I could leave it at that, but you'd all neg me, so here we go.
In 1987, Cacophony
(aka Marty Friedman and Jason Becker) released Speed Metal Symphony
, a staple in the world of underground music, and a bomb in the world of shred guitar.
The music on this album is excellent, and at times is jaw dropping. The guitar interplay between Freidman and Becker is superb, and cements their status as one of the greatest guitar duos of all time. Their leads are innovative, and they often break away from the popular guitar scales of the day and play exotic, unconvential sounding leads that both guitarists would become known for on their latter solo albums (i.e. "The Ninja"). Songs like "Concerto" display melodic leads and excellent composition skills, while others such as "Where My Fortune Lies" and "Speed Metal Symphony" are laced with speed and technicality from the very start to the very end. Classical influence is also present on many, if not all of the solos and rhythms. The only downside to having so much lead work on the album is the production; at certain points it sounds as though some of the leads have an excess of treble, and have a very thin sound.
The rhythms and riffs on the album are solid as well. That's not to say that they are ground breaking or overly original, but they always fit the direction of the songs, and transition smoothly from one to another. Riff heavy tracks like "Savage" rarely repeat themselves, and leave a lot of room for the vocals to flourish. The bass work on the album was also handled by Friedman, and surprisingly, it can actually be heard! It follows the guitars throughout the album, and is really nothing to be desired, but the fact that it can be heard is an accomplishment in itself.
Much like the bass, the drumming is fairly basic. There are some interesting fills on such tracks as "Desert Island" and "Concerto." For the most part the drums have a very big sound, in the respect that there is a lot of reverb on them, which makes for a nice, dense wall of sound. In tracks like "The Ninja" however, the drums have some time to shine with Freidman, using odd time signatures and beats to accent the foreign riffs and leads of the song. The drumming was never meant to be technical or flashy though, seeing as Cacophony
is basically a guitar heavy band anyway.
The vocals on the album are a bit awkward. At some points they are spot on and great, and at others they sound like just another average vocalist in the 1980's. For example, on tracks like "Where My Fortune Lies" the vocals sound sharp of the music, and quite frankly, get annoying. On other tracks like "Savage" and "Burn the Ground" feature aggressive vocals that fit the mood of the respective songs perfectly. The lyrics on the album are so-so. For the most part they are fairly generic and fall into the same pattern as many other metal bands of the time period did.
"I'm on the hunt
I'm hunting for you
You're going to wish you never crossed me
When I'm through" ~ "Savage"
The production on the album leaves something to be desired. It is apparent that this album what recorded with a low budget, as that will become apparent upon the first listen. It's not horrible, but the reverb that is apparent on all of the instruments is a testament to either a lack of time or money. Could this have been done on purpose? Of course. But one can't help to think that such intelligent musicians as Becker and Friedman, even at such a young age, would have noticed how annoying it is at certain moments.
Fast and technical, that's what this album is. The guitar work is excellent, and the rhythm section (although bland at times) manages to add to the songs. It's a must for any fan of shred guitar, 80's metal, or any fan of the solo albums that would later be released by either guitarist.
Marty Friedman - Lead Guitar, Rhythm Guitar, Bass
Jason Becker - Lead Guitar, Rhythm Guitar
With help from...
Atma Anur - Drums
Peter Marrino - Vocals
"Concerto" - The track follows the pattern of the reverse of a normal concerto in the respect that the tempo goes from slow to fast and then back to slow. It is an instrumental track that really shows how Cacophony
excelled in melody. Each part of this song flows like a modern masterpiece, and the mood overall is very calm despite the rapid guitar work.
"Speed Metal Symphony" - It starts out with harmonized sweeps from Friedman and Becker with an off time rhythm underneath. Much like "Concerto" this track shows how much Cacophony
was classically inspired. It is amazing to hear how talented these guitarists were at such a young age. The only downside of this track is the production value, but if you can make it past the first 20 seconds or so and you'll be fine.
"Where My Fortune Lies" - Despite having the vocals sound slightly off for most of this song, the music by far the most aggressive, and the solos are blistering.
- Guitar solos
- Arrangements are near flawless
- Aggressive riffing style
- Production value is edgy
- Vocals are slightly off at times
Overall: Despite it's rough spots, this album is a classic, and truly worth picking up if you're into shred, or guitar pyrotechnics in general...5 out of 5