Review Summary: A painful return.
There’s a lot of tension and balls up in the air with this new System of a Down LP at the minute. Despite the vehement of its fanbase we may never see another record again, which is a shame in all honesty when the evidence points to money. Daron and Serj’s recent barrage of petty squabbled retorts have been batted across the internet like a game of tennis, pointing fingers over writing credits and who’s responsible for coming up empty-handed in the SOAD camp. The real losers are, of course, the fans who continue to wait for new material, but it looks as though Daron is willing to fill the void with a revival and follow-up to Scars on Broadway’s debut album. 10 years on from its inception, just as the SOAD debacle comes to light, Dictator
enters the room swiftly, promptly and ready to go. And the thing is, even though the world needs a politically charged SOAD album now more than ever, Daron’s one-time side project was aware of this topic as well. Imagine the creative fuel that could be used here: a decade’s worth of politics, the effects modern internet is having on our lives or capitalism’s consumerist demands which are putting strain on the planet's resources. A System of a Down album might not be on the cards, but a Scars return could well be the next best thing.
I'll admit, it might be the next best thing, but Scars on Broadway is a project I never fully appreciated back in the day. To cut a long story short, the self-titled release was a competently able alt-metal album when viewed from an instrumental standpoint, but for me it sounded like a sedated SOAD record without Serj. It also doesn’t help that Malakian’s vocal style is aimed at a niche market. It’s no revelation Tankian’s exceptional vocal range and diversity made System the household name it is today, but Malakian’s vocals were an eccentric addition to add charismatic flavour – never to be front and centre. Scars on Broadway
was a debut that couldn’t hold its weight, suffering from strange melodies and hit-and-miss lyrics that led you to a halfway point of exhaustion and debate on whether to proceed further. But, you know, 10 years is a long time to improve on this aspect and if Daron could improve on it, I think Scars on Broadway could easily blossom into something more fully realised.
Expectations and reality are two different things however, as it appears Daron is devoid of artistic evolution. When I heard Dictator
for the first time I noticed “Daron Malakian and
Scars on Broadway” slapped on the ugly artwork thinking it was an ironic poke at the LP’s title. The shock was that it was a tasteless joke at my own expense; a daunting realisation this was where the band is now. The narcissistic unveil worn like a badge of honour as Dictator
ignorantly spews out antiquated riffs and ideas that sound about as innovative as last time. The record easies you in well enough, “Lives” manages to rein in the exploitative lyrics and wacky vocal hooks for a grounded performance and some nice digestible guitar work – as well as “Talking Sh*t” for having similar characteristics in the vocal department, as well as a flurry of tastefully interspersed solos, and “Dictator” for its frantic speed and pummelling riffs – but the body of tracks line themselves up in the vein of “Angry Guru”, a track that sounds like it was written to be intentionally irritating: godawful lyrics, hideously comical and whinny singing layered over “BYOB” styled riffs. Which, while we’re on the subject of guitar work, “recycled” and “creatively bankrupt” sounds appropriate here. Every song sounds like a recycled riff from previous System of a Down albums – even tapping into Scars' debut album at times. “Talking Sh*t” is one of the few positive numbers here, but it can’t be overlooked, it uses the same chord sequence to Scars on Broadway’s most successful song: “They Say”. The moody ballad of “Guns Are Loaded” and its riffing crescendo sounds like something you’d hear from the Hypnotize/Mezmerize
era of Malakian’s career, while a track like “Till the End” beats his tired trait of glittery guitar leads transitioning into sludgy chords to death, making for a painfully bland ride when you’re hearing this thing in full.
I listened to Scars on Broadway
in preparation for this one, and my thoughts for it are less favourable now than I remember them being, but let’s put it out there: Scars on Broadway
had its high points, this is just a dire offering on almost every level. From the dated production choices to the rudimentary and flaccid songwriting, there’s little to take away from the album. There’s the odd moment where Daron stretches his neck out in search of new ideas, but these moments fall flat on their ass as well. The ghastly windpipe used for “Fu*k and Kill” is a mind-boggling and laughable addition to an otherwise typically derivative offering, while the wincingly terrible 80s-synth that latches onto “Never Forget” stands as another outright awful idea that doesn’t fit the core aesthetic here. Unfortunately, this went from a curiously optimistic listen to an endurance test, ranging from some of the worst heavy music I’ve heard all year to some of the most beige-bland stuff I’ve heard thus far (mainly sitting in former end of the spectrum). If you were looking for some sort of a fix, given SOAD and Scars on Broadway’s lengthy hiatuses, you won’t find any closure here. This is a painful listen, written by an out of touch, eccentric egomaniac.
FORMAT//EDITIONS: DIGITAL/̶/̶C̶D̶/̶/̶V̶I̶N̶Y̶L̶/̶/̶V̶A̶R̶I̶O̶U̶S̶ ̶B̶U̶N̶D̶L̶E̶S̶
SPECIAL EDITION: N/A
ALBUM STREAM//PURCHASE: https://scarsonbroadway.com/