1. Saturation Point
2. Dragon Mistress
3. Evil Thrill
4. Namida (Tears)
7. Forbidden City
8. Thunder March
|More Marty Friedman solo:
True Obsessions (1997)
|Marty With Others:
Megadeth - Rust In Peace (1990)
Megadeth - Symphony of Destruction (1992)
Megadeth - Youthanasia (1994)
Cacophony - Speed Metal Symphony (1986)
|After leaving Hawaii, Marty Friedman intended to start a solo project, and he subsequently began writing material for it. Marty met Jason Becker before any contracts were signed and was so impressed by the then sixteen year old's guitar playing that he asked Jason to join him in a band which was later called Cacophony. Cacophony were short lived, starting around 1986 and for some unjust reason, separating in 1988, after only about two years, having only released two albums. The solo work that the two Cacophony guitarists recorded in the year that Cacophony split, Perpetual Burn from Jason and Dragon's Kiss from Marty, can be seen almost as Cacophony albums. The two albums follow the same ethos of guitar virtuosity, yet were free of the well below par singing of the hitherto forgotten singer from Cacophony. Due to the fact that the two solo albums were recorded just after Cacophony split up ensures that the guitarists sound the same as in their previous albums, which is a good thing. Not surprisingly, Marty and Jason appeared on one-another's solo albums for guest solos, and Jason contributed to Saturation Point and Jewel on Dragon's Kiss. It was a treat to hear the two players together between 1987 and 1988, but with their solo albums, one can appreciate the difference in their styles and inspirations. Out of the two Cacophony albums, Speed Metal Symphony, (their first release in 1987, and commonly argued as their best), was predominantly written and played by Marty, so it is not surprising that Dragon's Kiss resembles the latter more than Cacophony's 1988 release, Go Off.|
It is clear that Marty is intent on creating some powerful and aggressive work when you initially hear Saturation Point, which opens with distinctive heavy bass, drums, and guitar playing. As soon as the lead guitar layers appear, there is only one guitarist that could be responsible, such is Marty's unique and brilliant style showcased in the 1987 to 1988 albums he wrote. Saturation Point is one of my favourite songs of any album, but is flawed in one possible respect, which is Marty's tendency to pile on many measures of cheese into the equation. After a brilliant bit of harmonising that is signature Marty style, and a Japanese lead section typical of this period of Marty, there is an amazing harmonised solo that is simply impossible to work out. Marty never tended to use effects such as delay, and the confusion is purely created through unbelievable harmonising of guitars. I feel that Marty is a genius like no other guitarist in the respects that he is capable of doing such amazing harmonies, but even Marty only recorded a few such sections, (all in the 1987 to 1988 albums), due to the obvious level of commitment and difficulty in getting it to sound right. The level of concentration required is clearly astronomical, and even Marty as a genius at that time cannot be expected to achieve such heights more than a few times.
02.] Dragon Mistress
The first distinctive half is nice Japanese style structured guitar song writing, as a typical guitar instrumental compensating for vocals by having structured guitar pieces. This is the sort of guitar playing that sounds natural for Marty, being very carefully planned with zero improvisation, (like The Thinking Machine, Vinnie Moore, The Maze), and allowing him to play his fastest guitar sections comfortably. The second half is the most impressive in my opinion, as a slow, minor key, jazz sounding piece. Some very nice harmonies are implemented during the amazing second section of this song. The guitar work is atmospheric and overall leads to things that stay in your mind for days, as few but Marty have achieved, and surely none so consistently as Marty in his late 80s albums.
03.] Evil Thrill
This song contains more incredible harmonised sections, and the style is a strange mix of metal pace and jazzy sounding riffs, yet it seems innately familiar as well as highly original, (familial; not in the strange sense, in the recognisable sense). This is a good example of Marty's incredible originality at this stage in his career. Evil Thrill shares two common factors with Saturation Point: firstly the distinctive less than decipherable harmony technique applied in some places, and secondly the 'in some ways' unfortunate 'watering-down' of the song with near melodramatic sentimentality in the middle.
04.] Namida (Tears)
There are some great clean guitar parts used on this song. If you listen carefully, fast and clean arpeggio sequences can be heard in the background on parts of the song. Namida is by fathoms the song on Dragon's Kiss most similar to his subsequent solo projects.
Anvils is typical of Marty's unique guitar vocabulary of notes, techniques, and style. This song starts with atmospheric guitar chimes over a typical brilliant thumping guitar 'bassline', the chimes being more atmospheric than keyboards can usually muster, and a behemothically heavy bit of rhythm leads on to a very nice bit of Japanese lead that doesn't last for long. About half way through, the song effectively ends, but a long atmospheric outro commences. The idea of not repeating anything but simply playing the 'verse' and 'chorus' once and then ending the song is brilliantly creative and works excellently as a rest between the two slower and more reflective songs of Namida and Jewel.
This is a brilliant guitar piece that is sad, cold, and amazing. The scales used by Marty are definitely unique, and the slow pace builds up possibly the saddest sounding song in existence; yet I don't think it represents sadness. I think Jewel represents nature's beauty, for example of untouched rainforests or the incredible but deadly icy mountain ranges. Jewel gets to a point where it could seem too sentimental in unwise hands, yet through the sheer brilliance of Marty's sensitivity with the notes, he keeps the song from becoming melodramatic. Jason's contribution helps to inject devastating energy with multiple lightning arpeggios but fortunately Marty takes control most of the time, as I feel Jason had not developed, (or perhaps just doesn't naturally excel as much), as Marty's ability at this sort of sensitive song. Jason does make the sentimental notes sound melodramatic whereas Marty seems completely at home, as if he is part of the nature that he is depicting. It isn't surprising that Marty went on to release two solo albums in this vein, albeit with less dramatic styles.
07.] Forbidden City
Forbidden City is basically the epic of Dragon's Kiss and abounds in the Japanese style of this album, (although the Forbidden City is an ancient Chinese palace). The first section is a bit too sentimental for my liking; however, Marty is a sentimental guitarist a lot of the time. Many people disagree with me and like the layering of guitars and building up of textures used in the first couple of minutes, but I prefer what comes next. A low rhythm section underlies a distinctive Japanese riff that is one of the best I have heard, and is difficult to work out on guitar. The next few minutes of solos and changes are simply amazing and are distinctive of Marty in this era. The preparation that must have taken place has clearly paid off, and Marty is unique in the way that everything he plays sounds purposeful and directed, unlike much of the work from other guitarists such as Yngwie who are susceptible to improvisation a lot of the time. Marty somehow combines the dark Japanese and Classical guitar scales with style in a way unique to him, and he seems to warp the solidity of classical virtuosity into a jazz like audacity whilst maintaining complete credibility.
08.] Thunder March
This is the weakest song on the album by in a long way in my opinion. The skill of the playing is still up to a high standard, but this is Marty at his most cheerful and sentimental, and I find it a disappointing end to the album, and very seldom listen to it, (especially not at a high volume). The song itself is quite nice, being of Japanese style again, and sounding very optimistic; which unfortunately I naturally interpret as sounding melodramatic and annoyingly camp.
album as a whole: