Though he possesses one of the most instantly recognizable singing voices in music, Serj Tankian has still spent the last five years finding his musical "voice" as a solo artist, steadily working his way out of the shadow of his work fronting nü-prog rockers System of a Down. After taking his sound in an increasingly grand direction, an idea that culminated in the singer recasting his debut album with a symphony on Elect the Dead Symphony, Tankian returns to a more direct rock sound with his third album, Harakiri. Filled with political angst, this album feels the most lyrically similar to SOAD, with lines like "sucking seeds is pastime" even serving as direct references to "Toxicity" ("eating seeds is a pastime activity"). With its socially conscious call-to-arms message and frantic, rapid-fire tempo, "Uneducated Democracy" feels like an ideological spiritual successor to that era. Though flashes like these exist all throughout Harakiri, they're not as densely packed as fans of System of a Down will like, offering occasional reminders rather than truly revisiting Tankian's past work. The result of this return to more familiar waters for Tankian is an album that, while certainly more rocking, feels like it has some trouble finding its own sound. Rather than matching the singer's frenetic energy and strangeness, the album seems musically content to pace neutral ground instead of getting out there and exploring the dangerous fringes. All in all, this makes for an album that, despite containing plenty of drama and angst, feels self-restrained by itself, making the whole thing seem conflicted instead of confrontational.
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AllMusic Review by Gregory Heaney