Fish began to wash up on the shores and birds began to fall from the sky all around the globe in massive numbers. Taking this as an omen and expression of natural intuition, musician/poet/activist Serj Tankian observed this spectacular event and was touched emotionally. This was the initial influence behind the writing of the song “Harakiri” (meaning “ritual suicide” in Japanese) and later it became the name of his third solo album. Though he has had quite the year meeting with political leaders, touring with System of a Down, publishing books of poetry, and of course writing, producing, and releasing music, Serj has managed to maintain the quality work we are so used to receiving.
He delivered a sound that we have not heard since his days with SOAD, bringing a hard, dirty, fast-paced political but humorous head rush that is meant to keep your psyche on its toes. Even though this sounds like a classic Tankian creation, it is anything but predictable. Showing his sense of diversity in music, we see him not only experiment with sounds of the Asian culture (i.e. “Ching Chime,” “Reality TV,” and “Harakiri“), but with hip-hop influence, beat-boxing, and electronica (i.e. “Deafening Silence” and “Reality TV“). What really hit home with me was the track “Figure it Out.” Following Serj for as long as I can remember, it seemed to take me back to a time I have not seen in quite a few fortnights. With a bass that could slap and roll a fat lady, a riff that shreds nice and gritty, quick high-hats complimented by abusing the snare, and a beautiful double bass-pedal roll every now and then, and of course lyrics that would even want to make a cow think about rebelling, this song is definitely a flash from the past with a spicy taste of the future.
The album as a whole is structured beautifully. It never seems to wander, stays true to its theme without becoming repetitive, and it seems to calm down when needed reflecting the discipline Serj has in his art. He says that this was his easiest album to write and put together and I believe that is the reason it is so beautiful. Being the politically passionate earthling he is, he has left no room on this product for any nonsense. Each track has enough meaning to fuel a rebel regime that runs their weaponry with renewable resources, and is opposed to corrupt capitalism and blind consumerism. I mean, with lyrics like “In dire need of reason, in a truly deaf nation / Without an education there is no real democracy / Without an education there is only hypocrisy” and “Spare me the night trampled upon by submission / A mask within one’s own inhibition / Where the only prohibition is love,” deepness blends with the metal with such an impressive completeness. But he would not be the Serj we know today without incorporating humor in his works, showing his lighter, crude, imperfect side: “Superbowl, half time / Anytime is war time / Second season is past time / Gonorrhea, overtime / Fuck that it’s bedtime / No more friend of mine / Over the ching chime / Ch-ch cha-ching chime.”
Whether you are looking to head bang and brawl or study some intellectual lyrics with interesting concepts, this album will suit your fancy. Though it may seem bleak, Tankian ensures his fans that he is not bleak but rather very positive, and he wants his listeners to receive that type of message from his music. In fact, we shall be seeing a lot of these uplifting messages for the rest of this year, as this is one of four albums he plans on releasing, along with an electronic-funk album, a jazz album, and of course a classical album. Overall, Harakiri is a very strong release with no filler tracks, making me excited for Serj Tankian’s future and hopefully even a System Of A Down future (fingers will stay crossed).
4 out of 5