Torch Online reviews: Elect the Dead

After an explosive ten year career fronting off color metal giants System of a Down, Serj Tankian has reached into his catalogue of over 4,500 written demos and carefully selected twelve of them to master into songs and compiled the masterpiece known as Elect the Dead, a funk flustered decadently furious metal fusion that brings to life every word and chord that spews carefully out of his hands and mouth.

Violins, pianos, guitars, and other instruments that are often unidentifiable clash into a euphoric spiral that anonymously lifts the listener off into space as Serj performed most of the instruments on the album by himself, but he did receive help from Brain and Ler of the Primus fame, as well as John Dolmayan, former band mate from System of a Down. Tankian seems to have finally mastered the means of composing music after his first, less popular attempt on 2003’s Serart.

Prior to the 2006 summer nationwide tour Ozzfest that System of a Down was featured on the main stage of, Tankian announced that this would be the last tour for the band for the time being. The questioned was risen; what are the artists going to do? System of a Down has been one of the powerhouse bands of the millennium, constantly touring, putting out music, and being involved in anti-war efforts.

Tankian’s solo career took off soon after the end of the tour. Fans got a taste of what was ahead of them when the first single and first track on the album, “The Unthinking Majority,” was released. It had the intensity of the artist’s prior works, with that twisted funkiness that formed the uniqueness and intrigued the listener, with just the right amount of catchiness. It was quickly agreed that he may have lost his band, but not his talent and ability to write music with a meaning.

Following “The Unthinking Majority” is a song that seems to capture the atmosphere of the album and is a very strong track on the album “Empty Walls.” The lyrical meaning behind much of Tankian’s work is often hard to decipher because of the vast metaphors and leftist views he uses to portray war and the reasons why he sees that it is unjust, but “Empty Walls” seems to be pretty straight forward. The vocal-work on the song is reminiscent of the style on early System of a Down material, but the chorus steps into somewhere that Tankian hasn’t treaded before, which makes the song a very strong point on the album. Even at this early in album, it shows signs of a promising composition.

Another very strong point in the album is “Praise the Lord, and Pass the Ammunition.” The intro music, along with a majority of the other music on the album is very Middle- Eastern influenced, and gives the song an atmospheric mood. Serj’s vocals monotonously enter into the soundscape, and soon after dissipate with a poppy nursery-rhyme chant that is intended to be taken as humorously but holds so much more meaning to the song. Timing quickly switches as he commands the song’s title, and lightens again.

All twelve cuts on the album seem to have something special about them and have a deep meaning, although none of them sound the same. One could possibly call the album conceptual, but only through the lyrical content. It seems as though Tankian took a different musical approach to every song, and made sure that there was no repetition. Each song has the ability to grasp the listener and pull your senses, as you can imagine that you are actually there. A long anticipation paid off as Elect the Dead provides an interesting musical introspect, as everyone hoped that it would.