Backing away from the chaotic time shifts and incredulous dynamics of the multi-platinum System of a Down, drummer John Dolmayan and guitarist/vocalist Daron Malakian (not the goateed singer, the other one) dial everything back for their self-titled debut, Scars on Broadway. The prog metal Eastern scales and operatic outbursts are left behind, replaced by typical modern rock song structures and straightforward chord changes. This isn't to say that it doesn't rock hard. "Stoner Hate" shares the machine-gun delivery and rapid fury of Mezmerize's "BYOB," "Cute Machines" would make Queens of the Stone Age blush, and "Serious" changes swiftly from a verse spit with the intensity of Johnny Rotten to a dazzling chorus in the high controlled register of Geddy Lee. While Malakian's style of singing is more subdued and, say, elfish than Serj Tankian's, he proves himself a strong vocalist with great capacity for developing a harmonious hook and a keen melody in the midst of a spastic beat. On the more restrained numbers, diverse arrangements keep the songs interesting. Retro synths and drum machines embellish key moments throughout, and slide guitar and organ turn "3005" into a pseudo rock ballad that mellows out the grit nicely. Unfortunately, campy lyrics will taint the experience for many, dividing listeners into two camps: those who get the joke and those who don't. "Chemicals"' "Fuck the world, let's get ready to rock/As I piss on your face, while you're sucking my cock" could easily be construed as misogynistic rather than satirical (for good reason), and "Enemy"'s "We're on drugs, we're on drugs, baby, we're all on drugs" could be taken as a sophomoric goof rather than a provocative statement (for good reason as well). That's OK -- fans of System's earlier work will be used to their unique brand of lyricism by now and will be more impressed with the band's ability to make a solid assortment of songs in a toned-down genre. Even with half the members.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Jason Lymangrover