Sound — 8
The creative mind of Serj Tankian is a captivating and often jarring one. Love or hate the System of a Down frontman, he is one of few hard rock/metal vocalists who continue to push the boundaries of musical tradition. For his second solo offering Imperfect Harmonies, the title in many ways couldn't be more perfect. There is an unsettling quality to the tracks on the album partly due in part to the apt, chaotically askew harmonies that satiate the record and there's no shortage of drama. The metal aspect of Tankian is once again set aside for a more symphonic venture and this path is a fitting one for the singer's operatic chops. The one issue that could be raised is that Imperfect Harmonies is cramming in so many artistically daring choices into one record that it could be construed as an exhausting listening experience. Opening the CD is the high-energy, multifaceted Disowned Inc., which is easily the most aurally pleasing track on the CD. That's not to say that Disowned Inc. makes for your typical radio single because it most certainly doesn't fit in any mold. Including everything from a popping, emotional string section to more subdued piano lines, the track pulls you in without being too much of a shock to the system. Yes, Tankian brings out his unusual harmonies that combine his normal mid range with a frightening high falsetto, but even that move works to the song's advantage. Although the rock genre is represented by the mere intensity of Imperfect Harmonies, the album also pulls from a myriad of genres including electronic, jazz, and classical. Some artists might tackle one at time, but Tankian isn't afraid to make a Frankenstein arrangement with a bit of every genre as is the case with Beatus. The song Deserving even takes on a disco-like approach in moments. Tankian does deserve credit for attempting such grandiose arrangements and in most instances there is a cohesiveness to it all, but do be prepared for more than a few moments of spastic craziness throughout the 11 tracks. For the multiple moments where Tankian returns to his symphonic side, New Zealand's Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra the same group that collaborated with the vocalist on the Elect The Dead Symphony was utilized. Gate 21 and Yes, It's Genocide both convey the most traditional classical/operatic sound, with Tankian's purist vocal stylings showcased on these powerful ballads. Wings of Summer features a feminine counterpart with Shana Halligan from Bitter:Sweet providing guest vocals, and even this duet is far from typical. This closing track is characterized by often mismatched vocals and Halligan even laughing at Tankian's unusual lyric at one point (I ran over the guy with a Hummer). Bizarre would be an appropriate term for a good deal of Imperfect Harmonies, but you can't accuse Tankian of lacking courage and/or creative ingenuity.
Lyrics — 8
While it's true that there are some instances of Tankian venturing into more politically and or socially conscious territory on Imperfect Harmonies, a good deal of the songs revolve around the eternal theme of love. Tankian's musical style is a bit more daring than the lyrical aspect, but that's not to say that the singer's words aren't moving in a more traditional way. Gate 21 (The love that you bring; You bring me alone; The pain that you give; Gives me a home) and Beatus (Yesterday when you opened your eyes; In the morning and you rushed my soul; Memories connecting all to her; Have I lost you again?) delve into the subject of love, but Borders Are and Reconstructive Demonstrations broach more political/global subjects. Tankian never gets overly specific with his references, but the vagueness perhaps lends itself to reaching a broader audience.
Overall Impression — 8
You can approach the listening experience for Imperfect Harmonies with open arms in terms of his almost schizophrenic creativity or reject itfor the same reason. Tankian has gone above and beyond in terms of songwriting, and the clash that amid the various genres and harmonies often is jolting. Even with a few aural bumps and bruises that may occur, Tankian earns plenty of brownie points for somehow making a mish mash of styles ultimately work together.