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Marty Friedman - Tokyo Jukebox CD (album) cover


Marty Friedman

Progressive Metal

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Prog Sothoth
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Marty is best known as a guitarist for Megadeth from its lofty heights (Rust In Peace) to embarrassing lows (Risk), but these days he's basically a go to guy to support Japanese pop starlets in concert and in the studio. This album basically cements his obsession with what is commonly referred to as Jpop, and insinuates that he'll probably never go back to Megadeth for any reunion tour, much to the chagrin of Rust In Peace fans & such. Seriously though, if I were to put myself in his shoes, would I rather support an aging "born again" egomaniacal dude or a twenty year old Japanese girl in a miniskirt to roughly the same size audience (unless its some serious A-lister Jpopper, which translates to a stadium sized crowd)? Exactly.

So here Marty takes a bunch of Jpop numbers and basically morphs them into metal instrumental pieces. Most of the tracks are played with a heavy metal edge to them, with the opening track veering into pure thrash aggression. The overall results of this project are sort of a mixed bag. The interesting thing about Japanese pop is that it tends to be more 'melody' based than 'vocal prowess' based like a lot of western acts, thus the music itself has some strong melodies and memorable chord progressions built right in, which in turn leaves little room for this case, guitar solos over a basic backdrop chord sequence. Yes, this is a guitar showcase, but the shredding and general wankery has to be incorporated within the tight song structures rather than given space to breathe for a crapload of bars after a couple of minutes into the tune. Also, some of these melodies do sound similar after a while, with a sort of signature vibe of "energetic joyful vibrancy with just a slight melodramatic undertone". Some of these songs really tend to blend into each other after awhile. The song "Story" is such a generic jpop template that it seems like a strange choice for an instrumental metal workout. Metal muzak for elevators that soar up and down really fast.

There are two songs that stand out for me. One is the album's centerpiece, "Polyrhythm", a rockin' version of a sprightly techno song that has a real mind-bender of a mid-section. I kind of dug the original for the loopy polyrhythms that pop after the first chorus, so it was cool to hear Marty and the gang mimic all this crazed techno wonkiness. As a result, this song actually sounds progressive, easily the most interesting and memorable cut off the album. The finale track is a standout too, with its majestic vibe and synth washes to back up the guitar's interpretation of original singer Alan's stratosphere reaching vocals.

It's a bit much to digest though as a whole...sort of like trying to eat an entire birthday cake by yourself. There are nobler tasks one can undertake.

Still, it's good for a few slices, sugary and loud for sure, but the enthusiasm can be felt in the delivery. An interesting endeavor.

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Posted Thursday, October 27, 2011 | Review Permalink

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