Scars On Broadway - Scars On Broadway review
|Band:||Scars On Broadway|
|Album:||Scars On Broadway|
|Release date:||July 2008|
04. Stoner Hate
06. World Long Gone
07. Kill Each Other/Live Forever
13. Cute Machines
14. Whoring Streets
15. They Say
16. Hungry Ghost [Japanese bonus]
17. Scars on Broadway [Instrumental] [i-Tunes Edition bonus]
After waiting impatiently for months to hear some material from "the other System Of A Down solo project", Scars On Broadway delivered their self-titled debut album in the heart of the summer of 2008. And after waiting patiently, yet deliberately, to deliver a review about the album until I saw Scars On Broadway live in concert (I wanted to have a fully structured opinion about the band), I'm now finally able to give you peace of mind: this is a great and exiting album, in certain many ways, albeit not all the way!
Let me briefly recapitulate the main points first for all the ones who have no clue what Scars On Broadway is all about. Following System Of A Down's hiatus in 2006, the four band members decided to focus on several projects, both musical and personal. As known, vocalist Serj Tankian started a productive solo-career, but also lead guitarist/vocalist Daron Malakian hasn't been sitting around doing nothing as he too started a new band, Scars On Broadway, where he was soon joined by John Dolmayan, the straight face SOAD drummer.
And that brainchild Scars On Broadway marks a clear break from System Of A Down, is not only coming through on the whole new look of Malakian but evidently also on the album itself. A first impression of "Scars On Broadway" reveals a very vivacious and diverse album, a musical melting pot of Malakian's creativity, ideas and experiments. However, the different ideas and experiments are not all thrown together into one crazy whirlwind of songs, as Malakian opted to give each song its own characteristics, consequently resulting in some relatively short but powerful songs. Later you also become aware of the expected crazy lyrics - if you're familiar with the phenomenon Daron Malakian this cannot really sound that surprising. Serious subjects like politics, drugs, the decline of society and hippies, are brought in a funny (sometimes almost familiar) way, a way that can be called quite typical for Malakian's songwriting. And here we cross one of the most important minus points of the album: superficiality. In all honesty, although being witty and frolicsome, the lyrics aren't exactly offering much in-depth meaning and that is what's really missing sometimes.
Musically speaking the album is a display case of the undeniable qualities both musicians have. Malakian has written, composed and produced all the songs, and also played about all the instruments, going for a straight keyboards/mellotron direction on the album, while Dolmayan of course has to be credited for the pounding, compelling and precise drum play. And yet, in the end it will be de novo superficiality that will be cropping up again. Also musical wise the album ultimately doesn't offer enough to be a killer hit. Let me explain why. "Scars On Broadway" is not really an album to hear over and over again, apart from a few, hyper-catchy songs. If you do listen to the album a couple of times in a row, you become painfully aware that some songs begin to sound like average fillers. The more you listen to the album, the more some songs are losing the captivating magic they first had. And that is absolutely the last thing you want with this kind of album as its spirit will irrevocably be destroyed and future listening experiences will be spoilt beyond recall.
So far I have been writing this review with the necessary caution not to make the evident mistake to compare this album with Tankian's solo album, and more importantly System Of A Down. In my eyes it's easy: you simply cannot compare these two projects with System Of A Down. Of course Scars On Broadway sounds different than SOAD, of course Serj Tankian sounds different than SOAD, of course Scars On Broadway sounds different than Serj Tankian. Otherwise the band members wouldn't have been taking a break and wouldn't have been developing their own musical ideas and projects, alternatively they would have simply continued together as System Of A Down. But they didn't. So, the way I see it, you need to treat these projects independently from System Of A Down, and judge them on their own. There you have it; there is no way; end of discussion. But, in view of a responsible reviewer unveiling all aspects of an album in his review, and given that Scars On Broadway features half of the System Of A Down members, there are obviously a few more things to say about Scars On Broadway relating (and thus not comparing) to System Of A Down.
First of all, Scars On Broadway's self-titled debut is sounding heavier and a bit wilder than Serj Tankian's "Elect The Dead", but it's still quite far away from the structured System Of A Down heaviness and wild massiveness. The least you can say about both projects is that they're still energetic but definitely calmer and less-agitated. On the other hand, there's no need to be ignorant about this, it's very clear that both projects and System Of A Down have a lot of the same influences. Despite the fact they're sounding different, there are certain similarities to be found in the music. You can unmistakably hear these musicians were the engines behind System Of A Down in the not so distant past. So this leaves us to one last question on the matter: where to put Scars On Broadway as closest as possible to System Of A Down? If you absolutely want to draw the line to System Of A Down, I'd say "Scars On Broadway" is an offshoot branch-line from the albums "Mezmerize" and "Hypnotize", where Malakian was getting a bigger deal in the vocal work and songwriting and was almost having a monopoly on the music composing. With Scars On Broadway Malakian has picked up the thread from there and went exploring on his own. As it seems, with success.
Bottom line: if you always wondered how Daron Malakian would fix things up as an independent musician, without any help of Serj Tankian, and if you like System Of A Down, especially the Mezmerize/Hypnotize era, this album will without a doubt live up to your expectations. However, be aware not to ruin the brisk and plucky spirit of the album by flogging it to death in your CD player. You can take it from me, treat Scars On Broadway like an exclusivity, a rarity if you want; the more and the longer you will enjoy them.
However, there's still one more thing occupying my mind: how will it go from here? How long do these projects have to last? Has everybody from System Of A Down had the chance now to do something on their own, to ventilate their own ideas? Will they be getting ready soon to work on some new stuff together as System Of A Down? Or do they still need more time? So many questions…
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