Review Summary: Solos speak louder than words.
Not much needs to be said about Dragon’s Kiss, other than it’s awesome. In a time when neon ruled the earth, Marty Friedman was a young, successful guitarist, already having made the shred fest Speed Metal Symphony in 1987, and was well on his way to becoming a household name in heavy metal. But before he made it into Megadeth, Friedman released this masterpiece, a neo-classical romp showcasing Marty’s many skills. Although the album consists of just 8 songs, all of them manage to hold your attention for their full length, keeping you headbanging softly along and waiting for the next moment of genius.
The first thing the album excels at is the layering of instruments, with lots of rhythm, both clean and dirty, and several parts to the song. Dragon’s Kiss may focus on lead guitar, but it never forgets about the all-important rhythm. Even the bass is high in the mix, and you may find yourself humming along with it when the guitar is too fast to keep track of. On other tracks, such as the exquisite Jewel, the guitar plays haunting notes over top of quiet synth, with Becker and Friedman using the whammy bar to create an Asian sound. Many albums which give free reign to the lead guitarist suffer in the other departments, but Friedman ensures all the instruments work in harmony.
Of course, the album is here to display Friedman’s insane guitar talent. And oh, does it. Do you want tasteful solos that ignore speed? You got them. How about shredding and sweeping the likes of which are seen only once in a while? All there. And perhaps my favourite part about the album is the fact that it keeps you on your toes. Just when you think Marty is going to keep unleashing a shredding solo until his hands light on fire, he’ll stop and play something slow and soulful. On some tracks Friedman prefers to use the whammy bar, while others see little use of it. The album has a great selection of tracks, too, from medium tempo ballads with wailing guitar to total shred fests. Often, you’ll hear the lead guitar playing alongside the rhythm to create catchy riffs reminiscent of Iron Maiden. Tracks like Anvil are full-blown 80s cheese with lightning fast riffs, while others like Jewel are a little more unique.
While all of the tracks are excellent, the one that stands out most is undoubtedly Forbidden City. What seems like another ballad filled with melody quickly turns into a loud, unrelenting anthem of 80s metal. Marty combines drawn out guitar with quick scales to create awesome leads, double bass drums and crunchy guitar supporting him all the while. He shreds until it seems like he can’t shred anymore, and then he comes back to the beautiful guitar in the intro, ending the song. The album finishes with Thunder March, a final anthem of Friedman’s guitar skill, closing with a final hit of the drums. Dragon’s Kiss is, at least in my mind, the crowning achievement of neo-classical metal, and the greatest solo guitar album released during the 80s. If you want a taste of shredding done right, come get some.