FUCK THE SYSTEM! DARON MALAKIAN TURNS DICTATOR!!! THE FIRST IN OUR NEW CATEGORY VINYL IS FINAL!

The colored vinyl still sounds good in 7.1 surround… Photo courtesy Coming Age

 

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This review was delayed due to flooding in the Coming Age Recorders room. I have been doing ALL the remediation by myself. As a result of that, I have ingested copious amounts of mold (all the colors of the mold rainbow, White, Green and Black) and became seriously ill. Thanks to some dubious medical care, I have (finally) gotten better and am returning to reviewing full speed ahead. I do apologize for falling off the radar, but, it’s tough to listen, hear and discern when all you can hear is a constant ring in your head (in the key of G). Not an excuse, a reason. Now on to Scars on Broadway!

Where is all the good music these days? With the music industry in the turmoil that it currently festers within, truly talented artists languish behind less talented artists who have what the industry calls ‘The Look’, meaning, ‘we’ll fix their crappy vocals with autotune, ProTools, harmonizers, vocal processors, etc.’. Now one would think the record companies would want to get less attractive artists (so to speak) who can spend less time in a studio and thus cost less. But in their infinite wisdom, they want attractive people who spend hours of studio time (cost) so they can market them more easily. Screw talent, their face appeals to the common denominator.

Fortunately, right before that mindset (the American Idol/Got Talent mindset) a group of Armenian gentlemen started a speed-thrash metal group out of L.A. called System Of A Down. They have about five albums out, each is worth the purchase price. Speed metal about Armenian Genocide, you can’t beat it.

However…

System Of A Down drummer John Dolmayan more or less recently let it slip that he is not expecting a recording reunion of the band anytime soon. Singer Serj Tankian is busy with his activist work trying to get the United States as well as other countries to recognize the Armenian Genocide that was executed by the Turkish in the early 1900’s.  It was May 1915 when the Ottoman Empire started hauling in those in (Old World) Constantinople and sent them to Ankara. All in all, just shy of 275 Armenian intellects and civic leaders were systematically rounded up, arrested, and deported to Turkey where they were executed. The exact numbers of the genocide are always in flux by a few hundred.

Now for Tankian, this is no ‘charity for the sake of a tax break’ cause for him. Or any other member of System Of A Down (SOAD). You see, for those of you who aren’t knowing of SOAD, all four members, Dolmayan, Tankian, bassist Shavo Odajian and guitarist/vocalist Daron Malakian are all of Armenian descent (Dolmayan being born in Beirut to Armenian parents) and have a passion about making the world accept that yes, that genocide was real and it was perpetrated by the Turkish. The United States needs to recognize and deal with that fact since the country is all ‘tariff this and tariff that, sanctions here, sanctions there’, why not sanction a country that deserves/requires it, as opposed to picking fights at summit meetings? Because The Great Orange Leader (TGOL) doesn’t like dealing with women such as Merkel and May, and is jealous of Macron’s popularity in France, as well as other petty grudges throughout the G8-20. ‘Tis better to sanction those who were our allies years ago in order to obtain and propagate crude oil, than to use sanctions and tariffs to uphold what is decent, what is honest, what is true, what is law… Not to mention Turkey’s recent accusation that the US (TGOL) ‘stabbed an ally in the back’. Then there’s the whole Khashoggi issue. Turkey is tough, so that puts the Armenian cause squarely in the underdog position…

This is where Malakian steps in.

Meet Daron Malakian; these days, he is primarily THE member of Scars On Broadway (at least for the recording of the new album “Dictator”). He also does music and lyrics for another band, System Of A Down. Photo by Greg Waterman

During one of the many hiatuses (such as the one SOAD is on now), Malakian needed artistic release. So he built his own band for a recording session of these songs with SOAD drummer Dolmayan. During this period (2008/9) Malakian, how do I put this politely, went off his rocker. Stress of not knowing the status of SOAD, too much time on his hands, girl trouble, too many songs in his head, heavy drug consumption, any number of things could have led to that.

He cleaned up his act but not before standing us up for one of the shows. Pictured below are our unused tickets. He was too fruit loopy to do the shows and canceled the remaining dates of the first Scars On Broadway tour.

