Metal fans here in the States have long wondered whatever happened to the amazing guitarist Marty Friedman. The short version? He was fluent in Japanese and wanted to crack the Japanese market, so after he left Megadeth he moved there and started releasing solo albums there, which were hugely successful. So much so that he did three shows at the Tokyo Dome and five at Budokan. Most J-Pop artists are lucky if they get to do one show at the Tokyo Dome during their careers. Many don’t even get to play Budokan. Here’s the stats: Budokan seats 14,201 people and Tokyo Dome seats 55,000. Think about that: Marty is a guy who was a thrash legend as a guitarist for Megadeth and he decides to go to Japan and be a solo artist and he’s so massively successful that he gets to play not one or two but THREE shows at the 55,000-seater Tokyo Dome. (I have no idea if the shows were sold out, but, obviously, if they sold poorly, he wouldn’t have done another show there after the first. So, I would have to speculate that they did very, very well for him to do three shows.) But his success in Japan isn’t entirely due to his fretwork. You see, Marty became a popular Japanese television personality who hosted various programs and was featured in several long-running TV ad campaigns. He also did three televised sold-out solo performances with the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra. He estimates that he’s appeared on television in Japan at least 600 times. Clearly, they love the guy. And for a long, long time their adoration was more than enough to satisfy Marty. But in 2012 Prosthetic Records came knocking, wanting to release a compilation of some of Marty’s songs from his Japanese solo albums. After thinking about it, Marty decided that he’d rather do a *new* album that would be released worldwide at the same time. “I wanted to create a new landmark to which my future music will be compared,” he said. “That idea of just going completely balls-out — knowing what the full potential of my music and my playing could possibly be, and actually making it a reality — was what drove me through the whole process.”
The album in question is called Inferno and it’s fucking insane to put it bluntly. And I mean that as a major compliment. Where most guitar god albums get boring after a few songs, Marty has managed to craft an album where you’re sucked in further and further as the record goes on, growing increasingly addicted to it. The first two tracks, “Inferno” and “Resin,” are indeed pulverizing and great, but in my opinion the best songs come later. Listening to tracks like the insanely strong “Steroidhead” and the ready-for-war “Sociopaths,” you’ll probably find yourself thinking, damn, these riffs would have fit perfectly in Megadeth. And I would certainly agree with you. At the same time, though, I love this record and I’m glad that it exists as it is. If Marty was still in Megadeth, then we wouldn’t likely be getting a brilliant, colorful solo album like this out of him.
By the way, if instrumental albums tend to wear on your nerves, there are a handful of songs on Inferno that do have vocals. My favorite is the above-mentioned “Sociopaths” featuring David Davidson of Revocation on vocals. Lyrically, it provides some great commentary about our society and musically it’s on fire, Marty’s guitar work blazing away at 100 riffs per hour. It’s a perfect mix of Marty’s thrash riffs, Marty’s astounding soloing and killer death metal-style vocals from David. The following track, “Lycanthrope,” features artists who were influenced by Marty, Children of Bodom’s Alexi Laiho, who contributes raw and delicious vocals, and Canadian rock band Danko Jones, presumably providing bass and drums. On another track, Danko Jones (the singer/guitarist the band is named after) provides some great vocals. His style isn’t death metal but clean vocals, which you can hear a Megadeth influence in.
The best track on inferno comes late in the album. It’s a rather cinematic tune called “Horrors” and it’s the first song Marty and Jason Becker have collaborated on since their days in the band Cacophony. It features lots of acoustic guitars in addition to its metal onslaught and it demands to be used in a film, preferably a horror film, which is probably what they had in mind, given the song’s title.
If you liked Marty in Megadeth, then this album is simply a must-have. He was brilliant back then and co-wrote my three favorite Megadeth albums — Rust In Peace, Countdown to Extinction and Youthenasia — but, as hard as it is to believe, he’s an even better guitarist today. Listening to these tunes is like listening to a lost Megadeth album much of the time. You can’t listen to “Inferno” and not think of Megadeth’s Rust In Peace album, for example. But Marty has over 10 years as a solo artist now and all of the hard work that he put into those Japanese releases clearly shows here because now he’s like the Marty Friedman of Megadeth on steroids and amphetamines. There’s no stopping him, so don’t even try. Just lay down your money and buy.