There’s always that awkward moment a few months after a band goes on hiatus or breaks up that members of the band start pursuing their own separate projects, and there is none as nerve-wracking as when the front man chooses to create a solo album. In 2006 that band was System of a Down, and that front man was Serj Tankian. Out of the hiatus also appeared guitarist Daron Malakian and drummer John Dolmayan with Scars on Broadway – a band whose music was very much in the moment, which probably explains why they only lasted a moment. Luckily, Tankian was fairly successful with his first solo compilation Elect the Dead, cashing in on the signature Armenian rock twist of System as well as his own haunting, R-rolling vocals. His second album, Imperfect Harmonies, moves away from the front man and promotes the solo artist, with Serj filling each song with his own unique and at times operatic sound.
It’s going to be difficult, when you first listen to tracks like “Disowned inc.” and “Borders Are”, not to think that you’re listening to some sort of dark, futuristic rock opera. But don’t be frightened, and don’t start pulling out your headphones – this is what makes the album pure, concentrated freshly squeezed Tankian. There’s an element of intense drama that runs throughout the album that will, on occasion, resemble some symphonic metal bands (think bands like Nightwish), which is pretty high risk as the alternative rock element at times gets lost in the mix. There are a lot more slower pace than fast paced songs, including “Beatus” and “Reconstructive Demonstration” – songs which also introduce a heavy amount of effects and synthesisers in the place of Serj’s usual backing band from Elect the Dead. All of this is very impressive, but it lacks that certain spice that makes Tankian such a unique and revered vocalist; and just when you think you could set the pace of the entire album to a very slow metronome, Tankian hits the accelerator with “Electron”, “Peace be Revenged” and “Left of Center”, the 1st and 3rd of which both a more heavily rock influenced flavour after being dipped in some guitar and drum parts which will be warmly welcomed by System fans. But this is by no means an album for people looking for a trip down memory lane, as they will be sorely disappointed. When Tankian puts his mind to elevating the magnitude of his music, he certainly pulls no punches, and it seems like this could result in more old school fans falling by the wayside. However, the philosophical lyrics and the unavoidable strength of this collection as a standalone album will doubtless keep many fans loyal, as well as scooping up a few new ones. In short, Imperfect Harmonies is most definitely another string to Tankian’s bow, as opposed to being another nail in his musical coffin, and more than anything reflects his command and more importantly staying power as a solo artist.