Two unused tickets for Scars On Broadway at the Irving Plaza NYC in 2008. Several shows in the tour were cancelled due to personal issues arising for Malakian. Photo courtesy Coming Age

Daron, you owe us…

Fast forward through some shitty times for Malakian. In preparation for this review (and to get psyched for this new offering) I previewed some SOAD performances from recent years. Outside of some technically flawed sound board operations, the music was ‘adequate’. Most depressing was an overweight, under-animated Daron Malakian plodding his way through the songs. Proficient, the guitar parts were NEVER lacking. But to look at him onstage, he was not the whirling dervish he was when I saw them live in 2005.

But it’s 2018 and Scars On Broadway are back. But there is one glaring difference this time. Dolmayan is not on board for this incarnation. This music was so personal to Malakian he plays everything himself. During the lead up time to the release of the album, Malakian has released a series of art-noir short films about the making of the album (search YouTube for Daron Malakian Making Of Dictator) and sure enough there is footage of Malakian behind the drum kit wailing away on one of the speedier tunes. Bits showing different parts being recorded is killer, worth the time.

So while this album may lack some of the more sophisticated playing Dolmayan left behind on the first album, Malakian makes up for that with a personal passion for the project to the point where, quite possibly his sanity was again on the line were these songs to wither on the vine.

SIDE A (wow, it’s been a while since I typed that) starts with “Lives”. This song was voted ‘Song Of The Summer’ by Rolling Stone if that lends it any credibility. While the song is bouncy, and really up-tempo, the subject matter still deals with the genocide. But the viewpoint, while serious, is to a degree upbeat in its philosophy. Lines like ‘Everybody dance, when you dance, when you wanna dance, everybody dance, you will get in a trance” and “We are the people who were kicked out of history, we are the people who, exist in victory…”. You can tell Malakian is proud of that heritage. That heritage is actually something to behold. Admittedly I am not that familiar with said history/heritage, so when I saw the video for “Lives”, I was first awed by the pageantry of the dance and costumes, then I was reminded of my maternal lineage (not Aremenian, but within the Baltic region, similar cultures) and lastly, the look on some of the dancers faces, as though one of gratitude for being able to share their culture with the current generation. It really is something to behold, so do that!

Well there’s the song, I mean, I don’t feel the need to have to review, remark, or detail. There’s no need to justify, the song kicks ass. Although every time I hear the repeat line on the lead vocal lyric  ‘survived genocide’… It’s like a kick in the throat that also stabs at the heart and waters the eye.

So you’re thinking OK, he made one statement song, it was the first release, the rest is gonna be gibberish relevant to only other Armenians. NOT TRUE! The next cut (I can say this, it’s on VINYL) in my opinion is a direct call out to The Great Orange Leader, “Angry Guru” could very well have been written about TGOL!

Malakian has, if no other weapon in his arsenal, one terrific sense of humor that is razor sharp enough to come across as just humorous enough not to get his ass deported by the TGOL!! With lyrics like “I said Nobody loves you more than you do, nobody hates you more than I do” and references to his overall behavior level (“Angry, guru, sitting in his own little poo-poo”) as well as leveling direct shots at the current administration’s rape, plunder and pillage behavior; “Silence, leads to violence, face up to what you have done, dealing what you’re stealing, the story goes on and on and on…”, it’s going to be difficult trying to convince an irrational demagogue it’s only art…

The music is intense, to say the least.

Malakian has a great sense of depth when it comes to guitar sound. Choppy, thick rhythms, dramatic builds and harmonies galore. But always a surprise. “Guru” starts out with a furious bombast of those choppy licks with the metel-esque bend that ultimately becomes a theme through the rhythm of the track.

The verse chops away, the first time with most of the lyrics listed above. The “Nobody loves you” also becomes a recurring theme. It’s hysterical! But it is one of the first of many songs that Malakian had obvious designs for SOAD to do. You’ll hear Malakian do many speedy vocal parts that were originally destined for Tankian to deliver.

I like Malakian’s voice.

The first surprise comes in a whole note to half note repetition of many of the lyrics above, the “dealing what you’re stealing” part. The second verse. oh jeez, he uses words like macho, loco, your highness.

Doesn’t this stink of TGOL (or as someone on Facebook once referred to him as The Talking Cheeto, TTC?)?

