Serj Tankian – Elasticity (EP Review)

The ability to change and adapt is the definition of elasticity, something that Serj Tankian has perfectly orchestrated with his brand new EP, the aptly-titled Elasticity, which arrived on March 19, 2021 via Alchemy Recordings/BMG.

The five-song EP marks the System of a Down vocalist’s first solo release since 2013’s Orca Symphony No. 1. Elasticity consists of tracks written by Tankian that were initially presented to System of a Down for a new album a few years back, however, they were ultimately rejected by the band. With the material in need of a home, Tankian decided to flesh out the songs under his own moniker; changing and adapting the material for his latest collection.

Despite the upbeat, chaotic energy on most tracks, Tankian’s music should not be taken lightly. As an Armenian born in Lebanon and relocated to California, he was introduced to a melting pot of cultures, ideas, and ideals as a young child. This influences and informs the talented musician’s worldview, and political messages of awareness and activism are not infrequent throughout the bulk of Elasticity.

The EP opens to the titular track “Elasticity,” whose non-sensical lyrics and manic outbursts will transport long-time fans back into the Toxicity SOAD days. Hearing Tankian’s quirky sounds and spastic vocals will have listeners captivated, although there is admittedly way more synth than is necessary. But this somehow works within its madness and adds to the enjoyment.

You know what would be a spectacle? “Your Mom!” This track is in your face with hyper-political messages about rallying against radicals and extremists. However, the lyrics are no longer as relevant as when the song was first written, as it was originally conceptualized as a symptom and cure for Isis. This aside, the track stands well on its own and paves the way for Tankian to slow the pace.

Next, Tankian hooks his listeners in with two back-to-back power ballads. “How Many Times” takes off with a delightful piano intro, then throws listeners into a heart-pounding chorus. There is a decent tempo change between verses, bridges, and chorus, but it somehow flows well together. On the other hand, “Rumi,” the melodic piano-led ballad, is a stand-out song. As an emotional track, it has a double meaning; Rumi is the name of Tankian’s son and the poet with the same namesake. Sentimental, powerful, and catchy, “Rumi” is the highlight of Elasticity.

Closing the EP with “Electric Yerevan,” the track dives into the series of Armenian protests against utility prices, hence ‘electric.’ Tankian is as strong as ever throughout the track, though the percussion and guitars are softer and a bit lackluster. In this, it is hard not to think that the instrumental and backing vocals on this track would have been executed differently in the hands of his SOAD bandmates. However, do not let this distract you from enjoying the track.

When all is done and the last note has played, System of a Down fans will get a taste of the album that could have been. Thus, seeing the solo EP as a potential SOAD album will leave listeners yearning for Daron Malakian, Shavo Odadjian, and John Dolmayan. This longing, coupled with the fact that Tankian’s vocals are beginning to show his age—although, what do you expect after performing for almost two decades?—delivers a bittersweet moment. But, at the end of the day, we are grateful to have a glimmer of hope for a future System of a Down record, and we will happily take what we can get from the exceptional frontman. For this, Cryptic Rock gives Elasticity 4 out of 5 stars.

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