Wall of Sound
Since returning to active duty as a solo recording artist in 2014, Marty Friedman has been on a tear, and his latest release, Wall of Sound continues that trajectory. What makes Friedman so unique in the world of guitar based instrumental music is his approach to playing: melding together furious rock and metal styles with plenty of exotic elements.
Friedman has a knack for making this unique formula work, and for adding in enough crazy displays of musicality that no song ever loses the listener’s interest. Such is the case right off the bat with the crushing opening track “Self Pollution” which mixes heavy blasts of rock with serene clean-toned passages before transitioning into an epic neo-classical guitar solo that recalls Friedman’s early solo work before he rose to fame as the lead guitar player in Megadeth.
Paul Fig, known for his work with Ghost, Rush, and Alice In Chains, does a great production job, capturing all the intricacies of Friedman’s playing, of which there are many. The mix by Jens Bogren (Lamb of God, Opeth) is superb as well, each instrument has its own flavor and blends seamlessly into one coherent sound.
There are a lot of guest appearances on Wall of Sound, with the collaboration with Jinxx of Black Veil Brides standing out the most. Clocking in at over 6 minutes, “Sorrow and Madness” is a monolithic slab of neo-classical inspired metal that features Jinxx on violin, providing an interesting counterpoint to Friedman’s furious guitar runs. Eventually the song develops into a rampaging blend of hyper-speed guitar runs and grinding guitar riffs, with Friedman playing a slightly dissonant and queasy lead guitar line while backed by Jinxx’s violin and some subtle piano.
While much of the record features Friedman in fully unhinged metal mode, some of the most evocative and memorable pieces of music happen when he tones down the speed and focuses on a more lyrical playing style, as is the case on the ballad “For a Friend.” The track begins with a bit of melancholic lead guitar work before turning up the distortion ever so slightly into a powerful and uplifting section in which Friedman’s works through a tender set of musical passages.
Another strong collaboration, “Pussy Ghost,” which features Deafheaven guitarist Shiv Mehra, is another grinding blast of metal that recalls Deafheaven’s rampaging black metal with plenty of atmospheric elements. The song twists and turns through pummeling metal and eerie breakdowns before picking up steam once again, even throwing in some blast beats (a drumming staple of black metal) to complement another set of challenging guitar lines from Friedman.
Shining vocalist Jorgen Munkeby makes an appearance on the anthemic metal of “Something to Fight,” the only song on the record that has vocals on it. With Munkeby leading the way, the track is another scorcher, retching up the intensity throughout its runtime and providing a great contrast to the rest of the guitar driven music on Wall of Sound.
Another stand out track comes in the form of the closing song, “Last Lament.” As is the case with many classic Marty Friedman tracks, the song starts out slow, featuring a calm set of guitar lines over some restrained bass playing from Kiyoshi, who also doubles as Friedman’s live bassist. However, just when the listener is about to lose attention the piece picks up steam, increasing tempo and flying into another all-out shred fest until its conclusion.
Overall the album is a fresh take on guitar driven instrumental music and shows that Marty Friedman has reestablished himself in the West as one of the best guitar players around. However, those who are not fans of instrumental guitar music may have a hard time wrapping their heads around the dense compositions and outrageous songs present on Wall of Sound. Those of us who are so inclined will find plenty of great material.
All photos by Raymond Ahner.
Tracklist: Self Pollution | Sorrow and Madness (with Jinxx) | Streetlight | Whiteworm | For a Friend | Pussy Ghost (with Shiv Mehra) | The Blackest Rose | Something to Fight (with Jørgen Munkeby) | The Soldier | Miracle | Last Lament