When System of a Down went on indefinite hiatus in 2006, fans unanimously clamored for a more detailed reason as to why, dissatisfied with the band’s official statement of wanting to do different things. However, lead singer Serj Tankian quelled the discontent of the masses with his 2007 solo debut, Elect the Dead. Retaining many of the signature elements that made System great, Elect the Dead was a big hit among fans and satiated them for two years. However, the quirky live album Elect the Dead Symphony was less popular with listeners, who did not understand its purpose or meaning. Meanwhile, Scars of Broadway, the side project of System members Daron Malakian and John Dolmayan, was not as successful as Tankian’s solo work.
These two factors combined led fans to restart the calls for a System reunion. Unfortunately for those hoping to hear more music similar to System from Tankian, the singer’s sophomore solo effort, Imperfect Harmonies, sounds drastically different from Elect the Dead. However, those with open minds might find this to be a good thing, as Tankian takes a huge step into experimental prog rock with his new material.
Imperfect Harmonies is more of a continuation of Elect the Dead Symphony than the original Elect the Dead album, as an orchestra is utilized throughout the entire album as the primary backing music. The orchestral sounds create rich, organic blends of sound that allow songs to flow into and out of each other naturally, creating a full album experience that is most enjoyable when listened to in order from start to finish. Tankian’s lyrics continue to be exceptional, giving the caustic social commentary now expected from him. The most powerful of these songs is “Yes, It’s Genocide”, which isn’t even sung in English, but rather in Armenian.
However, this album does have its miscues that make it sound strange at best and completely muddled at worst. The electronic and synth effects are the worst of these offenses, as they do not combine well with the orchestra. In most places, they come off as either superfluous or clunky additions that are only there for the sake of having them. Also, Tankian’s vocals are not quite as strong as they have been in the past. He stretches his limits further than they should be pushed in many ways. In particular, his attempts to hit high notes are often quite grating, making songs like “Gate 21” almost unlistenable.
If critics and listeners are able to overlook these things, then Imperfect Harmonies can be considered Serj Tankian’s official breakout album. This is where the singer finally separates himself from System of a Down and establishes an identity all his own. This album will not appease those expecting to hear more music similar to System, but Tankian has always stated that his solo work is meant to be taken as a separate entity from his earlier band. Imperfect Harmonies is the record that will hopefully convince everyone to do that. This album will not please everyone, but it is unique when compared to Tankian’s work up to now, and that is what’s best for everyone.