A healthier chorus, but he holds out the “on and on’ lyric into a very ethnic, and VERY speedy guitar solo, as he plays faster, the rhythm track answers, to a rocked out, measure, hold, stop, repeat, back into the third verse, which is tight as hell and heavier. Resuming the poo flinging, but for half the arrangement into the dealing chorus, holds, into an intro juxtaposed with the “nobody loves you” to a raucous end.

I love that song…

Now “Dictator” the song, starts out with what I perceive as a very SOAD-friendly riff. Highly reminiscent of what he might have recorded with the band. This too, is a theme that will repeat. That riff drops away when the first lyric starts. “I don’t need a dictator to control me” all to a bouncy low guitar and drum rhythm pulse.  I mean, you’re kidding, right? How can this not be about President Cheeto? I mean, the next lyric part is “War is coming, soldiers marching, god is watching” and then a very left-field, Lennon-style “You’re politics will never corrupt me”. I mean, they are sending troops to the Mexican border to set up prison camps… They ARE building prisons!!!

The next verse is based on the religious population. Same theme, what’s the point, but the chorus repeats until the ticking guitar and mewing synths break down and build while Malakian repeats “You’re politics…” until the full on thrash rejoinder of the same part after a couple of measures. I mean full-on, sick-ass, head-banging, vocal chord popping thrash!! This yields to a vocal overdub with the “War is coming, god is falling, etc.” back into a change repeating “Oh I don’t need a dictator/crusader” with the “War Is Coming/Your Politics” break resurrecting after a few measures… I mean it’s a killer complex arrangement! SOAD missed out! I love the end vocal scream on “Your politics will never corrupt me!”.

That was a hoot!

Now, when you view that video above and you see Malakian record this song, specifically the keyboard part, you have no idea something that sounds so nice, so rich, and to use that term again (and I am SO fucking uncomfortable, but it best summarizes the mixed bag that are Malakian’s influences throughout the world) so ethnic, would be titled “Fuck And Kill”!?!?!?! The flute sound on the keyboard, the trouncing gallop that is the drum and guitar part for the intro, but that, too, will get heavier in a minute…

The lyrics at the beginning are innocuous enough. “Oh I think I know/love you, I think I know/love you like I never knew before” a couple times then the whole deal stops. Here’s where it gets heavy.

The ethnicity drops for the second verse. Lyrically it is the antithesis of the first lyric. Sure at first it repeats, the “Oh I think I know you” over the now-thrashed out verse which, for the next lines, goes right out the window with “Armageddon, Armageddon, Armageddon let’s take drugs and go to war”!

How can you not love this stuff? I think Daron Malakian and I are kindred spirits only in that he might be a little happier than I am about things. Get to know Daron…

But the ethnicity returns for a real speedy break solo into the thrash Armageddon part but what comes next, oh my, it’s just, I had to stop the playback, (no way am I reviewing on the actual vinyl at this point, I have listened to the vinyl and yes, the playback from online is pale in comparison, no duh, any over-the-internet compressed file is gonna sound frequency-cropped) and compose myself during this next bit.

The speedy break comes back with the hilarious lyric “I’m a sly guy in disguise, all you people can’t realize, like a cool cool feel feel under my skin, everybody love sin”… I love his sense of bravado! But don’t get too used to it because, once again, he slips us the mickey by changing up to the heavy, half-time break with the flute synth again, but this is where the title track gets its name. I think this line needs a pull quote:

When you go where you don’t belong

Into moods that will make you ill

And you don’t want to socialize

You just want to fuck and kill…

How much does that describe gun-totin’ ‘Murica? Describe mass shootings much?

Now I will be up front, the rest of the song wails on these themes over a couple times, the speedy break, sly guy break, all repeated, right down to the end where the lyrics instead of Armageddon, they go “Let’s take drugs and go to war, Armageddon let’s take drugs and go to war” down to a speedy scream end.

Another theme.

A synth drone starts “Guns Are Loaded”. One of Malakian’s gloomy, down-tuned riffs, so reminiscent of SOAD’s “Lonely Day” with hints of some tracks from Mesmerize/Hypnotize. Synths and harmony vocals that would have fit SOAD, so well.

