Published Jul 17, 2018System of A Down axeman Daron Malakian last released an album from his side project Scars On Broadway a decade ago, following his main band's decision to go on hiatus. Although a sophomore album was originally planned for 2012, it was delayed in case Malakian's main group decided to release a new record. Now the project have finally returned, although with a name and lineup change, to release Dictator.
Lead single "Lives" oozes with later-era System of A Down vibes, and is sure to make any longtime fan stoked about this album from the get-go. "Angry Guru" and "Dictator" follow in the same path, but by this point, it becomes apparent that the record would have made a fantastic comeback album for System of A Down instead of what it is — a diet version of the thing you want.
Although Malakian's vocals are perfectly on point throughout the album, they're missing the back and forth between him and System of A Down vocalist Serj Tankian that made that group so interesting. You can easily imagine how songs like "Sickening Wars" or "Till The End" could have been had they been fully fleshed-out by an entire band instead of Malakian on his own, but they are left feeling incomplete. That isn't to say these songs aren't great, but their potential for being better is evident.
Dictator is a strong release that touches on a lot of the elements of System of A Down's final albums without too many of the quirky moments from those records. Still, it comes across as the comeback record that could have been huge but never happened. (Scarred For Life)