EP REVIEW: Serj Tankian – Elasticity
Photo Credit: George Tonikian
Since System of a Down’s debut in 1994, Serj Tankian has become one of the most iconic frontmen in modern metal music, and for good reason! You’d be hard pressed to find someone that doesn’t know of the signature vocal run in the opening to Chop Suey!, from some memes if not from the track itself. Calling Tankian just a singer and frontman would be doing him a severe injustice, as he’s done everything from painting and poetry to political activism, the latter of which he is very passionate about.
As such, whenever he releases new material, regardless of whether it’s under the SoaD moniker or not, you’re bound to expect something that reflects his multilateral artistry. After the band released the Protect the Land / Genocidal Humanoidz single during the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh War, marking their first new songs in 15 years, hopes had once again risen that the quartet may release a new studio album. Those hopes were quickly dashed away, however, as the creative differences between Tankian and guitarist and vocalist Daron Malakian, which had made releasing new music an impossibility, were left unresolved yet again. This led Tankian to repurpose the songs he’d been saving for a potential SoaD record – enter: Elasticity.
Marking the first studio release (that wasn’t a soundtrack or a single) in over five years, the Elasticity EP immediately reminds the listener of Tankian’s vocal brilliance from the first synth-filled notes of its opening track, Elasticity. No one else does random vocal runs such as “Pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa, where are you going, baby? What are you saying? Da-da-da-da-da-da-da” like him, and that’s why we love him.
For all of the randomness of (some of) Elasticity’s lyrics, however, the vocalist’s lyrical prowess isn’t to be questioned, as the other three songs on this EP prove that he doesn’t shy away from any difficult topics. A perfect example of this is during How Many Times, a track which shifts from foreboding pianos to hard-hitting guitars accompanying Tankian as he wails, “Death screams goodbye, we belong to the night”. Conversely, Your Mom uses tongue-in-cheek humour to condemn religious extremism, while its opening strongly evokes SoaD classic Lonely Day, and the track’s midpoint suddenly ushers in some Middle Eastern rhythms and vocal melodies.
It’s worth mentioning, however, that the two aforementioned songs, joined up by energic EP closer Electric Yerevan are the ones that resemble the System of a Down style the most. The heavier instrumentals, coupled with Tankian’s harmonised vocals, the Middle Eastern motifs sprinkled here and there, and most importantly the politically infused lyrics, all add up to the ‘classic’ SoaD formula – all that’s missing is Daron Malakian’s vocals. The only ones that take a different turn are the title-track, and Rumi, a song which is both about the poet and Tankian’s son. While it tends to be more of a piano-driven ballad, it’s not long before the expected guitars kick back in, just in time to drive the chorus to its crescendo.
So, is Serj Tankian’s new EP any good? In short: yeah, we’d say so! Elasticity is a good mix of the singer’s signature vocal wails and captivating yet intriguing lyrics, as well as sounds you’d expect both from his usual solo material and System of a Down. If you don’t like Tankian’s vocal style, this definitely won’t sway you, but if you do, then you’ll most likely love this five-song package. Finally, to go out on a high note, we’d like to finish with some solid advice extracted from Rumi, courtesy of Papa Serj: “be the change you want to see and be the [man] you want to be”.
Standout Tracks: Elasticity, How Many Times, Your Mom, Electric Yerevan
For Fans Of: System of a Down, Daron Malakian, Scars on Broadway
Written by: Florin Petrut