CD Review: Marty Friedman - Loudspeaker
Marty Friedman is best known as Megadeth's lead guitarist from Rust in Peace until Risk. However, his solo career, while inconsistent, has been perhaps even more interesting. Before Megadeth, he was in Cacophony with fellow shredder Jason Becker. Cacophony was one of the most over-the-top bands ever; its poor singer was merely a placeholder as Friedman and Becker duked it out with eye-popping neoclassical shredding.
Friedman went solo on 1988's Dragon's Kiss, a must-have for any fan of instrumental shred guitar. It featured wacky tonalities, wild thrash, inspired drumming from Deen Castronovo, and some of metal's tallest hair ever.
The big curveball came with 1992's Scenes, a Japanese new age album with production by Kitaro. Of course, it threw Megadeth fans for a loop; however, hints of such tonalities had appeared on Dragon's Kiss. Introduction continued on this new age path, while True Obsessions mixed in some truly wretched vocals. Friedman got back to rock on 2002's Music for Speeding, which featured uptempo raveups with hi-octane leads and layered, often cheeky production (imagine "Dance Dance Revolution" with shredding).
Loudspeaker is supposed to be Friedman's most aggressive album yet. It's not. The album's first riff promises great things with some straight-up thrash. However, it leads to Joe Satriani-style melodic rock that's catchy, but makes no sense next to the thrash. That's the album's blueprint – bait with an edgy riff, switch to a pop chord progression with some shredding, then back to the edgy riff, and so on. Some of the edgy riffs are fun – "Black Orchid" opens with a blatant Ramones homage – but Friedman's riffs frankly aren't special. They're more setups for shredding than meaningful hooks.
Friedman is a pop star in Japan now, with his own TV show and many guest appearances on J-pop albums. This has definitely rubbed off on his playing. The pop chord progressions have a computer game/cartoon feel, and even ballads like "Coloreas Mi Vida" feel like closing credits music rather than genuine expressions of emotion.
This album is too perfect; its production is big and glossy, the songs are safe and predictable, and Friedman's playing takes no risks. True, few can play so fluidly, tastefully, and melodically. However, compared to Dragon's Kiss, which burst with idiosyncrasies and dizzying tangents, this album is little more than music for adverts. It signifies rock, instead of actually rocking.