"Figure it Out," Serj Tankian's lead single off his third solo album "Harakiri," is enough to make one lose faith that he'll ever get his mojo back. It sounds like a 15-year-old's attempt to write a political rock song. Some of the lyrics are, I kid you not, "Why pretend that we don't know/ CEOs are the disease Freedom is raped by war like a whore/ Like technology, technology, technology."
To his credit, it is more spastic and speedy than the lifeless lead single from his last album, "Borders Are...," but it still doesn't have the combustible energy, the ferocity or the weirdness that made System of a Down's best stuff so exciting.
Tankian's main problem is that he's focusing more on what he's saying than how he's saying it. In a recent interview with Metal Hammer Magazine, the SOAD lead singer let a revealing quote fly. He said, "To me, my musical calling was beyond my musical influences through music. My musical calling was an expressive effort. And if it wasn't music, it would have to be something else. So, I'm not sure if music made me write music."
System of a Down lead singer Serj Tankian has released his third solo album, “Harakiri.”
In other words, he cares more about the message than the music, and that's a problem when the words don't measure up.
His lyrics always have been pretty bad (the "kombucha mushroom people," anyone?), but most rock lyrics are, so that's not usually too troubling. The difference is that before, on SOAD's self-titled debut, "Toxicity, "and about half of "Mesmerize" and "Hypnotize," the music was fun, full of unpredictable energy and surprisingly catchy melodies. So, the lyrics, when they worked, were an added bonus.
But now, Tankian's musical instincts are on autopilot. How else can one explain generic choruses like the one in "Butterfly," in which Tankian sings, "We are being sacrificed by our own suspicions/ We are being sodomized by repetition?" It seems that he thinks this works because we're going to be shocked by his use of the word "sodomized." Otherwise, I can't understand what he thinks he's "finding" here or what's "working" at all. It just sounds like a chorus he could sing in his sleep with music by musicians who also are asleep.
This album is a very tedious listen and actually started to make me angry because how could such a talented rock singer be so compositionally lazy? He needs his band to get him out of his head and push him into uncomfortable places. I mean, really, he's composing like there's nothing at stake - like he can just go on recording whatever comes out at any time and we'll keep eating it up.
The name of the album, "Harakiri," refers to a form of ritual suicide that is accomplished by disembowelment. Aren't you glad you know that now? There's one thing that's certain, though, a 15-year-old somewhere will think it's cool.
DOWNLOAD NOW: "Forget Me Knot" is a passable SOAD song.