"Empty Walls" by Serj Tankian
Though multi-platinum art-metal politicos System Of A Down announced an extended hiatus in 2006, frontman Serj Tankian hasn't given up the musical ghost. His first solo album, Elect The Dead, explores what SOAD might sound like if Tankian—as comfy on piano and guitar as he is growling and trilling in front of a mic—had complete creative control. Produced at his home studio and played with minimal assistance from other musicians, the album takes SOAD's eclecticism to bizarro extremes that somehow work even when he's interrupting a thrash-metal assault with Tom Waits-esque carnival themes ("The Unthinking Majority") or embracing his inner klezmer wedding band ("Baby"). Unfortunately, as can be expected from a musician used to working in a democracy (and a Rick Rubin-produced one, at that), Tankian hasn't yet mastered the art of editing himself for time: Inspiring as its genre-jumping is in spurts, Elect The Dead gains and loses momentum enough that even fans may not stick around long enough for the best parts.