With the glut of "String Tribute To" albums floating around out in the world, an orchestral version of an album is typically just cause to run in the other direction. That said, the orchestral version of Elect the Dead is a welcome re-imagining of the System of a Down frontman’s solo debut. On Elect the Dead Symphony, Serj Tankian worked with composer John Psathas and the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra to convert the album from biting prog rock to an elegant symphony that was performed live in Auckland, New Zealand in 2009. Thanks to the singer’s prog leanings, the album translates surprisingly well from one medium to another, bridging the already short gap between progressive rock and classical music. The sweeping orchestral score is able to cast the songs in an entirely new light, combining perfectly with Tankian’s manic vocals to create a greater sense of drama. “Feed Us” and “Lie Lie Lie” are transformed from rock songs into surging orchestral epics, starting out quietly and growing increasingly grandiose as the songs build themselves up. On top of the songs from Elect the Dead, Symphony also features a number of previously unreleased tracks, making this one a must-have for SOAD/Tankian completists. All in all, Symphony is a stunning piece of work that really showcases Tankian’s creativity and versatility, substituting aggression for beauty to turn the album into a work that is simultaneously familiar and completely new.
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AllMusic Review by Gregory Heaney