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Tankian impresses

Serj Tankian - Elect the Dead
(2007 Serjical Strike/Reprise)
3 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Nov. 1, 2007
Serj Tankian

Review by Wade Vonasek

A lot of listeners, upon hearing Serj Tankian's solo debut Elect The Dead, will probably comment on how much the release resembles Tankian's band System of a Down. Though that observation might be correct, it also might be missing the point, as Elect The Dead reinforces what an integral ingredient Tankian is in the mix that is System of a Down. Tankian produced Elect The Dead himself, as well as played the majority of instruments featured, with drum contributions from Brian "Brain" Mantia (Primus, Tom Waits) and System of a Down's John Dolmayan.

The album retains System of a Down's penchant for political and activist themes in the lyrics, which should be expected. Some standouts include "Saving Us," with a moody acoustic intro that grabs the listener, and Tankian's vibrato-tinged vocal on the chorus never letting go; "The Unthinking Majority," which is lyrically a sad, but real observation of the present American state of mind, and features a piano part that leads into a breakdown that will stick in one's head for days; and "Sky Is Over," with its catchy "la-la" middle part reminiscent of System of a Down.

Tankian also impresses with more experimental tracks like "Lie Lie Lie," with cool piano, Zappa-esque vocals and staccato guitar bursts; "Praise The Lord And Pass The Ammunition," which has a vaguely electronic sound and a memorable chorus; and the title track, which may be the most serious, dramatic song on the album, and contains ominous piano in the intro.

There are touches of piano all over this record, not necessarily featured, but more for coloring or accent. Most of the tracks follow a sort of light verse/heavy chorus formula, with verses that create minor tension and lead into explosive, crunchy guitar choruses. This works especially well on the intense "Money."

As a whole, Elect The Dead is a success. Though at times, one might wonder if System of a Down might have brought that extra bit of magic that is missing on a few of the cuts, Tankian proves his talent and creativity on most of the album. It would be interesting to hear Tankian explore his more experimental side further, but Elect The Dead should manage to satisfy fans of System of a Down, while bringing in a few new listeners as well.

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