July 16, 2018 Daron Malakian and Scars On Broadway – Dictator (Album Review)
One of the foremost recognizable voices burned into the Modern Heavy Metal age, Guitarist/Producer/Songwriter and Co-Vocalist in System Of A Down, Daron Malakian assisted in coining arguably the most controversial and demented music ever made, enrapturing Metal fans at the turn of the century.
In 2008, Malakian introduced fans to his solo project, dubbed Daron Malakian and Scars On Broadway, via the eponymous debut album Scars On Broadway. Arriving one week shy of their debut album’s tenth anniversary, Daron Malakian and Scars On Broadway return, releasing the long-awaited sophomore album, Dictator, on Friday, July 20, 2018 independently.
A native of the west coast, Malakian was born in Hollywood, California where at an early age the impressionable youth became hypnotized and mesmerized, if you will, by Heavy Metal music thanks to legends like KISS. As a songwriter, Malakian cites songwriting god John Lennon as one of his biggest influences along with everyone from Folk heroes Peter, Paul, and Mary to Thrash Metal warriors Slayer having an impact on the guitarists musical evolution.
In 1993, Malakian found a musical comrade in Serj Tankian and the pair would eventually form System Of A Down, a name based on one of Malakian’s poems, alongside Bassist Shavo Odadjian and Drummer John Dolmayan. Launched by the Rock radio single “Sugar,” System Of A Down released their debut album, 1998’s System Of A Down, and the band slowly began drawing a rabid interest from the Metal community thanks to Tankian and Malakian’s alluring dynamics and diverse vocal abilities layered with a unique formula of crushing and melodic guitar riffs.
A force to be reckoned with, System Of A Down released one of the greatest Heavy Metal albums ever in 2001, Toxicity, garnering a number of smash singles like “Chop Suey!,” “Toxicity,” and “Aerials.” System Of A Down’s next three albums, 2002’s Steal This Album!, and, duo 2005 releases, Mezmerize and Hypnotize, kept the fires burning. Let the records show, the Grammy Award winning System Of A Down has sold more than 31 million albums across the globe and has seen three releases debut at No. 1 on the Billboard Top 200 Albums Chart. An underrated talent, Malakian played vital roles on all five System Of A Down albums, co-producing each collection alongside famed Producer Rick Rubin. Not only this, but Malakian ranked 40th on Loudwire’s Top 50 Greatest Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Guitarists of all-time, a testament to Malakian’s unhinged and awe-inspiring playing ability.
Circa 2005/2006, Malakian formed Scars On Broadway, went on to release the aforementioned self-titled debut LP in 2008, and played Coachella later that year. Sadly, there was a lack of interest in the band and Malakian’s desire to tour had wained causing the project to go on hiatus by the end of the year. In the time since, Malakian has performed sporadically, last seen on stage joining the surviving members of Linkin Park at the Hollywood Bowl to celebrate the life of the late Chester Bennington in October 2017. Malakian has also made appearances in the studio on tracks with the likes of Cypress Hill and Linkin Park.
As 2018 rolls along, social media rumblings have grown rampant regarding whether or not System Of A Down have recorded new music or if the band will ever release new material. Though System Of A Down are scheduled to return for a few U.S. shows this fall, its anyone’s guess whether or not a new album from the full band will see the light of day anytime soon. A light at the end of the tunnel, Daron Malakian and Scars On Broadway has been resurrected to feed the hungry souls screaming for new music from System Of A Down by way of Dictator.
In addition to vocal duties, Malakian plays all instruments on Dictator, an album which commemorates the 103rd anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, a tragedy bestowed by the Ottoman Empire to erase the Armenian people taking 1.5 million lives. Malakian, who is of Armenian descent, has lost family members to this Genocide, and dedicates his life to raising awareness including through Dictator.
The first single and video off Dictator, “Lives” opens the door for discussion as Malakian sings of living a good life and being proud of his culture regardless of tyranny. The music video, produced by Hayk Matevosyan, visually brings to life the tradition of Armenian Folk dance and costume paying tribute to Armenia’s plentiful history. True to his word, Malakian is donating a portion of proceeds from the single to the Armenia Fund, a non-profit out of Los Angeles, California, who provides humanitarian aide. Ready to refuse the iron hand, “Angry Guru” and “Dictator” call for the dethroning of corrupt and evil leaders.
“Fuck and Kill” shifts from straight-up Rock to Malakian’s creeping trademark guitar melodies and ends in a high-pitched scream. The darkest of all the tracks, “Guns Are Loaded” sees a gravely slow and somber tone switch to heavy, melodic, and dark riffs as Malakian essentially sings about being backed into a corner with only one way out (“All the broken glass reminds me of home.“) Next, “Never Forget” embodies all the good and bad before the two-faced “Talkin’ Shit,” and, sticking together at all costs,”Till The End.”
Preserving freedom, “We Won’t Obey” gifts an opening riff of early ’80s Metal while “Sickening Wars” holds a cannon size drum beat. An instrumental, “Gie Mou” is like a lead into the close of a movie that may not end well. In one last fearful scream, “Assimilate” digests what is happening and adapts to the situation.
As Daron Malakian and Scars On Broadway return to face the Dictator, so much more is brought to light than simply new music from a member of System Of A Down. Throughout the course of Dictator, Malakian sings with hope but also a fearful blank stare reflective of how difficult an ordeal this fight remains. Musically consistent, Malakian forges ahead via his signature Middle Eastern phrased riffs, both solemn and combative, with, at times, hostile riffing.
Deeply felt, listeners will be taken back by the dark, resistive, and gutsy nature of Dictator while learning the true struggles of Armenia. For these reasons, CrypticRock gives Dictator 4 out of 5 stars.