It is a pre-Apocalyptic view, “I tell you, you know it’s over when all the guns are loaded close by you.” I mean, do people like Ian Long hear this stuff and get ideas? Is this Ozzy Osbourne all over again? But to tell the truth, the song is quite stirring, highly emotive. But that’s Malakian’s job.

But this isn’t just a song about guns, the break into the heavy double notes with the solo guitar break form into a riff. The lyrics veer off into being about abuse. But not any specific abuse, abuse in general with lines like “This is for the abused, this is for the abuser, I know you didn’t choose it, This is fucking life…”

Powerful stuff, musically, lyrically, socially…

Then, again, Malakian slaps us with a surprise lyric at the end. “I’m the fucking abused, I’m the fucking abuser”.

The side ends with “Never Forget” which sounds like surf-metal meets Arabian Nights. Love love love the harmony synths in the beginning, Malakian even channels 10% of Dick Dale, as surf as he can be!

The verse drops out except for a guitar and bass drum beat, the bass joins on the second line, the chorus blasts “His side, her side, blindside” But the next verse makes it sound like his side is, her side blindsided him!

The third verse drops out but the second stanza in the verse is full on with synths, into the blindside chorus but heavy, full and with synths on the line “All these images in my mind” which repeats at the end until the lyric “There’s nowhere to hide”, insinuating he is haunted.

Heavy.

With that, he ends side one. I will say nice arrangement of songs through the first side. We venture on.

SIDE B kicks off with “Talkin’ Shit”. I swear Malakian and I are cut from the same cloth. In this song, he describes every friend I have ever ‘encountered’ from the city of Scranton! Catty, mean, vindictive, soulless, profiteers who, as long as there is something in it for them, they’re your friends. You run into trouble and may need their help? GONE! These people could never be considered friends I made. They talk shit.

A bass/high hat beat and guitar riff kick off side B with a steady descending series of notes with chord stabs. Then the rhythm track lets out for a phased guitar solo that speeds through the melody.

The second verse disparages the thought of curious thought. but rejoins to those lines “All of your friends are talking shit while they get high”.

Then we have a building break which repeats “All the eyes are jealous” into another guitar solo that joins the rhythm track before the track lets out wide. Malakian solos and joins the rhythm track for the two note bounce, they repeat this for another solo, and double down into the speedier phased solo break. I will say it again, Malakian’s solos have that ethnic feel…

They break down into a delay-solo that fades into the chorus lyric for the end, “Talking shit while they get high” ends the song with a hold chord.

Now this next song, this next song could have been another hit for SOAD, “Till The End”. It has the repetition, but Malakian delivers it with such generosity, you really do believe he is friends with crazy people! Throughout the song, Malakian admits to being friends with people who may have screws loose. But he reflects in and amongst those repetitious lyrics with lines like “I was talking to be alone, Abused addicted and alone”.

Remember people, at one time, Malakian had been there, done that. He further intersperses lines like “I’m so happy, that you’re with me, it just feels good, to be free…”. He genuinely sounds happy. As the tone of the lines interchange, you know the rhythm track changes with it. Happy, peppy for the upbeat lines, minor-ish riffs for the downer parts.

But this is still Scars On Broadway, so it starts with distorted guitar and carries it through those minor sounding verses. They build between verses, and between parts, then there is the power ballad break “Stay, with me till the end”.

And while the song repeats the structure, right before the end line, there is a slight solo, accompanied by some “Oh” vocals. It breaks down to an organ and guitar break, the guitar and organ pounding the build with the “Happy” chorus lyric leading to a change in the chorus, “You made me what you made me, and I’m stronger in the end” which is ironic because the stay with me till the end section repeats to a quick verse revisit for the line “I was talking to be alone” ends the song.

Malakian likes hold-note ends.

Next up is a very speedy metal-type riff. This was meant to be a Scars song. Malakian places breaks in the riff in tasty spots. But he breaks up the rhythm pattern right in the middle of the verse riff with a series of single-note pounds right in the middle of the verse line, then everything goes right back to that speed-metal riff!

The lyrics could be about corporate greed, politics, religion, line like “Buying, you’re all buying, all the things you are denying” or Fighting, you’re all fighting,”. You can apply what to where you like in terms of context. Buy the album and make your own interpretation.

