Sound — 7
If you're a fan of System of a Down, you've likely taken some interest in the various band members' solo projects. Audiences don't necessarily want a rehashing of what SOAD has done in the past, and guitarist Daron Malakian and drummer John Dolmayan's Scars On Broadway has indeed take a pretty large step away from previous efforts with Serj Tankian. SOAD always had almost a circus-like metal vibe, going in every direction, but still keeping a melodic coherency. Often times there is more of a punk vibe on Scars On Broadway's self-titled album, and there are highs and lows amongst the 15 featured songs.
From the opening track Serious, it does seem that Malakian has decided to strip down his guitar tricks and go for more traditional power chords. There's not necessarily a bad thing, but Scars On Broadway almost sounds like a punk band during Serious. In fact, vocally there are moments when Malakian sounds a bit like Jello Biafra from the Dead Kennedys. The punk element is kept primarily for the verses, while the chorus features the melodic side of Malakian we've heard on SOAD's Mesmerize and Hypnotize albums.
Scars On Broadway does incorporate some interesting instrumental elements, and it's usually the synth-related ones that are the most successful. Exploding/Reloading is one of the highlights of the album, thanks to it's unusual intro. What could have been a simple power chord intro is doubled with an infectious toy-piano like synth line. Exploding/Reloading features one of the fastest tempos of the record and some of the most creative choices in terms of arrangement, and it deserves to be made into a single. World Gone Wrong includes some other cool sections, including what sounds like a classical piano (but could likely be synth as well), which breaks up the monotony of the basic chords.
Stoner Hate is one of the more unusual tracks in terms of the vocals, with Malakian delivering a twist on the Mary Poppins' lyric Supercalifranglisticexpialidocious. Don't worry, it's not a cover of the entire Disney song, and it's actually one of the more aggressive, punk-driven tracks on the album. Stoner Hate is a bit spastic, but it's somewhat reminiscent to SOAD's material.
There are some songs that do feel a bit forced. It seems like Scars on Broadways is trying to make the track Chemicals as bizarre and over-the-top as it possibly can be. From the oddly chanted chorus (Come eat some chemicals with me) to the beautifully sung We're on drugs portion, it does feel suitably trippy. Toward the end of Chemicals, it actually begins to get repetitive. Certain lines will sound inspired and fresh at first, but after they're repeated an abundance of times (which Malakian tends to do in several tracks), it can get stale.
Lyrics — 8
Most of the lyrics on the album do get your attention, and it's safe to assume many of the lines were inspired by headlines in the news. There's a cynicism attached to much of it, particularly in a song like 3005. Malakian sings, Let's clap our hands for the president and Jesus Christ; And did I mention Charlie Manson and everybody else who was nice? It's respectable that Malakian does seem to reflect upon today's society in much of the album, but then you get to Chemicals. It's a bizarre little song (Let's get ready to rock; I piss on your face; While you suck on my dick), and Malakian's delivery makes it all the more bizarre.
Overall Impression — 7
Even though Malakian is primarily known for his guitarist duties in SOAD, the self-titled Scars on Broadway is focused more toward his vocal strengths. We were given a touch of that side on the last SOAD's albums, and it does seem that Malakian has found his new love. He's not a bad frontman and he does have a fascinating delivery, but his vocals do tend to bounce between being engaging and annoying. While there are some interesting ideas/approaches musically and a few killer numbers, the songwriting on the whole doesn't quite live up to Malakian's work in SOAD.