successful combination. On Imperfect Harmonies, both of these assumptions end up being true. However, the album still manages to surprise with a sense of outlandishness that only Serj Tankian could provide.

Imperfect Harmonies is an accurately titled record because, to be frank, the album is all over the place. It rambles on, it is highly unstable, and it flirts with a sense of insanity throughout the majority of the eleven songs. There is no hiding the madness, as “Disowned, Inc.” comes storming in with intrusive sounding drumming backed by a full orchestra that quickly gives way to Serj’s Armenian vocals. The song alternates between soft-tempered crooning, background falsetto, and instrumental bursts mimicking the introduction. This opening track, whether it was intended or not, serves as a microcosm of the entire album. Imperfect Harmonies, like “Disowned, Inc.”, is the disjointed and beautifully chaotic clashing of several different musical ideas. The album blends elements of jazz, electronica, rock, and orchestra in a variety of ways, and the results are nothing short of stunning. Serj’s ambition and knack for complicated songwriting allow this “big bang” explosion of ideas to actually work, and he proves time and time again on Imperfect Harmonies that this is no coincidence. “Borders Are”, “Deserving"” and “Left of Center” all further the cause, showing the advanced nature of Serj’s capabilities not only as a vocalist, but also as a composer of quality experimental rock.

The theme of Serj’s music is once again politically charged, with topics covering everything from government corruption to genocide. While these topics have been covered extensively in his own past endeavors, Tankian manages to add enough new elements and emotional flair to once again make these concepts sound urgent. The piano ballad “Yes, It’s Genocide” is a prime example, featuring vocal repetitons completely in Armenian stating, “I want to die for your terror, I want to die for your fear, I want to die for your life.” The lyrics are a heartfelt tribute to the 1.5 million victims of the Armenian genocide, one that Serj continues to push to increase awareness of. A portion of the song was even included in a video to Barack Obama, pleading for him to recognize the incident. Something about politically motivated lyrics from someone who is actually involved in such a tragedy packs a much harder punch than say, Green Day’s comparatively adolescent motives. While these themes are prevalent throughout Imperfect Harmonies, other lyrical/topical highlights include “Reconstructive Demonstrations”, “Peace Be Revenged”, and “Left of Center.”

Despite the surprisingly strong aspects of Imperfect Harmonies, it still possesses a few inherent weaknesses. The album heavily lacks electric guitar work, and it is also occasionally too self-indulgent for its own good. However, the good news is that even the negative aspects have positive counterpoints. For instance, the lack of energetic guitar is atoned for by the prominence of the orchestra, which Serj keeps busy from start to finish. The energy of the orchestra gives the record the urgency and intrigue it needs in order to stay lively. Also, Serj’s tendency to indulge in his own style and lyrical inspirations actually serve as a strength this time. Without the album’s emotional attachment to a tragic genocide of monumental importance, all of the album’s artistic expression would feel misplaced, if not lost completely. Thus, the album has a combination of weaknesses and countering strengths that will succeed or fail, depending on the tastes of each individual listener.

As a whole, Imperfect Harmonies may very well be Serj Tankian’s best achievement outside of System of a Down. He takes many of the ideas present on Elect the Dead and perfects them, along with an infusion of new musical influences that place the album a step above its predecessor. The album is somewhat genre-defying, as it seems to cross paths with everything from electronic music and jazz to traditional Armenian ballads. It is also much less rooted in rock, which simultaneously increases its experimental nature and decreases its overall intensity. Despite the chaotic and mad sound created by such a whirlwind of ideas, one thing is clear: Imperfect Harmonies will intrigue listeners until the very last second.



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user ratings (320)
Chart.
3
good
other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
SowingSeason
Moderator
September 20th 2010


28403 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

album is streaming on myspace:



http://www.myspace.com/serjtankian



I'm not going to lie, I didn't expect to like this. But needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised...I hope that if/when SOAD reunites, Serj integrates a lot of the styles from this album

Digging: John Nolan - Abendigo

ThePalestMexican
September 20th 2010


2816 Comments


Wow seriously?
Was pretty sure this was gonna bomb

vanderb0b
September 20th 2010


3473 Comments


Really? This is actually good? I'll need to listen, being a huge SOAD fan, although I expected this to be terrible. Nice review, as always.

SowingSeason
Moderator
September 20th 2010


28403 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

i actually went into this review assuming it would help me stay balanced...my most recent reviews have all been very positive...but i was surprised by how much i ended up liking it



one thing to keep in mind: don't compare this to soad. it is extremely different, and it ties in a lot of genres and ideas you wouldn't expect it to

deathofasalesman
September 20th 2010


6070 Comments


I loved his first solo release. Been wanting to check this out for some time now.

Dryden
September 20th 2010


13553 Comments


going to give this a listen

SowingSeason
Moderator
September 20th 2010


28403 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

thanks lakes, i was deciding between a 3.5 and a 4, but i can see people giving this a wide range of ratings. some people will hate what serj did here, it is probably his most musically distant work from soad



i really like it though

Bfhurricane
September 20th 2010


6216 Comments


Good review, but it doesn't quite have me quite sold. I'll definitely give the stream a listen

Apollo
September 20th 2010


10677 Comments


great review, will definitely check this out

Apollo
September 20th 2010


10677 Comments


double post fail :/

Jethro42
September 20th 2010


15568 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I want to check this out eventually. Great review, SS

NeutralThunder12
September 20th 2010


8742 Comments


system please reunite

thanks

tiesthatbind
September 20th 2010


7441 Comments


SOAD is hit and miss for me as it is, so I won't be checking this out, good review though.

Irving
Staff Reviewer
September 20th 2010


7504 Comments


Great review. I especially liked how you set up the two assumption-based questions at the start of the pieces and proceeded to carefully answer them as the review went on. Kudos.

iamnotchan
September 20th 2010


669 Comments


Wow seriously?
Was pretty sure this was gonna bomb[2]

pos btw

SowingSeason
Moderator
September 20th 2010


28403 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

thanks for all the positive feedback, im actually still editing a few mistakes as we speak



also, i knew this would be surprising...i don't expect everyone to think this is a 4, but i'm also a little shocked this is only averaging a 2.5 right now

deathofasalesman
September 20th 2010


6070 Comments


Left of Center music video is pretty awesome.

scissorlocked
September 20th 2010


3528 Comments


great review man,only heard Disowned inc though,hope to enjoy the rest

Serj is such a figure

SowingSeason
Moderator
September 20th 2010


28403 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

yeah lakes, i think your 3 is justified...but i'd tend to agree with a 3.5 even more.



i think this album should at least average somewhere around a 3.2-3.5 IMO

Gyromania
September 20th 2010


25941 Comments


First, it will not ever match the

That's really awkward, you should take out 'not ever' and replace it with 'never'.

micrcosm

Small typo- it's 'microcosm'.

Pretty good review otherwise, although the first paragraph draws unnecessary comparisons in my opinion. I doubt this is that good, but I'll look into it at some point. Pos.





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