Serj Tankian
Elect The Dead Symphony


4.0
excellent

Review

by AdamE USER (3 Reviews)
December 9th, 2012 | 13 replies


Release Date: 2010 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Serj goes Soft, while giving his most Rock solid vocal performance in ages.

On March 16, 2009, former System of a Down front man Serj Tankian took to the stage of the Auckland Town Hall in New Zealand. Though this was not for an ordinary mosh-pit inducing rock performance as he had been a part of hundreds of times before. Serj was backed by the 70 piece Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra (along with guitarist Dan Monti of The F.C.C) for a one-time orchestral interpretation of his solo debut Elect the Dead. This performance was planned from the start to be recorded and subsequently released as a live cd/dvd package.

Many a musician have gone down a similar route as the one taken on this album. Whether it be having an orchestra play their rock/pop songs almost verbatim or the artist taking their old songs and making them ‘new’ again with different arrangements. To those who have witnessed the abundance of cover songs come and go over the years, it’s not too hard to see why most of these re-imaginings have failed. It’s hard to improve the classics, even when their your own. Which makes Elect the Dead Symphony all the more surprising. While the occasional song suffers because of the inevitable comparisons to the original, much of this live album actually improves on 07’s Elect the Dead. While not all of the praise can be directed at Serj, for it was John Psathas who arranged the songs to fit into the traditional orchestral format and the 70 players who brought the songs to life, this is his best vocal performance to date, System or no System. Also, let’s not forget that these are originally his songs which he wrote solely on his own, so credit must be given to the fact that they work better as orchestral music then they do as rock or metal. He must have known somehow when he wrote them ….

“Feed Us” opens up with a short guitar intro courtesy of Dan Monti which leads us into a full blown explosion of various horns and other instruments. This is one the heaviest tracks on the album and is a good opener as it immediately shows how well Serj’s music can fit into this new style. The extended instrumental outtro allows the listener to collect their senses after the overwhelming first few minutes and prepare for what is to come. What that ends up being is much less brash but much more unnerving. “Blue” is an unusual choice to follow up the previous track, as it slows the pacing of the show down to a creepy crawl (emphasis on creepy). If this were a traditional live set it wouldn’t work but here it greatly displays the traditional ebb and flow of orchestral music. It also shows the true highlight of the concert which is the violinist. Each song that features a violin lead immediately jumps out at you. Most notably they appear at the ending of “Baby” and occasionally throughout “Lie Lie Lie”, the latter of which uses the instrument to replicate the screaming woman whom the character lets go of in the studio version (a great effect).

As mentioned before, Serj’s vocals are at a career best here, at least in terms of live performances. While on a few tracks he does falter (“Sky is Over”, “Empty Walls”) those are mostly the songs that don’t work as a whole anyways being that they either didn’t transfer well into orchestral form or they sound to similar to the originals. Though the rest of his work more then makes up for those few faults. He shows his fragile side on “Blue” and the title track, his chaotic side on “The Charade”, and his out-of-this-world falsetto on more than a few tracks. Throughout “Money” we’re waiting for him to do something unexpected just like on the album version, and just when all hope seems lost, at the end he screams out “Fuuuck your money! *** *** your money…..oh yeah” in his signature falsetto as the crowd roars with excitement. Equally cathartic is the ending of “Lie Lie Lie” (“Baby she smiles. BADA BA BA BA BA baaaaa….”).

There are a couple minor complaints that don’t really ruin the album but are more preferences that would have been nice to see changed. First thing on the cutting board should have been Dan Monti, whom could be nicknamed “the poor man’s Daron Malakian”. While his acoustic guitar playing is good, just like Daron, his vocals detract more than add to the songs, also like Daron. Except that Daron does good harmonising with Serj while Dan does not. Serj would have done better to hire a female choir then to utilise his guitarist’s ‘vocal abilities’. It would have also been better if there were a no noise policy for the crowd during the performance or if they could have just edited it out. Not a major complaint but slightly distracting for the type of performance it is. Though with Serj’s planned Orca tour coming up, hopefully he can iron out those kinks. As Elect the Dead Symphony proves, maybe it’s time for Serj to hang up his title as ‘Alt-Metal Poster Boy’ and pursue his new muse in orchestral music. At least until System of a Down releases a new album that is.


Recommended Tracks:

Feed Us
Lie Lie Lie
The Charade
Elect the Dead



user ratings (88)
3.7
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
ThroneOfAgony
December 9th 2012


3485 Comments


Sounds pretty sweet, I'm a huge fan of symphonic stuff and serj tankian so this should be good

Gwyn.
December 9th 2012


17221 Comments


"Serj goes Soft, while giving his most Rock solid vocal performance in ages."

Hnmnnnn

MiniatureHorse
December 9th 2012


908 Comments


I never really got into his solo stuff. Probably won't check this out or probably will. Who knows?

DotEight
December 9th 2012


5704 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Good review, just was watching this DVD earlier today. The orchestra is just off the chain.

ChopSuey
December 9th 2012


2506 Comments


We seriously need a new SOAD album

DotEight
December 9th 2012


5704 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I haven't been into an SOAD release since Toxicity, so I'm not too worried if they release new material or not.

ChopSuey
December 9th 2012


2506 Comments


I still like them, but I'm sure you figured that out already.

MiniatureHorse
December 9th 2012


908 Comments


Yeah, SOAD REALLY needs to release a new record soon. But my hopes for a new SOAD album went down like my hopes for a new FNM and Soundgarden album. Yet, Soundgarden released King Animal and beat my odds.

Cipieron
December 9th 2012


3508 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Gate 21 on this is unbelievable.. I could put that one song on repeat and be happy





too bad he fucked up the studio version on imperfect harmonies

AdamE
December 9th 2012


21 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I don't want SOAD to release anything new unless they give it their all, if they are really hungry to make music together again, because I dont just want them to make an album that is basically Scars/solo Serj. That would be incredibly disappointing and would tarnish there already solid discography (some say it's uneven but Im not in that camp).



"I love SOAD and I love Serj's solo stuff, so maybe I'll check this out, however I'm not too big on anything symphonic so we'll have to see where things go in that department haha"



Orchestral and classical music were far from my fav genres but this is one of the albums which got me more into that stuff. No I can't listen to it as often as his studio albums and the dvd is slightly more enjoyable then just listening to the cd, but you should really give it a listen and keep an open mind.



AdamE
December 9th 2012


21 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I find the album version of Gate 21 to be about as good as the live one except for him not using the falsetto. It was one of the better songs on Imperfect Harmonies.

Cipieron
December 9th 2012


3508 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

^ Gate 21 was the best song on IP for me, but I'm not sure why he decided not to do the falsetto

theboss100
November 16th 2013


7 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Never knew that serj has such an incredible voice , way better than then the studio version.



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