Serj Tankian Reworks Solo Work With Elect The Dead Symphony, and Does So Successfully

Not many singers can go from fronting the decade’s most politically driven metal band to performing with a full classical orchestra while still maintaining their signature sound. Serj Tankian not only can, but does so successfully with Elect The Dead Symphony, a CD/DVD that captures Tankian’s performance with the Auckland Philharmonic Orchestra in Auckland, New Zealand last Spring. Featuring twelve classical renditions of songs and b-sides from 2007’s Elect The Dead, as well as two newly written pieces, Tankian takes his voice and music to a different yet familiar realm, further proof of him being rock’s most diverse singer.

While the songs are stripped of their original electric and metal elements, composer John Psathas and the Auckland Philharmonic Orchestra help maintain the music’s grand sound while also adding their own flare. Despite replacing the original heavy guitar rhythms with violins, songs like “Sky Is Falling” display the same beauty and passion captured in its original rock ballad form, while “Honking Antelope” pushes Tankian’s voice and music to a higher emotional level. In some cases, the classical renditions transform the songs into an entirely new life form. “Baby” is transformed from a frantic punk ballad into a heroic ballroom waltz. “Lie, Lie, Lie”, on the other hand, is reshaped into a lighthearted love song better fitted for a Disney soundtrack, a weird but delightful contrast to the original Arabian metal anthem. The orchestra re-works actually make a better fit for certain songs, with the classical rendition of “Saving Us” sounding stronger than the original lackluster mid tempo rock piece first heard.

The true highlight of the live recording, however, is simply hearing Tankian’s voice backed by the orchestra. We knew his voice would blend well with a classical soundtrack, with his solo work already hinting at elements of a classical background. But the true surprise is how Tankian’s sound isn’t restricted by the orchestra. Rather than toning down the volume to his rich voice, Tankian sings with the same energy and emotion as on past recordings. His vigor matched with the orchestra’s beauty makes Elect The Dead Symphony more than just a stripped down version of his catalog. Though the lack of percussion slightly alters the original pace, songs like “Empty Walls” and “Beethoven’s C**t” contain a fire that at some points excel the original versions on Elect The Dead. The new arrangements showcase how Tankian’s unique voice can apply the same adrenaline to any style of music, whether it be classical or metal. For those hard rock elitists who hesitate to acknowledge classical influences as “heavy,” Elect The Dead Symphony will finally open their stubborn eyes.

2 Responses to “Serj Tankian Reworks Solo Work With Elect The Dead Symphony, and Does So Successfully”

  1. Superb review on the CD/DVD .. I really like the way you described Serj’s songs! Well done 😀

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