Scars On Broadway

I must have been around 14 when I first heard System of a Down. Those were the days when Limp Bizkit were topping the singles chart and Papa Roach tried to teach us that inappropriate rapping in unoriginal metal songs was cool. It would be so easy to slump SOAD in with that lot (they were loud, appealed to kids in hoodies, played on Kerrang a lot), but to do so would be stupid. The five albums to their name (especially 2001’s Toxicity) were such a breath of fresh air in an increasingly stagnant and incestuous metal scene, that to ignore them would have been to expose your conservatism in regards to music. Yeah, that’s right, I just called you conservative, go cuddle up to your mate Maggie Thatcher and cry about it.

Let’s go back in time to 2005; System released their double album Mezmerize/Hypnotize. Critically lauded, but I couldn’t help but feel cold by the release. It was political, sensitive, but not very fun. Still, the audacity of it left me wondering where they’d go next, which was nowhere apparently. After that release, the band went on hiatus, who knows whether we’ll see them again. In the meantime, the two major creative forces, Serj Tankian and, Daron Malakian, have released their own projects. Scars On Broadway is the vanity project of Daron, the guitarist, and I think it is safe to say this is a vanity project. Mr. Malakian effectively plays every instrument on the record, except drums, leaving that for his SOAD band mate John Dolmayan. However, that is not to say that this is System-lite.

The record starts off well enough with ‘Serious’, a standard hard rocker playing like faster ‘Danzig’, but the whole track plays it so straight that you begin to wonder if the man who wrote the music to SOAD’s most schizophrenic tracks has lost his imagination. In fact, it takes until the third song, ‘Exploding/Reloading’, to get an interesting intro-riff, and then that disappears into a cloud of nasal singing and generic chord progressions extremely quickly. After this point, the record transcends into 80s new wave keyboards and forced-rhyme. The lyrics are even bad enough to reference Mary Poppins, and with such crisp production, every ill-thought line is perfectly audible. That’s not to say there’s no hope for this project: ‘Cute Machines’ sounds like a sober Kyuss, and ‘Babylon’ invokes the same melancholic feel as SOAD’s ‘Aerials’; shame, then, that the majority of the record is an embarrassing mix of poor production, lazy lyricism and stagnant writing.


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