System of a Down is one of the trickiest bands making music these days for one reason: It's not shy about letting its freak flag fly. Artier and politically sharper than any of its hard-rock contemporaries, SOAD infuses its songs with dashes of wit, grandeur, and bombast. Plus, singer Serj Tankian delivers each and every proclamation like it's a long-lost opera from Wagner's LSD years. On his debut solo album, Tankian piles on weird voices and even weirder sounds. Without System cohort Daron Malakian around to insert bulldozing riffs and to occasionally rein him in, Tankian turns Elect the Dead into his personal playground. Bush is bitch-slapped ("Empty Walls"), society gets scolded ("The Unthinking Majority"), and there's even room for a love song or two. But there's also plenty of caterwauling vocal hysterics that somersault haphazardly over the jagged, jerky rhythms. Be sure to have some aspirin handy.
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