I’ve been a longtime fan of Serj Tankian and his antics as a political provocateur extraordinaire, even his somewhat divisive solo efforts during the half decade hiatus of System of a Down. One of the largest criticisms of Serj’s solo work has been its similarity to System’s previous albums. The criticism was somewhat true of his first work, “Elect the Dead”, though by the time 2010’s “Imperfect Harmonies” dropped, it held a lot less merit as Serj branched further into his trademark, shall we say, weirdness, as he embraced discordant pianos, drum machines, and electronic samples. But one thing both albums had in common was a rather grandiose and operatic feel.

All that background is for naught if his new single “Figure It Out” is any indication. Gone are the sweeping strings and haunting backgrounds, replaced by blazing, crunchy metal guitars, driving muddy bass (think “Streamline” off System’s Steal This Album) and pounding drums. Serj, meanwhile, spends equal parts singing in his trademark nasal vibrato and rambling like a maniac (a talent woefully under-utilized in past solo efforts). The lyrics aren’t what you’d call subtle (the chorus is “Why pretend that we don’t know/CEOs are the disease”), but Serj has a way of being blunt without seeming artless.

It’s just a single track so far, but based on his recent comments, gives us a good taste of Serj’s upcoming album Harakiri, which he claims will have a heavily apocalyptic feel. “The record is different than any I’ve made as a solo artist,” says Serj. “It is much more driving and punk oriented with influences ranging from goth to electronic to 80’s vibes, dynamically heavy rock to epic melodic songs. Lyrically, it spans the gauntlet of themes from personal, political and philosophical to spiritual, humor and love.”

Those that appreciated Serj’s previous outings may be in for a shock, but fans of early System of a Down who always wished the band branched out in a harder direction are in for a treat, it seems. We’ll have a full review when the self-produced album drops on July 10.

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