Review Summary: One of modern music's most distinctive voices wails brazenly but ends up saying nothing at all.
For longtime fans, there’s always that punched in the gut feeling when Serj Tankian decides to release a new record. That isn’t to say that he doesn’t display his fair share of musical panache, but it typically dashes the hopes of all those waiting for a new System of a Down album. Since the band’s hiatus in 2006, Tankian has dropped two full length outings, each earning a respectable amount of critical acclaim. By porting the winning sound of SOAD into a more commercially palatable alternative-rock aesthetic, Tankian has been able to please old fans as well as find new ones. However, with his most recent release, the Lebanese-born artist has lost sight of his past whilst having a general feeling of ambivalence about his future.
is somewhat of a concept record that loosely deals with the idea of animal suicide. This idea never really feels fully realized aside from the title, which is derived from the Japanese “seppuku,” or “ritual suicide.” Neither the lyrics nor the mood of the album convey the matter too terribly well, which is a shame considering the potential of such an unconventional subject. Aside from this fumble, Harakiri
plays as one would expect—Serj Tankian wails his cryptic lyrics over a hard--rock background tailor made for radio play. While much of the record has its fair share of catchy hooks and choruses, it never feels like the risky creations of a man whose scathing political criticisms influenced many disillusioned youths in the post 9/11 years.
Instead of a no-holds barred approach, we receive a mildly eccentric version of the general direction that harder alternative-rock has been taking. While Harakiri
does not deviate too far from Tankian’s last two albums, it lacks the character and personality that each of those records had. Even “Reality TV,” one of the album’s most thoughtfully written songs, feels rather lazy, at some points. The biggest failing, however, is that above all else Harakiri
is unabashedly forgettable. Despite some of the questionable directions that Serj Tankian has taken in his career, even at his worst he’s still remained rather cutting-edge and memorable. With his latest release the same cannot be said. Each track features the same rapid build leading to a slower, more methodical chorus. The vocal harmonies that he is known for feel forced, and the formula feels pre-packaged to the point that it comes off as almost insulting.
if anything feels like a stop-gap between Tankian’s more recent outings and his questionably ambitious future. Being the first in a series of four records, each more gimmicky than the last, the album feels as if the artist’s mind was elsewhere. It is the sound of a musician stuck in transition and simply going through the motions, making for a thoroughly uninteresting and disappointing release.