Daron Malakian & Scars On Broadway Dictator

2018 Scarred For Life

Newer name, older songs...

Daron Malakian & Scars On Broadway - Dictator


When it comes to “Dictator“, it’s hard to properly comprehend what one is hearing without knowing a bit of the backstory. Masterminded by System Of A Down‘s primary songwriter Daron Malakian, this sophomore album from Scars On Broadway was originally recorded and expected to arrive back in 2012.

According to Malakian, he decided to put the album on the shelf in case he wanted to repurpose some of the song ideas from “Dictator” for a then potential new album from System Of A Down. Roughly a decade of a creative/financial impasse in that outfit later, he has scrapped that idea and thus “Dictator” has finally made its way to the masses.

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One big change this time around from the band’s debut however is the absence of Malakian‘s System Of A Down bandmate John Dolmayan on drums. Dolmayan exited Scars back in 2012 around the time the group went on hiatus. Rather than work without outside musicians for this effort, Malakian proceeded to take on the reigns of all the instrumental duties, drums included.

Of course a lesser change would be the band’s new name: Daron Malakian And Scars On Broadway. With Malakian being the sole member on this album, it does seem like a bit of a mouthful—if not an ego stroke—but here we are. That said, those impatiently awaiting an album from System Of A Down will find much to enjoy here as this album is certainly cut from the same cloth.

Indeed, much of the DNA that makes up System Of A Down is present; Far more so than Scars On Broadway‘s 2008 self-titled debut. But that’s not to say that this album is a stepping on System‘s toes, rather that Malakian‘s input is just so readily identifiable.

An immediate standout that hits early on is “Angry Guru“. The bouncy riff-heavy momentum it possesses coupled with colorfully non sequitur lyrics and an infectious chorus make it instantly memorable. Then there’s the early singles like “Lives” and “Dictator“, which take on an energetic bent with a rock oriented, hard driving feel. Though penned roughly six years ago, the lyrical content of those two tracks in particular remains depressingly prescient amid recent events in Armenia and the United States.

On a lighter note, “Talkin Shit“—a churning stoner anthem of sorts that first surfaced online roughly 8 years ago—finally receives a proper release on this effort. Meanwhile, tracks like “Never Forget” and “Till The End“, which adopt a more restrained melodic rock bent, recall songs like “Lonely Day” from System Of A Down‘s “Mezmerize“/”Hypnotize” saga.

While much of this album does fall within the confines of the kooky, manic metal/rock hybrid that Malakian has made his wheelhouse throughout his career, there is one unexpected turn to be found. That arrives late in the record via the bouzouki-inspired instrumental cover of the Greek track “Gie Mou“.

It’s also worth mentioning that it’s not all meat and potatoes here as the occasional emergence of some unconventional ethnic instrumentation can be found throughout the album as well.

All in all, “Dictator” stands as a surprisingly contagious experience that holds the attention thanks to its trademark eccentricity and hell-bent pace. One drawback however comes in the form of Malakian‘s playing. His guitar work remains uniquely recognizable and energizing and his vocals—while an acquired taste— are wholly expressive and inventive. However, there’s a distinct lack of flair in the rhythm section. While entirely competent, a noticeable lack of identity in the bass and an absence of flourishes and creative fills in the drums does stick out.

That said, there’s little disputing that Malakian is an accomplished musician and succeeds at chewing through nearly all of what he’s bit off here. Those who didn’t appreciate his increased vocal input on the final(?) two System Of A Down records are unlikely to be swayed. But those that did will have a ‘new’ collection of quirky rock & metal anthems to have stuck in their head for some time to come that will make the longing for new System even more painful.

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