There are few truly original bands within modern-day metal and System On A Down is one of them. The creative minds behind System Of A Down were undoubtedly vocalist Serj Tankian and guitarist Daron Malakian. Given that Tankian often trades off vocals in System Of A Down, and that his work with Scars On Broadway tends to sound more like System than Tankian’s solo efforts, it has never been clear who the true creative force behind System Of A Down is. However, we ought to be able to agree that System Of A Down’s recent announcement of its first U.S. shows in 3 years is an exciting thing.

For the immediate future, Malakian is set to release a new Scars On Broadway full-length — titled Dictator — as set for release on July 20th. While the name is billed as a Scars On Broadway LP, Malakian reportedly played all instruments and sang all vocals on Dictator. “Lives” was the first single released off the album, featuring an “Immigrant Song”-esque guitar riff in the verses. The buzz on “Lives” was immediate, as evidenced by Rolling Stone naming it as one of its “Songs Of The Summer.” “Lives” starts off Dictator in a great way, giving you the simultaneous hookiness, heavyness and weirdness that one would hope for from a Malakian-related project.

Check out “Lives” by Scars On Broadway, the first single off Dictator

The title track, “Dictator,” sounds like typical System Of A Down fare in the verses and bridge yet carries Skid Row–style guitar riffage in its intro and chorus. “Never Forget” has an interesting Farfisa-like riff at the beginning song, which matches with with a surf rock lead guitar tone and gives the song a feel that would make Dick Dale proud. “Till Then” uniquely carries a 6/8 time signature — for reference, listen to “Suzanne” by Weezer — and is probably the closest I have heard Malakian come to writing a love song. “Gie Mou” reminds me of something that Radiohead would have written for OK Computer, resembling the beginning of “Subterranean Homesick Alien,” and I mean that in a great way. “Sickening Wars” and “Angry Guru” give you more of what you would expect from System with shout-along choruses and lots of high-hat action.

While I would prefer a new System Of A Down album to another Scars On Broadway collection, it is great to see Daron Malakian continuing to take chances. He has a distinct approach to songwriting to the point that you most likely know a song has been written by him within seconds of first hearing it. The man wrote, recorded and produced Dictator in a 10-day period — according to its press release, at least — so I would expect new music from Malakian, and that is a great thing.

A video about the making of Dictator

Dictator Track Listing:

01. Lives
02. Angry Guru
03. Dictator
04. F**k And Kill
05. Guns Are Loaded
06. Never Forget
07. Talkin S**t
08. Till The End
09. We Won’t Obey
10. Sickening Wars
11. Gie Mou
12. Assimiliate

Run Time: 45 minutes
Release Date: July 20, 2018
Record Label: Scarred For Life