These days, any rocker worth his (or her) salt has a side project. But with System of a Down on hiatus, Scars on Broadway—the new band co-founded by guitarist/vocalist Daron Malakian and drummer John Dolmayan—is the pair’s main creative outlet. Heartbroken SOAD fans should find much to like about the band’s self-titled debut, though.
Besides the fact that Malakian’s vocals are nearly as manic and expressive as Serj Tankian’s—jackhammer-to-the-head highlight “Stoner Hate” is a particularly dizzying display—Broadway features plenty of gnarled prog-punk and modern rock in the vein of SOAD’s best-known anthems (“Whoring Streets,” “Insane,” “Kill Each Other/Live Forever”). Unsurprisingly, casual listeners will find the band’s quivering vocals and fret acrobatics hard to take, and over the course of an album, the in-your-face energy and corrugated riffs are grating and monotonous. But Broadway shines when Malakian and Dolmayan channel this chaos into robust creativity.
“Chemicals” is a demonic slice of electronica in the vein of Mindless Self Indulgence that features a come-hither chorus of “Come eat some chemicals with me,” while “Enemy” begins as corrugated dance-funk before devolving into a dreamy space-rock interlude with the refrain, “We are on drugs, we are on drugs.” Malakian also shows off a nice bluesy edge to his voice on woozy ballad “3005,” which hints that Scars on Broadway has plenty of room to grow and improve in the future
The bottom line: ***