All I can think when listening to Marty Friedman’s new release Inferno is “Fiiiiiiiiiinally!” From the first song I realized just how much I’ve missed this guy in American metal. And it’s not just that I’m a huge fan of Cacophony or that I felt he was the only thing making Megadeth’s music listenable. What I’ve really been missing is that signature flair Marty always brought to his music, that neoclassical flavor and obvious mastery of the guitar. It’s something I don’t hear often enough these days.
Inferno isn’t just an hour of guitar wanking without a point. There are some serious songwriting chops on display here and a lot of variety given the number of collaborators involved. Each song is distinct in theme and feel with Freidman’s guitar as greatest common factor, his signature style adapted to the character of each song at large. On Inferno you will get thrash, neoclassical, speed, shred, jazz, metalized flamenco, good ol’ fashioned hard rock and more.
The blazing sea of notes is changed up on three tracks, “I Can’t Relax” (featuring Danko Jones), “Sociopaths” (featuring David Davidson of Revocation and “Lycanthrope” (featuring Alexi Laiho of Children of Bodom and Danko Jones). It’s a happy coincidence, but I’ve previously compared Davidson’s style to Friedman’s in reviews of Revocation’s albums. And if you ever wanted to know what Children of Bodom would sound like with Friedman on guitar, that’s pretty much what “Lycanthrope” sounds like.
One of the other highlights on the album is “Horrors,” co-written by Jason Becker. It’s pretty much everything I’d expect of the master-minds behind Cacophony if they were still playing together today. It is speed-metal symphony for the new century – simply mind-blowing. “Undertow,” featuring Gregg Bissonette and Tony Franklin was another song that fits really well with the late ’80s material Friedman is associated with. It is definitely more laid-back than “Horrors,” but it is still chock full of that heroic neoclassical shred.
The only hurdle to listening to Inferno cover-to-cover is “Meat Hook,” which features a very unfortunate and jarring saxophone throughout. This is a totally subjective judgment on my part, and I can’t fault the song in any way that relates to it’s content. I just find the sound of saxophones about as pleasant as a screaming demon baby with very few exceptions. That said, it doesn’t come close to ruining the listening experience to me, although I will probably always skip that track.
Inferno definitely ranks in my top five albums released in 2014 so far, and I hope Marty Friedman will continue to be present in the U.S. music scene for those of us who are weary of all the homogeneity in the metal world.
Inferno is out now on Prosthetic Records.
Rating: 4.5/5 Stars