Tankian’s iconic voice is fantastic enough when paired with the rest of System of a Down, but both his voice and musical style all but explode when he’s on his own. Each album, including his latest, “Harakiri,” is a public statement of a personal opinion. Tankian has never shied away from controversy in his music, and he certainly doesn’t now.
Each track focuses on a different topic, and Tankian does a good job of making each one sound different (either drastically or subtly) both musically and vocally. “Figure It Out” is an angry track with rapping, screaming, synthesized voices and repetition with a drum-heavy backing track. This song chides listeners for either not recognizing or ignoring that big companies and their CEOs (specifically in the United States) are controlling/attempting to control politics by donating to/bribing party leaders.
A much different track to look out for is “Reality TV,” which uses vivid imagery and mocking vocals to illustrate the falseness and utter stupidity of reality television and our obsession with it, as well as to openly denounce it with lyrics such as, “I abhor the whore who calls herself reality, reality TV.” His stance couldn’t get more obvious than that.
The best track on the album is, by far, the title track, “Harakiri.” Tankian doesn’t make fun of anything, doesn’t scream, or rap; he laments. And as preachy as his lyrics are, there’s a certain poetry to them, especially in this track. He talks about mass animal deaths (specifically the over-8,000 drum fish that washed up dead in Arizona in 2011, and the 5,000 red wing blackbirds in another part of Arizona who all “fell” from the sky on New Year’s Eve a few days later). He alludes to our cities and skyscrapers, increasing levels of pollution, how we’ve gone astray as a race in general. Then, while he’s making all these claims, he speaks on how we are both creating these problems and ignoring them, leaving them for the future generations to deal with. And, while his words are very pointed and accusing, it feels more like he’s just trying to express what’s weighing him down than actually call us all out. It’s a very powerful track.
Basically, if you don’t mind being preached to for 11 tracks, get the album. It is incredible to listen to, diverse in sound and, depending on your personal ethos, might even ring true to your own ideals.