The End is the Beginning is the End
Amidst rampant speculation of System of a Down breaking up, the group’s singers Serj Tankian and Daron Malakian have each released albums outside of the band. In October 2007 Tankian dropped his excellent Elect the Dead; now Malakian unveils his side project Scars on Broadway joined by System’s John Dolmayan on drums. Much like hip-hop duo OutKast, both singers state publicly that System of a Down is merely on hiatus. Fortunately for SOAD’s fans, Scars on Broadway’s self-titled debut is an auspicious one on par with Elect the Dead.While both projects take a largely hard rock/metal approach, the differences between each are subtle but significant. Tankian’s songs are firmly rooted in melodies from his piano playing and penchant for operatic intonation. Malakian opts for a mix of punk rock shouts and singalong choruses (“Serious,” “Kill Each Other/Live Forever”). Playing every instrument except drums Malakian constructs each song as concise melodic assaults. “Stoner-Hate” chugs with menacing power alongside syllabic chants of “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” and “la la la la la,” while a patient call of “Let’s go insane again / bring back the pain again” on “Insane” is punctuated by ambient keyboard flourishes.
Unlike Tankian’s whimsically poetic lyrics, Malakian rushes in stream-of-consciousness style, as if the words couldn’t be written down fast enough. The world-weary “3005” opens bluntly with “Let’s clap our hands / for the president / and Jesus Christ and did I mention Charlie Manson and everybody else who was nice.” Perhaps the weakest points here are slightly embarrassing moments such as “I smacked your face you fell in love when I said fuck your mom / I looked at you said it’s all over,” growled loudly and uncontrollably on “Chemicals.”
In true System of a Down fashion, Scars on Broadway evokes some wild moments of gripping tension and releaseâ€šÃ„Ã®”Exploding/Reloading” through thunderous drums and a stellar, simple chorus, “Enemy” as a joyful folk-inspired disco melody and the closer “They Say” plodding low notes as if doom itself is coming at the song’s finale. Even though System of a Down’s future may be in doubt, Malakian proves he is nowhere close to running out of ideas.