Serj Tankian – Orca Symphony No. 1 album review

I recall seeing a full page photograph of Serj Tankian standing in front of a fridge full of mason jars, and those mason jars packed tight with various strands of marijuana. Keep this in mind when you come to understand that Serj’s side project from System of a Down appears in the form of a full orchestra. Orca. Hah. Get it? I’m sure it took quite the epiphany to think of that one.

Off we go to a nu-metal stoner’s classical playground. It might not be any particular genre here, actually sometimes the Acts (1-4 instead of a song structure) change style in very off putting ways. However leaving the alternating styles to chance Orca does occasionally get a lucky roll. It always sounds as if we, the listener, are getting snippets of his favorite film scores here and there and then indulgent but playful excursions of someone with the power of an orchestra to play whatever they want. Admittedly that power would probably be a very gleeful place to mess around, so I can’t blame Serj for doing his thing. It wont, however, hold up to people with much more experience composing, conducting, and perhaps better and more numerous musicians. It wouldn’t stand out as ADHD musings if delivered via 30 second commercial spots or dramatic scenes on some TV show, but that’s not quite a ringing endorsement for something you are considering purchasing, though, is it?

Surprisingly there is no guitar track to be found on the album. The project exists in its own space, and depending on a few factors it could have been better or worse with the guitar tracks included. Its probably true that most bands would try to incorporate their old sound with the new so maybe it avoided being more generic. On the other hand, had the guitars been included, Orca would stand a better chance at having its own identity instead of just being the records of what kind of luxuries you can afford as a rich more-or-less-retired-but-tours-sometimes musician.

Is it worth the time spent listening to it? I doubt many people would be annoyed by the album except for the classically trained musician wincing at wasted opportunities and poor decisions in the composition. Its not going to reach out to anyone because its existence is only really meaningful to System of a Down fans, and I can imagine them being lukewarm about it. I get the feeling that Serj would be a big fan of this though. I bet Serj listens to Orca on repeat in his luxury sedan. Oh Serj.

By Keith Roberts

Keith is a writer, guitarist, and hobby producer out of the Greater Boston area.

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