It’s Ethno-Metal, But More Intimate

By Mark Lepage, Freelance

The Gazette
July 31, 2008 Thursday

Scars on Broadway
Rating 3 1/2

If someone had told you five years ago that the most significant
band in metal would be a politicized crew of porn-fan Californian
Armenians who write in mangled altered English, you’d have sent him
home to take two Ozzies and call you in the morning.

Moreover, System of a Down are not just alt-metal but ethno-metal,
super-volting the music of their Near Eastern heritage with double-time
drums and guitar for an eye-bulging sound that has become the current
dissident-metal signature. They’ve got the box office. Now come
the sequels.

Who is SOAD? With singer Serj Tankian the first member to establish
a solo career, guitarist Daron Malakian (and drummer John Dolmayan)
make their own case in side project Scars on Broadway. Given Malakian
writes the SOAD music, they have a clear edge.

Now this is metal, and so before a volley of deranged critical praise
obliterates our context, let’s remember theirs: Malakian reassured SOAD
fans that the band wasn’t breaking up, simply releasing solo albums
"like Kiss did." This terrifying promise – the rock version of a Habs
GM promising to revive the Damphousse era – might have rendered SOB
DOA in this precinct. Instead, SOB turns out to be SOAD on E, more
intimate and less angular.

But, certainly, recognizable. With his inherent (and probably
Armenian-folk-meets-Wings) melodic sense, Malakian both expands
his regular band’s sonic palette while remaining true to its
identity. Thus, there is ample denunciation of sleaze culture and
"Turkish lies", even as his riffs revel in the former (not the
latter). At the risk of harping on Malakian’s heritage, it does
separate him from, say, Fred Durst (remember?). While not out to prove
the metal cred, half of these songs are riff-based, but the range,
from keyboards to balladry, makes it unlike anything it will outsell
this week. This praise comes despite a strong and sane desire never
to hear the song Chemicals again.