Review Summary: A versatile and varied modern metal forray from one of the genre's icons.
What ever happened to Marty Friedman leaving metal behind him? Wasn't there a time following Risk
where Dave Mustaine said, "Hey, we need to get back to basics and make something heavy," and Marty's only reply was "Nah, I'd rather go make pop music in Japan?"
In the years that have followed, metal has more than caught up with one of the genre's quietest forerunners. For those who haven't kept up with his work since the Megadeth split, Friedman has spent considerable time working and touring with Japanese pop acts (including notable soda-financed act FANTA) and doing shots of a weird green drink with fellow big name rock and metal guitarists on his Japanese TV rock show, Rock Fujiyama. Yet, somehow, the oddball pop mentality of Japan never really seeped into Friedman's original solo works.
Instead, 2003's Music for Speeding
offered a hard rock approach to Friedman's instrumental shred only to be outdone by the slightly heavier and more modern Loudspeaker
in 2006. 2010's Bad DNA
only continued the trend and, unsurprisingly, Inferno
carries the torch in the same direction. Friedman, it would seem, has kept current on what's big in metal and has tuned down and hooked up the Axe-FX for this one, delivering as many crunchy, rhythmic body blows as he does dizzying solos that carry his signature swagger.
But in a big, big way, Inferno
is less about Marty Friedman and more about whichever artist happens to be featured on a given track. Sure, there's an obvious Friedman-era Megadeth tone to many of the tracks (see the intro to "Steroidhead"), but many of the tracks here give the spotlight to supporting vocalists and instrumentalists. For example, the in-your-face meathead brutality of "Sociopaths" is entirely dependent on both David Davidson's vocal delivery and Marty Friedman's ability to pace the solos and let the vocals and rhythms do their work. It's a give and take, and Marty should be praised for knowing and doing what it takes to make the song work.
Still, as effective as Marty's ability to compose to his x factor is, it can come across as a bit bizarre. Case in point, album standout "Lycanthrope," despite being excellent through and through, simply feels like a Children of Bodom track that happened to land on Inferno
. It's not the mere vocal addition of Alexi Laiho, either; the entire arrangement feels like it's just set to produce a high caliber item from Bodom's catalog. The only thing missing is Toki Warman. In my humble opinion, it's the album's best track, but its stylistic similarities make it feel a little dirty - as though Marty's somehow cheated a bit to achieve such success.
Aside from versatility lending itself to creating doppleganger tracks, it also manages to develop a huge variety in the songs presented. "Undertow" plays up the light, classical aspect of Friedman's virtuosic playing that's most similar to the material on Introduction
while "Horrors" does much the same to fuse neo-classical elements with his time in Cacophony
(which should come as no surprise considering it was co-composed with Jason Becker). Meanwhile, "Wicked Panacea" may prove to be the album's most unique, mashing Friedman's distorted rhythms with Rodrigo y Gabriela's fast and flowing acoustic prowess to impressive effect.
At the end of the day, Inferno
is a great new trick from an old dog with a lot of skill. It's as heavy enough to warrant the Prosthetic imprint, yet varied enough to provide something for all of Friedman's fans, new and old. It's technical enough to attract the gearheads and the solo nuts, but restrained enough to churn out some songs which are memorable for more than just a "he can do that
" moment. There are still some odd missteps here and there (I'm sure "Meat Hook" takes talent to play, but it sounds like something I wrote the first week I had access to Guitar Pro) and, as tantalizing as the smorgasbord of variations can be, it makes for an inconsistent listen from track one on through to the end. Still, when treated less as a cover to cover work and more of a bits and pieces affair, Inferno
finds itself a contender in the modern metal marketplace that's worth a listen.
"Lycanthrope" (feat. Alexi Laiho and Danko Jones)
"Sociopaths" (feat. David Davidson)
"Wicked Panacea" (feat. Rodrigo y Gabriela)
"Steroidhead" (feat. Keshav Dhar)