Sound — 8
First things first, I've been a mediocre SOAD fan since 1999. I liked the sound of their music, it was one of my first exposures to anything metal, and while I've never been crazy about them, they were always welcome on any playlist of mine. Also, I'm a sort of anti-mainstream, pro-prog kinda guy. But backgrounds aside, Scars on Broadway's first album is, well, nothing spectacular. I was able to get my hands on a legitimate promo copy, and then ripped it so I could give it a good listen over a long 10 hour flight and several train rides. And my first impressions are still with me. By the way, I'm not going to give a detailed description of each song, but an overall feel for the entire album. So, this is Daron's rock band. After reading his short interview in July's Guitar World, it's quite clear what his aims were. To walk away from the metal of System of a Down, and pursue what he likes more. And it's always interesting to see what a member from a successful band does when creative differences arise. However, on pretty much every track on Scars on Broadway, you're going to have an awfully hard time not thinking that this is just Daron Malakian's side project. Even though he explicitly says it's his main focus. Straight away Daron's droning vocals, made famous on SOAD's last two efforts, Mezmerize and Hypnotize, jump in to do just that. His voice and style are very trance-like, and his distinctive timbre is ever so present. Lots of vocal harmony is there as well, and just thickens his normally light sound. The album also features the familiar fast half-tone up-and-down 'rapping' (emphasis on the quotes). Franky Perez's backing vocals are hidden pretty deep within the mix. You have to be looking out for them to hear it. As far as the guitars go, Daron still retains that same tone as he did in SOAD. The riffs are just as melodic and deep with his trademark minor tonality and lots of fast-paced strumming and the occasional metal chugs. I'm not quite sure why his guitarwork, when very similar to SOAD's, seems more rockish and less metal. Perhaps he's stopped downtuning, maybe the drive is turned down a little, perhaps it's just the mix. But on the topic of rock versus metal, this is barely pushing it. I'd give it a 60% rock 40% metal sound. There's some nice droplets of synth here and there, but they only really serve to add another layer to the mix. Mr. Danny Shamoun does add to the sound in a positive way, though. The bass is nothing special, but who expects something special from a rock band, eh? Hah. Jokes aside, it is rather featureless, just following the rhythm guitar. I also get this strange feeling that John Dolmayan, the emotionless drummer from SOAD, is holding back a little. Either that or he doesn't feel as at home in rock as Daron does. His drumming bursts out in some of the heavier choruses, but in the majority of the album his potential isn't being realized.
Lyrics — 7
His lyrics and somewhat filled with emotion. Not full, but enough. Some lyrics about love, politics, the big life, and some about seemingly pure nonsense, until someone decides to tackle it and explain the true meaning. He's got his erratic moments, a few 'screams', he's got his strong lines, but again, nothing spectacular. There's not much to really say here. It's what you'd expect from a System effort.
Overall Impression — 8
Overall, nothing really stands out. I do realize that most of this review is focused on SOB and SOAD, but I'm pretty sure that's mostly everyone's main concerns right now. No one is here thinking to themselves, "Oooh Scars on Broadway, that sounds pretty cool," but instead "I want to hear what Daron does without Serj." So be it. The rest of the band members (Franky Perez, Danny Shamoun and Dominic Cifarelli) probably are holding back from inputting to the band, afraid of the magicman Daron. But you can't blame them. If Petrucci hired you to play rhythm guitar for him, you're not gonna argue with him. But maybe I'm wrong. Either way, this doesn't feel like a new band. I'm not feeling it. It's Daron's side project. Maybe he should take a lesson from Richard Kruspe and Emigrate.