For whatever reason, be it anti-piracy concerns or tongue in cheek, the promo copies of "Elect The Dead" shipped to press for review were done so under the moniker of Smart Talk. A rather amusing subterfuge given the blunt political tirades and off-center lyrical content that make up this, the debut solo album from System Of A Down frontman Serj Tankian.
Unlike Serart, Tankian's previous venture outside of System Of A Down, "Elect The Dead" is not an album that boldly distances itself. In fact, sans the absence of System Of A Down guitarist/vocalist Daron Malakian, the bulk of the material here could easily fit into a collection of b-sides and such from the band.
Where "Elect The Dead" does differ itself is its focus on balladry and moderate tempos; taking on a somewhat modern day Ziggy Stardust-like abstract approach where humble earthy warmth replaces coked out decadence. Helping him achieve this are the various melodic embellishments which surface in the form of cellos, violins, synth and a wealth of other instrumentation which reinforce the rigid instrumental basics of the songs.
Truthfully though, one would expect a man as storied and as well, generally weird, as Tankian to fully go off the deep end in some Mike Patton-esque self-indulgence, and yet this never happens. Instead, Tankian stays well-adjusted. Sure, his colorful quirkiness does make its way into a number of the songs along with some bizarre, if not affable, pitch changes and upbeat parts, but his feet barely leave the ground.
This solid progression does admittedly make for a few duller songs, but even they remain more engaging than the tired schlock 90% of the other bands out right now see fit to continually shovel out. Tankian for president? Not yet. But it is quite interesting to see just how much of his input actually forms the backbone of System Of A Down; not to mention see him tackle songs that don't consistently erupt into adrenalized wackiness.
(4 / 5)