Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Review: Serj Tankian - Harakiri

 Serj Tankian, as disparaging as it may be will be forever recognised as a solo artist that can only ever be recognised at foremost for work with a band previously. He's not the first of this kind and he certainly won't be the last. In having that position, he could be in worse terms. Rock and metal in this modern age may not have the sense of excitement, bombasticity and overall shot of weirdness had it not been for Tankian's work in fronting the legendary System of a Down, however, the fact that this is his prime position in music has always left those that listen to his solo material disappointed. It's a shame that this is the case. When one considers that a solo career is the ultimate chance for a musician to bleed out all their creativity and unique ideas that could never work on a band album, Tankian has certainly bled heavily through the likes of Elect the Dead and Imperfect Harmonies. However, third outing Harakiri is undoubtedly the boldest and most thrilling so far.

 On Harakiri, Tankian takes much more influence from classic punk bands of old with rapid-fire melodies and lyrical concerns put into a modern context to those that the likes of Minor Threat and Dead Kennedys talked about. Of course, the iconic vocal performance of Tankian makes his take on punk and hardcore music a grander, more over-the-top and occasionally operatic than traditional hardcore bands did in the 80's. This is captured straight from the drastic opening of Cornucopia, which amongst it's scuzzy riff-fests and massive choruses, captures the true variation of messages and emotion Tankian wants to package within the album. As the song opens with Tankian speaking of a woman, stating "I loved you in the sunshine", we soon find Tankian yelling out "We fuck the earth and don't know why it cries". This sense of lyrical variation is key in displaying the unpredictability of Serj Tankian.

 The main content of the album  effortlessly proves itself to be an emotionally protest album, covering Tankian's disgrace towards ignorance of major world issues on Deafening Silence and Occupied Tears, the removal of personal freedom through war and materialism on Figure it Out and even the state of our culture, through the tones of concern and observational disgust on Reality TV, all of which really highlights the entire theme of the album regarding suicide, in the form of suicide to civilization brought around by our own actions and choices in life. Yes it will cause you to feel guilty and take a look at your life.

 And this will particularly be the effect when hearing the message of the lyrics picked up by the irresistible, adaptable vocals of Tankian. The sense of beauty-come-tragedy on Butterfly heightens the song's message of loss, while Forget Me Knot presents a similar view through an unsettling buildup of soothing piano-laden backdrops. Meanwhile the glorious feel of the deranged that helped Make System of a Down so unique can be heard across the likes of Uneducated Democracy. Furthermore, the sense of musical and rhythmic variation across Harakiri makes the album an even more immersive offer, as Ching Chime makes use of bouncing hip-hop rythyms while at the same time creating a main riff led by banjos. From fiery metallic drumming, to backdrops created by pop-friendly synthesizers and human beat-boxing, there's a selection of everything musically to be found.

 And with the thought of everything, Harakiri is most effectively summed up. Tankian's wide range of musical diversity and lyrical messages, which always manage to be thought provoking makes Harakiri his boldest effort to date. Looking back on it, it's a little bit of a shame that he's recognized solely for System of a Down. Not that it's a bad thing or anything, but there is definitely moments in his solo work that are miles away from SOAD that fans of that band could never get their heads around. However, with an effort that has clearly had much thought and soulful wonder put into it, Serj Tankian proves that his solo work is every bit as relevant as his work as a band frontman.

Serj Tankian's Harakiri is out now via Reprise/Serjical Strike. Tankian will tour the UK in October.


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