But the clear theme in this song lies in its title, “We Won’t Obey”. With a nod to global damage caused, the lyric also bounces from “We won’t obey” to “leave us alone, leave our world alone”. Malakian is watching out for all of us… The “Obey/Alone” chorus is more free flowing, the verses are tightly structured with that beat break. The structure of the song repeats until the “Fight fight” break. “Fight all your institutions… starting a revolution”.

The music is metal all the way. This might have gotten airplay were it not for the “Masturbate me, entertain me” line. They end on the speedy riff with again, no fade.

More thrash coming your way with “Sickening Wars”. Here’s another ear-wigger right here. I have run around singing “I’m the medicated, just hallucinating on a trip trip trip trip” (that last bit was me doing the digital delay effect on the lyric) so many times it’s a wonder I’m still married.

The chorus builds off that last lyric “Lie like a hooker when you start” into the chorus of “(when you) Start, sickening wars, rot me to the fucking core, give me more, sickening wars, rot me to the fucking core”…

Daron Malakian is the voice of the Nihilist Generation!

Line of the song? HAS TO BE “I’ve been nominated for the best Armenian tan”!!!

There is a beat break with some lead guitar lines and pick slides, into some thrash for the sake of thrash into the sickening wars break. Then we shift the words to the beat break with the full band behind it, harping on the word “hooker”. Lie like a hooker, fuck like a hooker, coming like a hooker and just ending this all on the digitally delayed word “Trip”.

Now for all intents and purposes, the original Scars On Broadway as written by Daron Malakian material ends here.

“Gie Mou ‘My Son'” is written by Apostolos Kalderas and Elefterios Papadopoulos. I have no background on this song. It is a slow ballad with a heavy beat and underpinning bass line and melody. It is mostly a platform for a phased solo from Malakian. Is he ad-libbing or is this note-for-note replication from the original? The more adventurous of you out there might have the time.

This version has some neat effects in it, with delayed pick slides, was that on the original? Doesn’t matter as Malakian’s version has the drama in it, all throughout the arrangement which has its changes, its moods, its quirks. But another hold note end.

“Assimilate” is written by Kevin William Crompton, Tom Ellard and Kevin Graham Ogilvie of Skinny Puppy. This must have been the toughest drum part for Malakian to recreate. With those subtle opens on the high hat, nicely done! I am not familiar with this original version, I know it is from the album Bites. The lyrics are not reprinted and Malakian spews them out so fast, I referenced them online, if you want to follow along with them, I suggest you do the same.

I can’t recommend this album enough! It stands as a cultural headstone for the Armenian Genocide and for the declining political landscape in the United States. This album has political and sociological value, intense meaning, global value. Either we listen to Malakian and take heed of the direction of our country and our country’s presentation of itself to the rest of the world, or we become no better than our misogynist leaders. Most especially, how we regard the events in Armenia. Screw the Kardashians. Malakian and company represent the GOOD side of Armenia.

If you want to be altruistic like Malakian, make a difference for some lives in Artsakh by checking this out:

https://www.armeniafund.org/announcing-lives-campaign-with-daron-malakian/

But for you capitalist types, who want value for your money, this is a representation of the kind of packages you can get from Malakian and Scars for your support of the album and the cause. Here’s our swag:

This package included colored vinyl, hoodie, hat, and lithograph. Photo taken at Coming Age HQ

As Malakian is supporting his homeland through multiple altruistic efforts, we should support Malakian. If you wanna get a cool package like we did, (or other packages, there are multiple deals with different items available, such as a T-shirt and some stickers we got through a separate deal) go directly to the scarsonbroadway.com site and check out the many offers available.

More awesome Scars On Broadway swag! Be sure to shop scarsonbroadway.com for all the ‘Direct from Daron’ stuff. Help him help the world recognize the Armenian genocide. Photo taken at Coming Age HQ

Better yet, if you can get to one of their upcoming gigs, DO SO! If he were coming anywhere near our outcast burg, we’d be seeing him.

The many formats of Dictator including some sweet colored vinyl. Photo courtesy of scarsonbroadway.com

He still owes us for that cancelled gig. Aw screw it! This album MORE than makes up for that!

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: