As years went by Daron Malakian kept taking a bigger and bigger role in the songwriting and sound of System of a Down, so when the main band's hiatus was announced it was natural to expect a solo album. That's very much what this album is, even though it's released under another band moniker. Excluding the drum parts played by SOAD partner John Dolmayan Malakian produces every single note heard on this album.
Mezmerize and Hypnotize took SOAD's music to a more melodic direction with a bit less emphasis on pounding metal riffage and on this album Malakian continues that evolution in his writing. Though opening with the full-on blast of Serious and containing some other chugging pieces like Stoner Hate the album focuses more on a lighter, more rock based approach alternating between faster, heavier and slower, calmer numbers. One of the definite highlights of the album is the second song Funny with its hugely rich melodies and the opening line "funny, how you turned red, when I first said, let's join the dead" which makes one wonder if it's directed towards one or more SOAD bandmates and if the hiatus was mainly Daron's idea.
There isn't one single filler among these 15 songs, but very rarely do they rise to the same level as the flashes of absolute genius that SOAD often showed. From the opening attack of Serious to the closer They Say with its simple unstoppable train-like chord pattern and the dissonant guitar stings the quality is high throughout. Imagine a Serjless SOAD with a somewhat lighter approach and you've got the picture. Malakian has a great singing voice but rather a love-or-hate kind of, so I can understand if some find it a bit tiring when heard for the duration of an entire album. The dynamic interplay between Daron and Serj's voices was one of the biggest merits of the later SOAD albums, and I too do miss it sometimes when listening to this one. Because the sound is after all so close to the main band one automatically makes some comparisons.
If you liked the direction that SOAD was going towards with their latest albums, have a look at this piece of work. It's not quite as good, but nevertheless an excellent proof of Daron Malakian's songwriting and performance abilities. He doesn't need a band around him to make good music.