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Daron Malakian and Scars on Broadway rock with a purpose

… Something sorely needed these days

When Rage Against The Machine broke up, System of A Down was there to pick up the mantle and continue to rock with a purpose. Now, I miss SOAD as much as I miss RATM, and maybe even a little more. Daron Malakian (former SOAD guitarist) and Scars on Broadway (his post-SOAD band) don’t quite have the cutting political edge that SOAD had, but they definitely are a kindred spirit, as well as a kindred sound. In fact, Malakian and SOB sound more like SOAD than Serj Tankian does, outside of his instantly recognizable and iconic voice. While nothing will compare to a new album from a reunited SOAD, Malakian’s new album Dictator gets about as close as we are going to get.

The new 12 new songs on Dictator were, reportedly, written by Malakian back in 2012 and “then shelved, thinking System might record them.” Obviously, that hasn’t happened so here they are. Honestly? They are great by themselves as Malakian is an accomplished vocalist himself, but they would have made a great SOAD album had Tankian and the rest been involved. At this point, anything good released by any former member of SOAD is welcome and, also at this point in our politically divisive times, necessary.

Yeah, Tom Morello is about to drop a new album of songs with a whole host of guest stars that will undoubtedly be progressively political, but his riffs and songwriting, as noble as it may be, are beginning to sound dated. Malakian still sounds fresh, mostly because he loops into his repertoire a more varied, albeit straightforward, guitar sound. His rhythms are much more interesting at this point as well. The swing and sway of songs, like “Till The End”, makes use of rhythms that Morello never could. The staccato riffs of “Lives” recalls the best of SOAD, but employs lyrics that are more poetic and subtle in their danger (to the fascistic elements rearing their ugly heads in America, and around the world, right now) than they are straightforwardly confrontational. Especially since they celebrate the survivors of the Armenian genocide. What the progressive elements in society, and music, need right now are the type of statements that Malakian is making, not because they are properly just, but because they are properly intelligent and thought provoking.

Malakian can be blatantly straightforward though. Dictator isn’t quite old school Bono-level socio-political poetics throughout. Title track “Dictator” is about as blunt as one can get, and as catchy as anything that SOAD released at any point in their career. “F**k and Kill” recalls the slightly insane lyrical poetics that SOAD often traded in and smartly samples Middle Eastern rhythms and riffs throughout while rocking as hard as any track on the album. “Guns Are Loaded” mimics “Lost in Hollywood”, one of Malakian’s many shining moments with SOAD. “We Won’t Obey”, despite its obvious title, is a standout moment of resistance on the album, and not just to POTUS 45, but to everything from vapid entertainment to anti-environmentalism.

Politically progressive aggro rock will always have a place in pop culture, but rarely is it done as well as Malakian does it… both now and then. The funniest thing is that hearing these familiar yet new sounding songs that harken back to SOAD’s heyday during the Bush years actually stokes a nostalgia for them. It’s amazing how far America’s political fortunes have fallen, huh?  

 

Release Date: July 20th

Record Label: Scarred for Life

Scars on Broadway Facebook

Scars on Broadway Official Site

@scarsonbroadway

Carolina's based writer/journalist Andy Frisk love music, and writing, and when he gets to intermingle the two he feels most alive. Covering concerts and albums by both local and national acts, Andy strives to make the world a better place and prove Gen X really can still save the world.

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