Dic­ta­tor SCARRED FOR LIFE Sys­tem Of A Down gui­tarist un­furls his own freak flag

Metal Hammer (UK) - - Albums - DAVE EVERLEY

TYP­I­CAL. YOU WAIT 13 years for a new Sys­tem Of A Down al­bum and then, well, none come along at once. De­spite the odd vague hint and tan­ta­lis­ing prom­ise, that band re­main stuck in the same will-they-won’t-they/OK-so-they­won’t hold­ing pat­tern that has pre­vented them from knuck­ling down to make a fol­low-up to Hyp­no­tize and Mezmer­ize.

One un­ex­pected side-ef­fect of this pas­siveag­gres­sive in­tra-band soap opera is that it turns out Daron Malakian has had a Scars On Broad­way al­bum squir­relled away for at least half that time. The songs that make up Dic­ta­tor

– it­self the very be­lated fol­low-up to SOB’s self-ti­tled 2008 de­but – stretch back to 2012. The gui­tarist has been sit­ting on them ever since, un­will­ing to step on Sys­tem’s toes while si­mul­ta­ne­ously be­ing just as con­fused as the rest of us as to what the hell was go­ing on with his own band.

He’s ev­i­dently de­cided enough is enough, and set Dic­ta­tor free from what­ever sound­proofed cel­lar he’s been keep­ing it in for the last half-decade. And thank the gods of schizoid Ar­me­nian-Amer­i­can metal that he has, be­cause it’s a re­minder of just what the world has been miss­ing.

Given that Daron al­ways had the big­gest hand in Sys­tem Of A Down’s song­writ­ing, it’s no sur­prise that Dic­ta­tor doesn’t stray too far from the moth­er­ship. Lead-off track Lives takes the same drunken-master approach as SOAD, stag­ger­ing in on the kind of wob­bly-legged riff that sounds like it’s about to col­lapse un­der its own weight, only to sud­denly and un­ex­pect­edly take flight. ‘We are the peo­ple who were kicked out of his­tory,’ sings Daron with a nod to Ar­me­nian cul­ture and the hor­rific geno­cide that in­forms so much of his other band’s work. An­gry Guru pos­sesses the same mav­er­ick spirit, its re­lent­less thrash­ings giv­ing way to an un­hinged nurs­ery rhyme rhythm.

But this is much more than a high-end Sys­tem Of A Down knock-off. Daron isn’t stupid enough to try to repli­cate Serj Tankian’s psy­cho-prophet gib­ber­ings, nor is he so lazy that he’s just re­cy­cling that out­fit’s great­est hits. The al­bum’s most mem­o­rable mo­ments come when he casts aside the tem­plate he helped draw up 20 years ago and un­furls his own in­di­vid­ual freak flag.

Till The End is a burst of fuzzy alt-pop that sounds like Weezer fed through a dis­tor­tion pedal.

Even more star­tling is Gie Mou, an emo­tive in­stru­men­tal cover of a tra­di­tional Greek pop song whose ti­tle trans­lates as ‘My Son’ – an ex­plicit nod to the Mediter­ranean part of Malakian’s glo­ri­ously multi-cul­tural her­itage. Though the fact he im­me­di­ately fol­lows up it with the al­bum’s cur­tain closer, As­sim­i­late – by far the heav­i­est thing here – in­di­cates he’s not about to give him­self over to world mu­sic.

Or at least no more than he al­ready has.

It’s not hard to read Dic­ta­tor as a sly ‘fuck you’ to his on-off band­mates, or at least the ones hold­ing up a po­ten­tial al­bum. It’s ev­i­dent in their grand re­brand­ing – they’re no longer just Scars On Broad­way, but now ‘Daron Malakian And Scars On Broad­way’, a def­i­nite ‘Who Needs You Guys Any­way?’ state­ment. But it’s also there in the fact that, yes, many of these songs could quite have eas­ily parked their back­sides on a SOAD record. On this ev­i­dence, that’s Sys­tem

Of A Down’s loss more than it is ours.


Daron has run out of pa­tience

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