Too Much of A Good Thing
Serj Tankian embarks on new territory, soundtrack composition, for the Russian film Furious – The Legend of Kolovrat. As the frontman of the heavy metal band System of a Down, Tankian delivered screaming absurdities and progressive political wisdom through his Dadaist lyrics. The Armenian-American band rose to stardom with their sophomore full-length album Toxicity, which eventually went multi-platinum. Besides their fusion of pop song structure with death and heavy metal execution, System of a Down was also recognized for their incorporation of unique and South Asian instruments such as the mandolin or the sitar.
Years after the band’s hiatus, Tankian’s solo career, especially with his work for the Furious soundtrack, displays that same admiration and experimentation with South and East Asian instrumentation. “Warn Our People” has beautiful East Asian zithers twinkling in the beginning. This short track is accompanied by a female voice and various percussion instruments. On “Mongolian Camp,” Tankian boldly displays his South Asian influences with the ritualistic, slithering strings. He pairs them with intensifying percussion, creating a sense of urgency and suspense. The song slows down and quiets before it escalates, climaxing with a final punch of percussion. Though these two songs were enthralling in their distinctiveness, the rest of the soundtrack tends to follow a formulaic approach similar in structure to that of “Mongolian Camp”: they almost always feature the building of suspense and the release of it, repeating this motif over and over in these songs.
Many of the dramatic songs on the soundtrack fall victim to these trappings. “Horde Patrol” pairs incredibly intense gongs and drums with hard metal electric guitars in an unrelenting manner. They are followed by blaring but notably slower bassy strings in between the outbursts of percussive and electric energy peeking through once again at the end. “The Horde Returns,” “Woodland Spirits,” “Confusion,” “Battle Cry,” “Hold the Line” and the “Kolovrat Theme” all have extremely similar structural layouts as “Horde Patrol.” What this soundtrack gains in consistency, it loses in novelty. Although “Horde Patrol” is undoubtedly hard-hitting and memorable on its own, and although “Confusion” and “Hold the Line” were stunningly layered and put together, they sounded too similar to each other, creating a blur of too-familiar feelings of suspense and relief as the soundtrack progressed.
Still, Tankian’s abilities as composer are far from weak. “Herb Potion” stands out with its whimsical plucked strings and gentle but steady percussion. The change in tone at the end came unexpectedly and featured complex layers of glistening strings, heavy beats and a growling wind instrument pounding relentlessly. This same wind instrument shows itself on “Uragsha,” souring the light string introduction with its guttural timbre. It transforms into a heroic anthem with clatters of heavy drum and drawn out violin. This ominous mood piece truly exhibits Tankian’s ability to balance and layer all of the instruments he decides to utilize.
Though the Furious – Legend of Kolovrat soundtrack is filled with moments of intrigue and intricacy, they repeat far too often for a beginning-to-end listen. All of these tracks, even the ones under a minute in length, are exceptionally composed and executed. It is their similarity to each other that holds them back, making their incredible merits seem common, almost tired. Hopefully, the soundtrack becomes more appealing as a whole when synced with the action from the film.