Stepping out from frontman Serj Tankian's shadow, System of a Down guitarist Daron Malakian certainly does have a lot to prove. Or at least he seems to think so.
As the face and voice of Scars on Broadway, Malakian treats his debut album with the tenacity and reckless abandon of a kid in a candy store. Sliding away from the characteristic stuttering funhouse metal that defined S.O.A.D. and more into melodic rock, Malakian throws a kitchen sink of exotic ideas into this offering: xylophone, Moog analog, and vibraphone, for starters. The songs run the gamut of musical and topical experimentation. "Enemy," one of the cursory political diatribes, opens with a funky wah-pedal twitter; "Chemicals" ping-pongs between a skittering drum sample and a lick straight out of the Old West at high noon; while "Universe" would be just at home on Weezer's Pinkerton album. Only "Stoner Hate" sounds like a lost System B-side.
The hang-up is that Malakian tries to cram in so many ideas that the album comes out in two- to three-minute bursts that sound great, but ultimately go nowhere. The rolling force of "Cute Machines" is loaded with headbanging promise but ends exactly where it started. Rarely are any of the songs given room to evolve, which is a shame because when they do, as heard in the sprawling epic "Babylon," the end result can be rather rewarding. The sacrifice of natural progression in favor of quickly flipping to the next idea tends to be unfulfilling. A strong prescription of Ritalin in the studio might've gotten Malakian to calm down, reel in his schizophrenic tendencies, and deliver a more focused effort. (Interscope)
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